Tag Archives: social work


I finished grad school, and I officially have three new initials to put after my name!

Mom and Dad came out for graduation weekend.

lower legion of honor scenic vista

We saw some sights,

fun with old transit

I wore great shoes and my friends and I pretended we were at prom,

msw prom 2011

We celebrated with people who came from far and wide,

hooray for friends and family!

And the next day, we threw a party with lots of finger foods.

Menu items included:
Pioneer Woman’s bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers
– Pioneer Woman’s hot artichoke dip (from her cookbook)
Stuffed mushrooms
White bean hummus
– Deviled eggs (Mom makes the best ones with relish and mayo)
– Bacon-wrapped smokies (self-explanatory)
– Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (soak the chestnuts in a mixture of Worcestershire, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar for 30 minutes before wrapping them)
Goat cheese toasts
– Caprese skewers (fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and half a cherry tomato on a toothpick)
Pioneer Woman’s best chocolate sheet cake ever
And lots of beer.

It feels good to be done. Next step: find a job. I’ll keep you posted.


old beginnings

Starting your professional life from scratch when you change careers is hard. I expected that, and it’s been my experience thus far in learning how to do social work. But I didn’t realize just how hard it has been until I went back to my old job this week.

My former boss offered me a part-time gig at my former company, basically doing a little of my former job and training the new versions of me to do said job more efficiently. Being as I didn’t have anything else to do for the summer, I was starting to get a little stir crazy after a week or so where all I had to show for myself was going to the gym and watching TV every day, and I could use some extra cash, I decided to take him up on it.

I was fully back in the swing of things in about an hour — a startlingly short period of time. And man, it felt awesome to realize how good I am at doing this job. Sure, I did it for a number of years — I should be good at it. But after flailing through so much of the past nine months, coming up against such a steep learning curve, and feeling such a lack of confidence in my professional abilities, it was amazing to sit down at a desk, have a stack of pages thrown at me, and develop and implement a plan of attack for getting a book that had just started into proofreading off to the printer in 9 working days. Boom; done.

I’ll admit, it’s throwing me for a bit of a loop. I’m sure I’ll be annoyed soon enough (I haven’t forgotten the frustrations that made me want to leave this job and this profession), and it’s definitely different when it’s a part-time thing instead of my livelihood — but it’s been surprisingly nice (and even fun!) thus far. I’m not doubting my decision to change directions; I think it’s good to push myself, learn new things, and see what other options are out there. But it does make me wonder if I’ll ever feel about social work the way I feel about managing books. I hope so. And if not, I guess it’s good to know your strengths.

“god bless the man at the crossroads; god bless the woman who still can’t sleep; god bless the history that doesn’t repeat.” -david bazan

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


My first semester of graduate school is almost over. As of today, three of my six classes are complete; I still have one paper and two exams to finish in the next week or so, but this is decidedly manageable.

After some sort of physiological and emotional breakdown this morning in my cohort seminar, I realized that I have dealt with an immense learning curve this semester. Nearly everything I am currently doing and even thinking about on a day-to-day basis is completely different from what I was doing and thinking about on a day-to-day basis six months ago. I have acquired a lot of new skills and exercised a lot of new muscles during these months. When I really think about it and look at it comprehensively, it’s quite overwhelming. But I’m pretty proud to be here.

My internship this semester is at an outpatient clinic that treats patients with chronic, debilitating diseases. I’m not writing about it here mostly for reasons of confidentiality — the stories of the people I have met are more than incredible, but I don’t think I can share them here without providing more detail than would be appropriate. Let it suffice to say that I am learning as much about social work as I am about the beauty and resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of the most dreadful adversity.

I think the most important thing I’ve realized thus far, the common thread through the various experiences, is that we all just want to feel like we’re not alone.

There are many times in this work when there is nothing I or any social worker can say or do to make the situation better. I can’t cure a disease; I can’t magically heal a family that has lost its father; I don’t have much to offer parents whose child will die an untimely death. In these instances, the only thing I can do is sit with the grief and the people it is affecting. I can make sure they are not alone in that grief. I can be present. Insignificant as it may seem, it does makes a difference — a small one at first, but it’s one that grows into the ability to cope.

The capacity and, I believe, tendency we have to raise barns together, to care for one another and to be cared for: This is what makes us human. It is essential to us. It is the only thing that will get us through. And it gives me such a profound sense of hope. We shall not walk alone.

“take my hand, we’re gonna go where we can shine.” -david gray