My name is Sara Walker and when I went into social work, I did it for all the right reasons. I believe in the power of community. I believe in the importance of connection. I believe it takes a village. I had and always have the very best of intentions. But this is not easy stuff.
There is so much that college never prepared me for and not even the best of mentors can give you advice for everything. Some things simply have to be experienced to be understood. I’m not here to give you advice or to prevent you from experiencing your own things, but this is what I have found after almost a decade in this work that nobody could prepare me for.
- My relationship with my community will be forever changed
I feel a deep rooted sense of connection to the communities that I belong to in a way that I would have never probably felt if it were not for my career. Because I know about the resources, events, and services in my community as I’m often referring my clients to them, I belong to this place in a different way now. I feel so much more a part of it. I cherish it so much more. This is something that I love and appreciate so much. But that too has its challenges.
- I’m always worried about mandated reporting
Because in my profession I am mandated by law to report abuse and neglect, I am always a bit worried about what I will see in my community. If I were to see anything indicating potential abuse or neglect at a grocery store, I have the legal and ethical obligation to call and report what I see. This can be extremely anxiety provoking because you feel like at times you are always on edge, waiting to see the next thing. Sometimes I even avoid certain places for fear of witnessing something I will have to report.
- I get triggered, often
Because the nature of my work is hard, it triggers my own experiences and traumas in ways I didn’t experience before my work. I don’t always hear the good stories from my clients but I sure hear the bad ones. It is reward to be so trusted that I get to hear the hard stories and that I get to help dissect them and even process and begin to heal, but it is taxing to constantly feel the pain of others. Sometimes it can begin to feel like your own pain. Self-care and boundaries are really important.
- Change takes a long time
Finally, we all go into social services because we want to do good for and with others. Well, doing good can be really hard and take a long time. Systems are intertwined and complicated and attached to legislation and making changes at that level takes years and years and lots of work. It can feel exhausting. I know it is always worth it and I have to look to the goals all the time so I don’t get lost in the hardness of the process.
Even though these things I had to learn on my own, I am grateful every day for the journey. I am grateful for the career as it gives me so much more sometime than I feel I give it. It is a process that isn’t perfect, but believing in recovery and helping others will always be my guiding light.