Open Book Blog Hop: Lessons Learned, Lessons Worth Sharing

So, this week’s Open Book Blog Hop topic encourages me to remove the writer’s mask to reveal my ‘other’ side. Funny how this topic comes a few short weeks after I have come to finally accept the job I’ve been doing for the past 20 years.

But before I get there, here’s the topic:

July 24, 2017 – What Kind Of Lessons Could Anyone Learn From What You Do In Your Career?
Are there life lessons that people who aren’t in your career could learn from? You might be amazed.

Open-Book-Stamp

Rules:
1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.



Baby Steps

When I chose my program at university, I’ll be honest: I had no idea what I was getting into. I was 19, had finished CEGEP (a kind of pre-university, for those who don’t know about the Quebec educational system), and had no idea what I wanted to pursue as a career. I just knew that the only things I was really good at were writing and working with people. I didn’t believe I could build a career out of writing, so I did what any young person who likes working with people but couldn’t do math to save her life would do.

I became a social worker.

Trial by Fire

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What was I thinking?!

I’m an introvert by nature, but every activity in the program required me to work in groups, organize groups, or interact on a deep level with people through counselling. I was totally out of my comfort zone. I mean, I wanted to help people but the profession wasn’t anything like what I had expected. By the time I graduated, I was a qualified social worker, but let’s face it: I was still basically a kid with barely any life experience. (It’s not for nothing that a good number of social work students were what we called ‘mature students’).

I managed to find a job in a youth center that I really loved, but after a while I decided I needed to take the plunge and get some real experience. So, what nightmare did I throw myself into next?

I got a job in youth protection.

Youth protection workers get a bad rap, and I understand why. But as someone who’s done the job, I can say that they are needed, and that the job is bloody hard and, usually, thankless. I lasted two and a half years, but just barely. The stress and anxiety knocked my off my ass, and set off physical and emotional stress responses I still feel today. That said, I am grateful for the experience because it did what it was supposed to: it prepared me for the real world. The life and professional lessons I learned are still a part of my life today.

What now?

So, I’d survived my trials by fire. Everything else should be a snap, right?

Hell, no.

I work in a health and social services government agency with people who have physical and intellectual disabilities, and autism, and their families. It’s challenging work. There are so many needs and never enough resources. Stress is high. The burn out rate for social workers right now is through the roof.

If I’m being honest, most of the time I’m frustrated. Frustrated with the system, and frustrated because I feel utterly powerless. I listen to people for hours a day, empathizing, supporting, strategizing, organizing, counselling, and so on. There is so no end to the pain, heartbreak, and hopelessness. Families regularly fall apart, and kids lose control. Mental health problems abound. The environment is a perfect recipe to develop anxiety.

So, what do I do?

Turning Things Around

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I do what I can. Untangling situations, accessing resources, and problem solving  are key. But a lot of the time I just do what I have always done best: listen and encourage. Active listening is deceptively hard. It takes practice and genuine concern for the person being listened to. Empathizing is another skill that is harder than people think. It requires the listener to not judge and to purposely try to understand the situation through another point of view. Encouragement, no explanation needed, is another skill I find valuable. Honestly, I don’t always have the answers when I begin an interview. But after listening and empathizing, determination kicks in and off we go.

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I used to see social work as a burden. There were times the job made me sick. Since my last sick leave a few months back, I’ve been evaluating my situation, wondering why I do what I do, and if I should do something else. After praying about (a lot), I came to accept that this is where I should be, and if I’m going to remain here, I had to make it work. I realized that focusing on the problems with social work was the problem. So, I listened to, empathized with, and encouraged myself. And decided that I am not a social worker for myself, but for the people who pass through my door or with whom I talk to on the phone. I’m there for the families who don’t know where to turn, and for those on the edge of despair. It’s about putting other people’s needs before my own and doing my absolute best as a professional to help them.

I also accepted that I’m a social worker, not a miracle worker. That validating another’s experience and partnering with them to find a solution is in themselves powerful. Sometimes, looking someone in the eye and saying in a confident, supportive voice: “Listen, the situation is complicated, but don’t worry. We’ll figure it out,” makes all the difference.

So, What’s the Point?

What to take from my work experiences? I think one is remembering that people are our most important asset and that we must take care of one another. Two, that when we help someone in need, we show the world our best. Three, that everyone falls at some point. When it’s your turn, what kind of professional (person) do you want assisting you? Someone who’s just going through the motions, or someone who genuinely cares? Four, remember that the helping profession is hard, and those doing the work are human, just like you.

Supporting and caring for one another, and showing compassion and understanding, are some of the tools we all have at our disposal. But they just might be the most important.

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From blog.faithlife.com

Thanks for reading my experiences. I’d love to know your thoughts, or what lessons you’ve learned from your job or hobby. Please leave me a message below.

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Open Book Blog Hop: How and Why I Started Blogging

This post is in response to the prompt provided by the Open Book Blog Hop. Today’s topic is: How’d You Start Your Business, Blog, Or Freelance Career?

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How’d I start my blog?

With fear and trembling. Seriously, it was a challenge to get started but super rewarding once I did. But, in case you want details, I invite you to read on. Then, please me leave a message with your thoughts, or about your own blogging experience.

The Beginning:

I’ve been blogging for a few years, I’d say roughly four, not including last year’s sabbatical. The journey began back when I decided to get serious about writing. I wanted to share my stories with people but didn’t have the means to do it. A blog seemed like a good idea but I was just starting out. I had no major contacts, no experience, had never managed anything like a blog before. And, who cared enough about me and my writing to read my posts, anyway? The whole thing seemed scary and unattainable. That said, the need to try, as well as to take charge of the problem, won out.

So, I had my mission. But how and where to begin?

At the time, I was active on Google+ where I had met many supportive people at various stages in their own writing pursuits. One thing I noticed about most of the successful ones was that they had writing blogs. This made sense, since the marketing wisdom at the time urged writers to develop strong writing platforms. This usually included an active blog. As for me, I was writing stories at an incredible pace, and had become a moderator of two writing communities. Also, I had published my first book, The Purple Morrow. After about a year, I finally felt I had enough experience to take the plunge.

Still, the idea scared me. I mean, nothing is worse than being excited about a piece when no one else is. Worse, what if no one notices my articles or comments on them? In the end, though, I put all that negative thinking aside and got to work.

The first attempt was on Blogspot. The benefit was that it was connected to G+ so, right away, it gained attention and feedback. I named it Purple Pebbles…not sure why anymore, except that purple is my favorite color. I posted stories, poems, and short essays about my writing experience, and was genuinely surprised at the positive response. The blog enabled me to meet and engage many new G+ people, and easily follow and interact with current contacts. Lastly, it boosted my confidence.

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The Middle:

Then came the move to WordPress. People had told me that WordPress was the way to go if I wanted to reach even more people. They also argued that the platform itself was better. So, after worrying about using a new tool and whether or not people would follow me, I made the switch. I named it Dropped Pebbles in reference to the idea that every author has a unique voice, and our words resonate beyond the written page. Then things really took off. Being able to share posts via multiple social media platforms at once, including the vast WordPress community, opened new doors. Then followed blogging awards, requests to guest blog or to contribute to e-magazines, blogging about my writing ups and downs, book reviews, and invited guests. I particularly enjoyed hosting author features and author interviews. I knew how hard it was to get books in front of potential readers, so it was important to me to help in any way I could.

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Looking back, the whole thing feels like a blur. After being away for over a year, I am still surprised at the whole experience. Surprised and grateful. People are busier these days more than ever, so the fact that they took time to read, comment on, and share my blog still means a lot.

Not Quite the End:

Dropped Pebbles was closed for a while, but I decided to test the waters again. When I started blogging, my original goal was to establish myself as a serious writer, as well as to use my experiences to help other hopefuls navigate the pitfalls that plague our Great Writing Adventure. This time around, my goals are a little more humble. I’m coming back to the game somewhat out of practice but with more realistic expectations about said adventure.

Still, I’m here now, seeing things with fresh eyes and a different point of view.

*grins* But more on that another time.



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Neat Little Gem: Dan Stevers’ ‘Son of Man’

This post isn’t about writing, but it does touch on Art and, in particular, a form I really enjoy, animation.

Over the years, I’ve struggled to find non-cringe-worthy Christian media content. Some of you out there know what I mean, and probably have your own Cringe List in mind. (I had stopped reading Christian content books for a long time because of this, and movies had an even worse track record).

But, the tide seems to be changing! Today, while watching anime (one of my favorite past times), I spotted a mini-movie. The image was striking: Jesus wearing the crown of thorns, in animation format. It was a preview of a longer movie by Dan Stevers, only 2 minutes long called, Son of Man. I clicked on it out of curiosity. And was pleasantly surprised.  So much so, I decided to blog about it.

Dan Stevers – Son of Man from DanStevers.com on Vimeo.

If you’ve got some time to spare, and are wanting to watch something inspirational (we so need that nowadays), check it out. And encourage someone who’s working just as hard on something he loves as the rest of us are.

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New Bloggers, Blogging and Life

Thoughtful comments about why we blog and how we can make the most of the experience.

Find Your Middle Ground

blogging and life

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon recently with new bloggers. Perhaps, if you are reading this, then you may have noticed as well. There are flurries of Likes one after an other and then a Follow.

I doubt this new generation has superhuman ability to read so quickly… and it makes me wonder if they are actually reading what is posted, or are simply wanting reciprocation, with multiple likes and a follow. Is the goal to accumulate lots of Likes and Followers, regardless of connection with other bloggers?

It makes me think of my adolescence where there was much self doubt and a craving for validation. If I do this for you, you’ll do this for me. If I like you, you must like me. This, of course, is encouraged in all Social Media.

Perhaps this keeps many people in a state of wondering what others think, and being seen…

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Ben’s Bouquet: Flash Fiction

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Actually, I had given up hope that I’d come back to it at all. Life just got crazy, and then there was the whole neck, shoulder, and arm pain thing that plagued me for over a year. Oh yeah, and my computer decided to give up the ghost. But against all odds, I’ve come up with a little ditty of a story, and I posted it spurred by the naive hope that there are still readers out there who still dig my little stories, or that maybe I’ll meet some new ones. I say ‘against all odds’, because up until a few hours ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d write again. Why? I just couldn’t find the drive, the ideas, or the energy to focus. But, somehow, I caught hold of a feeling and decided to run with it. And so, here is my diamond in the rough…

 

Ben’s Bouquet

The bouquet rests in my hands. Its disgustingly beautiful, a brilliant mass of lilies and roses interspersed with feathery greenery. Even then, while holding my heart in my hands, the smell is intoxicating. I can barely think.

I remember now why I hate flowers. Sickeningly sweet, their aroma makes your head swim, and yet, like a drug, their beauty still manages to arouse your heart. And just when you fall in love with their colours and complexity, they die.

“Why’d you bring me flowers, of all things?”

Ben leans against a pillar, watching the buses come in and out of the station. They run on time, each one faithfully carrying its passengers away to parts unknown. The riders look happy; expectation lights up their faces. Men, women, children, singles, and families, clutching satchels and suitcases; backpacks stuffed with snacks for inter-city rides. The constant rumble of voices and the squeals of excited children hover over the platform. They should be holding these flowers, not me.

“I dunno. I thought you liked flowers. Tonight’s a happy occasion, right?”

“Is it?”

We shouldn’t be arguing, not now.

How much time do we have left?

The station’s giant clock looms behind him, but his silhouette obscures its face. I shuffle through my purse for my phone, but he takes my hands in his and sits on the bench beside me.

“You look like we’re at a funeral. We talked about this. You said you were thrilled.”

sad girl

I look at the bouquet resting in space between us. He was right. We had talked about it, but at the time the news was fresh and we were riding high on excitement and the possibility of what could be. But now…

The doors of a nearby bus snap shut. With a roar, it pulls away from the station, the red tail lights flashing as it pauses at the intersection before leaving the lot. Then it drives away into the night. Another bus pulls into its freshly vacated spot.

“I didn’t pick this internship, you know,” Ben says. “They chose me.”

“I know. It’s a great opportunity. You’d be crazy to pass on it.”

He tips my chin upwards so I could look into his eyes. Chocolate brown and earnest, it’s impossible to look away. “It’ll be fine. I’ll get settled in, and once things are in order, you’ll join me just like we talked about.”

The second bus finishes loading. Once the last passenger is seated, the door shuts with a snap and the bus drives away, it too, fading into the night.

For Ben’s sake, I decide to be brave. He was doing this for us, after all. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. It’s just…so far.”

He pulls me in close for a hug. “Good thing I’ve got all those books on bio-engineering to keep me busy.”

His bus finally pulls up. Ben stands and throws his backpack over a shoulder. “It’s a big change for us, but it’ll be good. Trust me.”

He kisses me goodbye and boards the bus after storing his luggage. In a moment, he’ll leave for a new city, a new home. A new life. And until we met again, I will live on memories that would, over time, wither like a fistful of flowers.

I lean on the pillar as he had done, watching his bus pause at the intersection as if for one last look back. Then the engine revs and it drives into the night, red taillights glowering.

Once Ben’s news had sunk in and the whole picture had become clear to me, I’d told him over breakfast one day that nothing lasts forever, not even love.

“The sun comes up every day, doesn’t it?” he answered. “And even if we don’t always see it, the moon moves along its cycle today just as it’s done since the beginning. Some things might not last, but other things, the important things, do.”

I’d stopped arguing with him after that. He believed it, and that had been enough.

I press the flowers to my chest. They were beautiful. And he’d given them to me. Whether as a parting gift or a promise, I didn’t know. But tonight, before laying down for bed, I would dry one or two in a book. Just in case.

Rose

Dyane Forde July 2017

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