In political terms which I try to avoid here since political discussions take up so much of my life – and tend to be hotter-than-hot potatoes – some might call me a flip-flopper. But to use a Bushism (those ridiculous gaffes are in danger of becoming almost endearing in these ugly political times), I’d rather think of myself as a “decider.”
Because, as my man Tom Petty says on the classic “Hard Promises” (and which, amazingly, sadly, is not on YouTube!*), “you can still change your mind,” no matter the stakes, right? Only stuck people never waiver. If we continue to grow, we’re always learning to fly.
And my wings have taken me from working on a gerontology degree to the pursuit of an MSW. That’s master’s in Social Work. Gerontology is housed in the Social Work department, so it’s not that radical a move, and I’m very, very pleased and excited about adding another year to my coursework.
But rather than write today about all my reasons for changing, especially since projects, papers and finals are breathing down my neck (so that’s dramatic personification. My undergrad degree is in English and I’ll always be a writer. Can’t help myself.), I thought I’d just let one section of my SW application essays speak for me today.
Describe the factors that have led you to choose social work as your profession.
In some ways, I’ve been practicing an untrained version of social work much of my life. From at least adolescence, I’ve tried to operate from a center of compassion and have been accused many times of caring too much. In high school I consciously reached out to the “misfits” and lower socioeconomic status students and did my best to operate from compassion in the tough early days of school desegregation. I’ve always championed for causes and advocated for change – I’ve also been accused of never being satisfied, but sometimes the status quo is unacceptable.
Social work in many ways feels like a natural extension of my high school teaching career. As a newspaper staff adviser and girls soccer coach, I had a closer bond with those students than regular classroom teachers, and many of them came to me for counseling and advice. Even my Journalism One and Creative Writing students – as well as my English students back in the 1980s when I was a very young woman – confided in me or consulted with me in times of trouble. Good teachers have much in common with social workers; we are mandated reporters, and we take education classes that cover Erikson, Freud, Maslow and Piaget at great length. Many of our in-service workshops are on working with the poor or on person in environment theories. I always proudly taught in and sent my children to public schools, which are true bastions of diversity.
Even as a newspaper health and fitness columnist, I often had people write, e-mail, or call for advice. Though I always told them I was not a professional, of course I did what I could to help, whether it involved researching the answer, referring them to someone else, or just listening and helping in whatever way I could.
What makes me know without a doubt that this is the right decision is that within two chapters of my Diversity and Oppression textbook, a feeling of “coming home” washed over me. Teaching and writing were my first two callings. Social work is my third – and it’s calling loud and clear.
So there you have it. Call me a bleeding-heart idealist. I’ve been called that before – and a whole lot worse.
Bring it on.
*Here’s a random dude doing a cover of one of my favorite TP songs, in case you can’t hear it in your head as I can.