As a student going into my second year of the Child and Youth Care program at Humber College, along with every other student, EVER; we have all heard about the importance of self-care, the benefits of mindfulness, and the signs of burn out. In our first year, we had to create goals, most of which revolve around time management or taking time for ourselves in spite of our chaotic schedules. But how seriously do we actually take these goals? I took mine seriously for a grand total of about 3 weeks before I fell behind and just decided to get everything done that I needed to, then just take extra good care of myself when it was all over. Let me tell you, this was the worst strategy I have ever tried. About 4 mental breakdowns, 1 incomplete assignment, and 2 failed tests later, I knew that something needed to change. Throughout this summer, I have challenged myself with working longer than long hours and trying to fit in volunteer work. Needless to say, my change needed to happen now, and I need to stop saving myself for last.
I haven’t even started my career in caring yet, and I can already sense just how overwhelming it is going to become. I’ve heard stories about what working in certain settings will look like, and have started to begin to mentally prepare myself; but no amount of awareness can truly prepare one for the true realities of most of our communities. Sure, some of these realities most of us have lived first hand, and many traumas that we have experienced ourselves, we may have to relive vicariously through the people we work with. But at what point does caring become too much, and how do we prevent ourselves from drowning in exhaustion and helplessness? Everyone entering into the social services field, either as social workers, child and youth care practitioners, early childhood educators, community developers, developmental and mental health services, police foundations, nursing, teachers, volunteers, crisis support workers, and any sort of social service job requires people who are dedicated, passionate, innovative, and CARING. All of these characteristics prevent us from just letting something stop for even ten minutes to take care of our own well-being. How easily we are engulfed in working with people to better their own lives? How many lives will we touch and influence? Yes, the feeling of accomplishment when we see other people make progress is fantastic, but for every step forward, we notice the ten other people who need our supports. Where does it end? How do we say “no, I need time too.” Everyone experiencing trauma says that ‘somebody else has it worse’, and those seeking to give care are notorious for this phrase, because they see the worst case scenarios everyday. I have begun to be more involved in politics and policy, and have started to read more news articles and listening to anything I can get my hands on.
After reading about the White Supremacist protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia (May 15, 2017!), and with a friend currently discussing the political impacts of these events on current society, we got to discussing how we react to strangers. I asked him, “have you ever felt a complete stranger’s misery? All their fears, insecurities, heartaches, worries, and traumas?” we got to discussing how just being aware of different life stressors changes the way we interpret people’s actions and decisions. We talked about Donald Trump being (wrongfully) elected, and how he shone a light on the blatant bigotry that lies hidden among us all; about the white privilege that is masked behind words like “reverse racism” and “politically correct.” We talked about feeling tension throughout our own community, even though we were a country away, and how we could only imagine the fear and anxiety those living in the United States felt since Donald started his campaign. Feeling the weight of the world weighing down on my shoulders, and feeling as though I shouldn’t be sad or afraid because I have it better than some; or that it is my responsibility to carry this burden because I am strong is a strain I am no longer willing to struggle with. I am beginning to learn to accept no more or less than what I deserve, and am beginning to develop a strong voice. A voice to be used for advocacy. A voice that will help to further develop communities, families and programs. A voice that will acknowledge and validate you as an individual as you are. A voice that will rise to the occasion, and a voice that will stay still and allow you to have yours. After completing my first year, I now know 100% that I am in the right program. I want to see a change.
Welcome to the journey