being good

Today is the third consecutive workday I have spent at my internship, and I feel great. Instead of working a day here and a day there, with class and other distractions in between, I have been able to focus. I feel more in the swing of things there than I’ve felt thus far. I saw more patients today than I have before, and among them were some of the more gravely ill patients I’ve seen. But I left work today feeling energized, not weighed down. Feeing this way made me more confident than ever that this work, medical social work, is something I really want to do. And something I’m good at.

In the last few months, I have spent a lot of time doing things I’m not used to doing, things that are new to me. Inherent to doing something new is learning to do that thing. And inherent to the process of learning is the fact that you are probably not very good at whatever you’re learning while you are learning it. And I’m not very good at not being good at things.

It’s something I’ve always known, I guess. Doing well in school has been important to me since I was very small. As an adult, I have taken much pride in excelling at my jobs and being recognized for exemplary performance. I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist — I don’t have to be the best, I just want to be good, better than average. You know, probably somewhere above the 90th percentile. And honestly, if I’m not good at it, if I’m not better than average at something, I don’t really want to do it. Go big or go home.

Of course, a lot of the time, thinking and feeling like this is extremely bratty. Case in point: snowboarding. When I’ve fallen hard and my butt’s in the snow and my knees hurt and my tailbone feels bruised and I still for the life of me can’t complete a good backside turn, I get so freaking frustrated. I can barely stand it. I want to scream and cry and run down the stupid mountain and quit.

Today, my field supervisor asked me if I was getting enough face-to-face time counseling clients. Now, my supervisor is an amazing therapist, and I am lucky to have the opportunity to work with and learn from her; there is no doubt I will get great training in counseling from her. But I am doing very little counseling — and I don’t think I want to do much more. I don’t think counseling is something I’m incredibly interested in. My skills are much more suited to case management, and I think I want to stick with that. And there it is: I haven’t learned any counseling skills yet. I’m not confident that I am good at it. So I don’t really want to do it.

The desire to run when things get tough is one I fight fairly often. I won’t lie — it’s my first reaction. But I’m working on it, and I haven’t actually run in a long time. So, yes, I will learn the counseling skills and then decide whether or not it’s something I’m interested in doing. And I will keep snowboarding, and eventually I will be able to do those turns. I guess I’m just saying, jeez, it’s so much easier to just stick to what you know you’re good at. Things are so scary and unpredictable when you take risks. You might find yourself — gasp — not being good at something.

“some days i don’t miss my family. / some days i do. / some days i think i’d feel better if i tried harder. / most days i know it’s not true.” –the mountain goats

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