Gratitude List #Elf4Health

27 Dec

Today’s challenge is to write 20 things you are grateful for. Here’s my list:

1. Last night my family had dinner for my moms birthday. All 4 of us. My brother is 100 days off drugs, and my dad had a beer with him (another issue for another day).

2. My new job, which shows me flexibility, grants me creativity, and has tons of faith in me.

3. My health… Even if I’m struggling with feelings of anxiety… Overall, I am well and I will continue to be.

4. The Uncle

5. Besther. My best friend since high school. My confidant. The person who knows me better than anyone in this world.

6. My yoga practice which I have cultivated over the last year.

7. My books, and someday will call them my library.

8. The most wonderful man I’ve ever dated.

9. Garlic

10. Chocolate

11. Cherries

12. Nature walks

13. Purple flowers

14. Suntans and sunshine

15. Beaches

16. Breakfast food

17. Romantic comedies

18. The Dave Matthews Band

19. Summer concerts

20. Old friends

A Case of Mistaken Identity

29 Oct

I’m a Social Worker by education.  At some point in the undisclosed future due to Hurricane Sandy Today Monday I begin a journey into another “social work” gig that I know is not so much “social work” as it is “social work lite” (now with 90 calories or less per serving).

In social work school my first internship was not very traditional, and honestly it made me pretty insecure when we’d talk in class, so I did what I do best and cracked jokes at myself for it. I worked for a campus organization that does student leadership work for the Jewish Community, helping with different types of volunteer opportunities.  I usually called myself the rainbows and sunshines and unicorn’s social worker, which was a secret self-snark at Sorority Hell Week – which my Greek Advisor called rainbows, sunshine’s and unicorns week. A week that you know sucks and doesn’t suck all at once.  See, my job is both social work and NOT what you think social work is all at once.

A former high school classmate and I recently reconnected over Facebook, he’s a Navy member and currently based in the Middle East.  He asked what I’m doing, and I explained that my new job involves working for a non-profit which is part of a political lobby group that works with college students.  He replied:

You sound excited. So what does that entail? Are you going to help college students with their problems? Like when they have too much money on their student meal card to spend at the end of the semester? Or when the Safe rider bus won’t take students close enough to a bar saving students on a taxi fare? Finally, someone that will take a stand against these injustices!

Fighting for the unjust, or improving the life of the client. That is Social work. So is this new job Social Work? I had to consult my favorite quick answer site… and Social Work according to Wikipedia is:

…a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or perceived social injustices and violations of their human rights.

The internship and new job are not clinical social work. Most people expect clinical work when I say I’m a social worker, others may expect political policy, qualitative analysis of service provision, or something to do with serve poverty, underserved populations. I am serving a group who is seen as privileged; the “white and Jewish”.  At least, in America today we’re considered white, which is the obvious power group in American history racially.  Judaism is secondary to White-ness and American identity. To borrow from some of my self-analysis paper writing in school:

Jewishness is not a religion, or race, or ethnicity.

It is an all-encompassing description of who I am.

At this time (that was Fall 2009, but it holds true today) “Jews in America have been raced as white and, indeed, enjoyed the privileges that come with having white skin” (Azoulay, p. 201). Yet, this privilege comes with the cost of the responsibility of maintaining the middle class status [they have obtained.]

I have been raised by the generation that boomed out of the Holocaust and lost extended family to the European tragedy.  The importance of never forgetting, remembering our tentative acceptance, and always always always seeing myself as Jewish first means I view myself dichotomously as a majority and minority. I am a minority who passes, able to be closeted in specific times of need (well, with a strategic name change). Yet, a minority in thought and historically persecuted.

Similarly, I am in fact a social worker and passing in society as not a social work.

I am training a new generation of political advocates. I am teaching social skills/networking skills. I am working with a group in the fundamental change from childhood to adult independence. Fostering independence if you will.

In the most covert way possible I can be a minority and a social worker. But I will be mistaken for neither.

Today is my first day of a new adventure… I’m trying to be excited… But mostly, I’m still totally insecure about it all.

I Need A Little Help From My InternetPals

16 Oct

I am so amped up on lack of sleep, caffeine, and emotion today. Last week in an act of desperation I reached out to the Friend Who Housed Me This Summer (Friend) and Boy’s roommate. I hate the tension in our friendship. Since we seemed to have discussed bumps in the road along the way of me crashing there, I attributed this all to Boy. I mean… That’s all the changed. I’m out, my stuff out. Today makes 2 whole months since I moved out, making it longer that I’ve been out than there.

In that time I’ve begun to legit date Boy, become friends with roommate 3 who I call Coach, but have totally lost my friendship with Friend. A six year relationship which I was petrified to ruining by living there for a few weeks.

I feel so defensive today. Friend said that I was disrespectful of her boundaries, and from the tone of the conversation attempting to be friends still and discussing dating Boy is that disrespect continued. Please note: I don’t lack tact people. I’m not dishing to her about his nude physique or his sexual preferences like we might if he was a different guy … I mean I said “I saw Boy on (insert day) and we got dinner/took a walk/hung out/watched a movie”. Appalling I know. My mother would be ashamed that we were in public, using our lips to talk and smile.

This hard line boundary has pissed me off for weeks – but the gut punch that I was disrespecting her boundaries “all summer” (all 3 examples took place the same day, the day I moved out) (aka after Boy and I were clearly hooking up)… Was well, a gut punch. I can’t help but feel like shit.

I am human. 

A perfectionist human.

A human from a relatively fucked up family.

That being said, there was a time my social skills sucked balls. I curse like a sailor (case in point). I am needy sometimes. I can have an aggressive edge to my voice when I don’t mean to, although I’ve learned to recognize it and breathe (Thank you yoga!) and have minimized that. I used to use empathy all wrong – in an effort to show I “got it” I would talk about me, because like – I’ve been there…. however, ultimately I’d be seen like I wasn’t listening. I have flaws and faults.

I also have 7+ years of therapy, 2 of them intensively during social work school, 6 months in NYC with a psychologist I highly respect, and the last 4 with a kick ass LCSW who I thought helped me successfully navigate crashing with Friend, Coach, and Boy… and social work school under my belt. I’m not perfect and at times it kills me… But I’m better. Way way way better than I was in 2007 when I started therapy with intention (unlike before when I was there before).

From Move In Day 0; I said I appreciated not having to move home and commit patricide but I could. I said if she needed space to take it. I spent most weekends out of the apartment. I got groceries. I cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. I tried to do everything to NOT fuck up this friendship. I was petrified crashing there would. I was so relieved to sign a lease and know just how temporary it was. I thought I did everything in my power to be cautious, respectful, and to try and take care of my friendship… but I was told, I was wrong…

Friend complained that I was too comfortable and forgot my place as a guest. That is so funny because while I was definitely comfortable, maybe too comfortable at times, I also always knew my place was temporary. Maybe I was confused by my new friendship with Coach and my budding relationship with Boy… But I never thought I wasn’t a guest. I left thank you gifts & money for Friend. I did also at one point think I was keeping my keys…which she and Boy both asked I didn’t for different reasons, and I returned them. (Example 1).  My move out was supposed to be complete on August 15th before she got home August 22nd.  I had things there a few small things that I needed to grab after the 22nd (Example 2).  And.. this is the one that sucks the most… when she got back… I wanted to see her, and she did not want to see me… but she said to come over thought she was clear she just wanted to see herBoy and that was (Example 3).  All 3 things took place the same day… or within the week (I gave the keys back after being out about a week). I see how this was all frurstating… but I was told it was going to all blow over, I apologized IN AUGUST and AGAIN LAST NIGHT.

Fights and disagreements with friends isn’t new to me. I’ve had fights with friends before, as I said above I used to be pretty bad at some key social skills. I also used to choose people who didn’t particularly treat me well. Some of those friendships have totally dissolved; most of them I don’t miss. Others, after time were okay. My Bestest and I once took a planned break and are tighter now than ever.

I know I have to have to let it go.

I have to give her time.

I can’t keep trying to fix what won’t fix.

So my question social workers is – how? I gave a sincere apology to her… I would have never intentionally been disrespectful.  Whether I thought I was or not… she says I was. So I was right? I can’t really contradict that if it’s how she feels… even if it’s not how I saw myself as acting (aside from that one day above she calimed those were her exampled but it built up all summer).

I talked to Boy, and he said if I want to spend less time there for a while that’s ok… and I’m going to graciously bow out of our kickball team because of family and new job obligations the next few weeks anyway… but that’s it right? And is it fair for me to have to not go to Boy’s place because she lives with him?!

I don’t know what to do.

Please, advise.



Atonement & Other Reset Buttons

26 Sep

In elementary school my family was going through a really rough time. The physical health of key adults in my life was rocky. That was also when: bullying became a big issue for me, boys grew into an obsession because one of them liking me would prove I was as valuable as the other girls, and a lot of internal awkwardness. None of this was going as I wanted. So I cried at school a lot. I tried to make my grades lower thinking that I was only off putting for being too smart.

That didn’t work.

As I said, I cried a lot and retrospectively I’m sure that wasn’t helping me socially. Of course, neither was being told that at CCD we made up new names. They all start with C; this is Chewy, Chewbacca, Cookie, and we all hate Coca Cola. Do you hate Coca Cola?

After hemming and hawing over not knowing who Coke was, I agreed to hate her on the principal that – we all hate Coca Cola is sufficient.

I was Coca Cola.

In middle school I got it together and started to cry a lot less. Over the years, I basically stopped crying at all – except to boyfriends. Never girl friends, can’t trust those bitches. Yesterday, I cried at school for the first time in nearly fifteen years. I had to terminate with one of my school groups. I practiced. I did not want to cry at school. As I write this, I don’t want to cry now. But I did, I am, and I can’t help it.

This group and I have had an amazing rapport. I can tell you the life story of each of the 8 students, why the program I work for is beneficial to them, why they struggle at school, how they excel, where they want to go to college, what they love. They are amazing kids. Having them taken away is nothing short of a punishment in my eyes. In an effort for me to what…

Learn to be a better middle schooler Plastic? A better bitch?

The school, the kids, they could not understand. They couldn’t get an answer from me either.

Saying goodbye is never easy. I have had to say good bye a lot this year, to the ex. To my grandfather. To the wall I built since I was Coca Cola. It’s been a year of learning to be okay with crying… So today I cried. I walked all around the neighborhood the school is in to the subway feeling a little lost, I got to the stop below the exes apartment. I didn’t know what I was crying for any more.

As I wrote this I was a few moments from the start of my fast for Yom Kippur. If you are faithful, you believe that tomorrow your fate for the year is sealed. The plan is set in motion. Where was I this time last year we ask ourselves? Where should I hope to go? Will I be guided there?

I was in such a bad place, and I’ve come out finally done fighting. Willing to be a bit softer. Quieter. More introspective.

I am more balanced in my relationships, no longer over extending myself for people who do not give me the same. (at least not as often). I don’t know what will happen but I trust that my  fledgling relationship with Boy is and feels healthy. So if this much growth has come from that much pain… maybe this year, just maybe, I can be a little stationary?

10 Things I Hate About You

11 Sep

In deference to the master, Kat Stratford, and Process,Recorded. A Poem Inspired by the movie poem & written during our staff meeting today:

I hate the way you talk to me
And the way that you don’t care
I hate it when you’re insincere
I hate it when you stare.

I hate your big dumb attitidue
And they way you mess with my mind
I hate you so much it makes me sick
It even makes me rhyme!

I hate how you think you’re always right
I hate it when you lie
I hate it when you make me laugh
Even worse when you make me cry

I hate how I don’t want to work
And the fact that you promote and demote at once
But mostly I hate the way you make me hate me.

And I don’t hate me.
Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.

If It’s Possible, I Over-Quoted Mean Girls

30 Aug

I am fairly certain that I work on the Titanic right now. This agency is a sinking ship and people are jumping into the ice water over going down with the ship. There are not enough life boats and my friends in the life boats (new jobs) are trying desparetly to save me. But I am stuck, grasping the rails without Leonardo DiCaprio’s hand trying to swim away from the turbulent foce of sinking into the abyss. If Leo would like to show up and hold my hand – not only would I be happy but also unlike that Rose bitch, I’ll make room on the door.

Rose as a bitch is an interesting concept. She’s a strong woman in a time where women are supposed to be dependent. She does what she knows to be right and ais assertive. This very idea is part of what has me wanting to jump right off the side of the boat myself into the land of unemployment checks and Starbucks Barista work. This week I was called in for a conversation about my changing case load.

BossLady: Well, actually we haven’t determined the changes to your caseload, but please… sit I wanted to discuss something with you…

BossLady wanted to discuss how I am assertive, and confident, and that I can be off-putting because I’m not a “team player.” Let’s delve into something there… I work for a kinder version of Regina George and I had a total Gretchen Weiners freak out in her office. Because she’s wearing sweat pants and it’s not Friday. SHE CANNOT SIT HERE! SHE JUST CANT!

In my Gretchen moment I exploded that assertive and confident are compliments for males but as a woman that means I’m aggressive or “bitchy” and I’m sick of the double standard. Those are not bad qualities for an employee to have. Like Gretchen, I believe that the rules should apply to everyone.

There was some validity to our conversation… and I’ve taken those points and stored them in my mind for later. But, there was a lot wrong with our conversation. ThePlastics are the main clique in our office. They eat lunch together with the supervisors daily in the conference room, they are the first promoted, and they are smug to those they don’t like.  A compliment to your face is surely followed up with a behind your back comment on how that is the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen. Taking a walk through our department, I’d say we have our Cool Asian, the Token Male Social Worker, The Greatest People I Have ever met – and the worst – ThePlastics.

I have a lot of respect for many of the women who have come in and out of this office.  They are smart, hard working, social action oriented, smart and savy social workers. They are able to see the cracks in our organization. Many of them try to plant seeds of change, but the resistance we are met with for trying to make fetch happen is constant, consistent, and difficult to deal with.

BossLady recently told me that while we have MSW’s, and you HAVE to have MSW’s for this department of North Shore High School  our agency, we wouldn’t want our families to mistakenly think that we are their social worker. Yes, we are not a clinical agency, but we do handle referrals and connective services.  This comment was made when I suggested we move from the general language of “Please feel free to reach out to me this school year if you need anything” to something a bit more concerete. Like, “please reach out to me if you’re in need of additional resources for x, y, or z.”

So that our parents can utilize us.

So that my “Parent Outreach” team could be more effective.

So I can do my job as a social worker and serve my clients.

Apparently, despite the education I have to have to work here – I would be mistaken to think I am my clients social worker.

Good to know.

It was a huge part of my education, as I’m sure it was yours, that not-for-profits are unstable at times.  The norm of high turn over, frequent change, and more is par for the course.  So why do I feel so uncertain with the lack of stability at this Titanic High School? Maybe because of their too-big-to-fail attitude? They are a very old and well known agency. The arrogance makes the Titanic analogy feel so real.

We’ve recently lost a number of supervisors and are in the hellish process of restructuring.  This means more responsiblity for some of the people I greatly respect, and even more for those who make me constantly question YOU SURE THAT YOU WENT TO SOCIAL WORK SCHOOL – ThePlastics.

Job hunting is tiring, confusing, and frustrating. Fighting with myself to accept what is and work with it until I can move on and motivate myself to keep trying and applying feel like opposing forces.  Somedays I wonder if I need to give in the to misery and be truly unhappy and hope it motivates me for change. Others, I try to accept that with September a mere day away… another school year with the same job, without the people I most respect, and on the Titanic is where I will be… without Leonardo DiCaprio, Janice, Damien, or a life boat.

Are You There Fiona Apple, It’s Me, Social Work Girl?

9 Aug

I haven’t posted in a while, though I have been writing a lot. It’s all just been far too personal for WordPress. Sorry guys? (I’d like to pretend you care. Let me believe it…)

Anything I could say I stop and think where is this coming from?  Is it valuable? Does it matter? Does it fit with the context of my blog being about social work, teen work, pop culture, and feminism? Or is this just another rant about my life… because I’m afriad that’s where this blog has headed.

I don’t see clients in the summer. I barely see them during the school year at times. My job recently promoted me to include a position in PR, that’s public relations! I’m in charge of picking success stories for our development team to feature for money. Money money money. Yes, all of our agencies are focused on it – but when the ultimate work of the social worker doesn’t require a masters except to appease volunteers who think they know more… Well, I continue to feel like a fraud. (I, I, My, I’m, me me me me me ugh)

Any minute a Mariska Hargitay look alike is going to slam me against the nearest mail box or hood of a car and start reading me the Miranda rights. She will tell me I’m under arrest for fraud. For using the “social work girl” name, for calling myself a social worker in lieu of my actual office title, my internships, and for not trying hard enough to leave despite my bitching.

I will ask the Oliva Benson look alike when the 15 minute twist in this law and order episode is expected?  The 15, 30 and 45 minute twists will come but ultimately, I’ll be guilty.

I felt this way in social work school a lot my first year. I interned on campus at a student life organization. I love love loved it. It was programming, grants, community organizing, but definitely not clinical. Somewhere along the lines in year one I wanted to get more clinical.

I want to contribute. When I started this blog, I wanted to write something worthwhile and maybe a bit egomaniacaly practice for when I want to write a real paper and ink book someday. Ultimately, I just want to do something worthwhile for a field I love and believe in. But mostly, I  think I have become the the rainbows ad sunshine social worker who is delusional if she thinks her blog is anything more than an open diary bitchfest on the Internet…. and that is highly disappointing.