When I was a senior in high school, I had the honor of being a part of a program called Teen PEP. My job in that program was to teach freshmen about various aspects of sexual health and decision making that you wouldn't normally get in a classroom setting. During that one year, I watched the shy kids open up in ways that I've never seen before. And I watched pure excitement come across the faces of kids who finally got to share and discuss things that they were never able to before. I loved every second of that program, and being a part of it was - I think - what I'll remember the most about high school. In a pretty short amount of time, I was able to make a mark on so many people. And being a friend to those kids is what made me realize just how badly I wanted to do this for a living.
In my time mentoring those kids, I also had the honor of crossing paths with a woman named Holly. When one of my kids came to me with a problem, I referred them to her, the school's counselor. I liked her so much after one hour that I actually ended up scheduling two sessions with her for myself. I know it was obviously part of her job description, but Holly had this amazing ability to really insert herself into your life. She could very quickly understand the problem and understand exactly how it made you feel. It was this truly immense, wonderful talent for caring that still blows me away. When I spent time with Holly, I still had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life. But - when she told me she got her degree in Social Work - that just sounded right to me. And if I can be half the person that she is in my own career, I'll be happy.
For as long as I can remember, I have always liked helping people. I've never been the type to run into the fire or break up a fight, Crippling social anxiety has a really funny habit of getting in the way of harrowing acts of bravery like that. But I pride myself on paying attention to the little things in life. I'm that friend who always has a Band-Aid in her purse, just in case. And I'm that friend who - when you get dumped - will have your favorite food and an array of movies at the ready to make you happy again. I've always loved going out of my way to do right by the people I care about. For all I know it could be some weird defense mechanism or Freudian complex that I don't know about, meaning that I'm even more screwed up than I thought. But on the long list of things I'm not too fond of about myself, I really don't think that's all that bad.
I love feeling like I'm needed; to me it's one of the best feelings in the world. I love the feeling of looking at someone and being able to tell them - with confidence - that everything will be okay. I've spent a lot of my life listening to people. Mainly because you have less of a chance of making an ass of yourself if you're not the one doing the talking. But over the years, I've realized that listening is just something that I seem to be good at. My dad likes to describe this as a big, blinking sign above my head that says "talk to me," only visible to the people who need it most. That's why, when I think about myself as a Social Worker, it just makes sense. I've had that sign above my head for practically my whole life, and I don't really see a reason to take it down now. If I'm being honest, I don't know what I'd do without it.
Now when I tell people that I want to go into Social Work, the default response is usually that I'll be doing a whole lot of work for not that much money. I've come to terms with the fact that Social Work isn't the most glamorous profession in the world. There's so many possible fields to go into, and I know full well that all of them have their ugly parts. I could be taking children out of toxic homes, or telling a desperate couple that they can't adopt. I may have to work with families of people in hospice, and I may have to work with people who have been through terrible trauma. I know that coming to work every day might not always be fun, and I know that the money won't always be the best. But I don't mind that. I'm not looking for luxury, I'm looking to pay the bills. And I know that, coming home everyday, I'll always feel fulfilled.
I'm prepared for every ugly part of being a Social Worker. I just have this feeling, deep down, that this is what I should be doing with myself. And I'm proud of that. Because I never like to say anything in life with certainty, and this I know I'm sure of. As a Social Worker, I'll always feel needed. I'll always be able to help. And that's all I've ever wanted to do.