Summer semester 2006 I was a full-time student, married, and with two small children. Most of my course load that semester was filled with English classes, my minor, because none of the upper division Social Work classes I needed were offered. In my Modern British Literature class there was about 10 students and on the first day we had to introduce ourselves. I was the only one getting my Bachelors degree in something other than English.
A few weeks into the semester my professor was going off on something we had read and I remember distinctly he said, “anyone who majors in Social Work is an idiot. They are just setting themselves up for a lonely, miserable, frustrating life.” (I don’t know what Social Work had to with Lady Chatterly’s Lover, but okay). Everyone in the class turned and looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders.
I majored in Social Work because I like helping people. In any job I had previously to that point I only found true joy in my work when I was actually helping someone in an unconventional way outside the usual job parameters. I never thought I could change the world, but maybe I could help a few people along the way.
Nine years later since Professor What’shisface made his off-hand pointed comment at me, I can say he is totally wrong about me and my life. I am very happy, probably more than I deserve to be.
Yes, my job is very stressful and I deal with some awful, awful things working in child abuse prevention. But my coworkers and I are affecting real change. We make a difference. Specific to my job duties is helping families find resources, I offer comfort and support, and I am a small safe place in horribly tragic events. Yes, this job is often punctuated by moments of frustration, but nothing compares to knowing that I truly helped someone on any given day.
I have a husband who loves me and accepts me exactly as I am. Even if he lives in fear that my outspokenness and no fear of confrontation will get him beat up one day. He loves me in spite of my faults and apparently thinks I’m really funny. After 16 years together we’re still very much in love and there’s no one I’d rather hang out with. His absolute acceptance of me for exactly who I am has allowed me to grow in self-confidence and accomplish things I never thought I would. He also thinks I’m a stone cold fox, which doesn’t hurt.
I have four beautiful children. And by beautiful I mean they are all growing into very kind, compassionate, funny, smart, good kids. They make me proud to be their mother. The other day my 11 year old son said he wants to be a social worker too so he can help people. I can only take partial credit for the good people they are becoming. They are all their own, independent person and have interests vastly different from mine. Knowing them has made me a better person. They teach me so much about patience, unconditional love, courage, and hope.
I have a safe home to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear, a car to drive, flowers in the yard, and a spectacular view of the sunrise over the Wasatch Mountains. I have good friends who love and support me, forgive me when I’m wrong, educate me and challenge my ideas, laugh at my jokes, and are my closest confidantes. I have a wonderful immediate and extended family and am fortunate that my kids are growing up surrounded by so many close family members who love them and enrich their lives.
Yes, I’ve gone through some difficult times. Those things have only given me greater compassion and empathy for others. I’ve lived through the death of a parent and the betrayal of false friends, and I hope I’m come out of those things stronger, wiser, more humble, and more dedicated to helping others.
On top of all of that, I had great Social Work professors who taught me about self-care and boundaries and were wonderful professional examples, and now friends, to me. So Dr. English Professor, I hope it’s okay with you that I decided not to listen to you and majored in Social Work anyway. I hope it’s okay that I’m not lonely or miserable. I hope it’s okay with you that I’m thriving and not just surviving. Actually, I don’t care if it’s okay with you, because I’m okay with me.