My life experiences have taught me some valuable lessons. Some of the experiences I wish I’d never gone through but I learned something nonetheless. Recently I’ve been organizing and participating in online workshops with my friends and colleagues on social justice issues and our role as social workers. It’s great to be able to unlearn the conditioning of being told what to do without thinking critically about the information we’ve received growing up. I’m also concerned about having to go back to a traumatic environment.
This time in a social work graduate program has taught me that I can be innovate with assignments. I’ve been inspired to think about my professional identity and reflect on the communities I want to serve and how I’ll show up as an advocate. It’s refreshing to be in a space with supportive and like-minded individuals who are passionate about reducing (and hopefully eliminating) social and racial injustices in the world.
The graduate program I’m in is for a second graduate degree. The experience is completely different because I’m learning so much about myself, my capabilities, my motivation – my why. I do have my moments of doubt because I’m fighting thirty-plus years of internal programming that consisted of negative experiences and thoughts. There was a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt.
Talk about a work in progress…
But still, I rise!
Yet, I know graduation will be here before I know it. I know I will have to re-enter the workforce. I don’t want to lose the identity that I’ve developed and come to love. The question is… Will I succumb to professionalization of social work thinking that I can save the world or just doing the bare minimum?
I’ve also been thinking about the trauma I experienced at former employers. I recently saw a post on Instagram that as if someone wrote my previous work experience in several memes. I was shocked, relieved, disappointed, and just a ball of other emotions.
The post from @blackandembodied was about white institutions and their treatment (mistreatment) of people of color (POC). One of the memes that stuck out to me was how systematic push out plays out for POC including extreme micromanagement, not respecting boundaries, being watched closely, and creating a paper trail that favors their narratives. The post also listed “advice” from HR that includes being told to communicate differently so they (co-workers) feel more comfortable and considering your part in the situation.
I read each of the memes on the post and could not believe what was in front of my eyes. There were other POC who had experienced the same thing. I made a comment that really stuck with me and could apply to other areas of my life… THE TRAUMA WASN’T WORTH IT!
“IT” can be so many things. For my former job, the trauma wasn’t worth the pay and stress. We should not have to compromise our authentic selves for a paycheck, unhealthy relationship, etc. Compromise in healthy ways does matter. But pain, stress, confusion, self-doubt, RACISM – it’s not worth the trauma.
There were times I wish I could go back and have more self-respect to not subject myself to such poor treatment in relationships and jobs. Those situations did, however, teach me to stand up myself and ask for what I want and need. I’m far from perfect and am working to become a more compassionate, empathetic, and emotionally-connected human. I’m offering myself grace to be patient with my healing and forgiving myself for past mistakes.
I have become self-reflective and have supportive friends who hold me accountable and have my back!
I’ll conclude with advice by William Shakespeare from Hamlet in which Polonius offered these words to his son, Laertes:
“This above all: to thine own self be true,Hamlet, Act-1, Scene-III, 78-82)
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”
And with that, I bid you adieu.