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.

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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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Light at the End of the Tunnel

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Well, it’s done. The last scene needed to complete the manuscript for book three of my Papilion Trilogy, Berserker, is done. All that’s left to do it to blend the snippets into the main story, to diligently consider the beta readers’ feedback I received (some of which is still on the way), and then hit the last rounds of editing.

I won’t lie. I felt like giving up. This has been the toughest year in writing yet, and there were more than a few periods when I felt like walking away. It’s tough to be a writer, tougher when resources are financially out of reach, when human resources are scarce (reviewers, beta readers), and when Life keeps getting in the way. Discouragement and lack of motivation were constant enemies; we wrestled a lot.

When I started The Purple Morrow four years ago or so, I had one book in mind. I purposely wrote a simple story, being that it had a complex theme : exploring self-doubt and loss and what it takes to move on, in a fantasy context. That grew to two books—Wolf’s Bane literally became the bane of my existence for 2 years, and Berserker—well, yeah. I was often two hairs shy of losing it more than once. … …Funny how the book titles see, to reflect my mental state at the time of writing…

Anyway, the end is in sight. Berserker started as a writing challenge :  write a million words in a year. I started out great—in two months I had about 50k or something. But then I hit a block and let the manuscript sit. I worked on other things while periodically going back and adding to it. But there were challenges, the main one being: How to write a satisfying trilogy ending? Some people have been faithful, reading all the books, they are invested in the characters and what’s happening to them, screaming at the end of book 2 and rabid for more–

Don’t you sometimes feel that writing the ending of a story is tough? So coming to writing the ending of a trilogy…

I was afraid of screwing it up.

Actually, I lied. I haven’t written the ending yet. But I will. I’m waiting for the editing to pull the story threads together to inspire the right ending in order to satisfy my readers. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I guess this is a thank you to everyone who has read my books, who has motivated and encouraged me with their comments and feedback and support. Know that you played an important role in getting this project finished. 🙂

So, back to work! Still lots to do but at least now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I’d love to hear your writing stories, both good and bad. Are you struggling, or riding the wave of success? Tell me about it 🙂

 

View From the Sea: Story Prompt

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new, so I decided to jump back on board with a story prompt from a writing site; it’s a little experimental but that’s part of the fun. I’ll leave the actual prompt undisclosed; if you read, read for fun and see what the story says to you. 🙂

View from the Open Sea

Our dreams are but crystal drops falling from eyes tearing with joy or sorrow; their pings can be heard for miles around; their echoes bounce back to bless or to haunt. One droplet, the best droplet, shone as a white flare for a moment in time; smiles frozen on celluloid; romantic poses pasted into a sticky album and boxed away for latter days…It was just a tiny, liquid drop of youthful expectation collected in a bucket yet it promised the biggest prize. Of all those constrained in my little sea, on that cornerstone I fashioned my house knowing that, one day, I could look back and see it still shining like a beacon amongst the millions of other drops that had since collected.

I am older now. Yet, not so old; I sneak a look back now. My eyes are aflame with the whiteness of silk and chiffon, skin brushed by lace so carefully chosen; it had meant so much to me, then. There was a waltz when I floated in arms so strong—a man in penguin white and black, and me nestled in expensive soufflé. The songs of strings and woodwinds carried us to the heavens; elevated us beyond the mountain-tops until we touched the essence the clouds. But, as with all aspirations too golden, too pure, we soared too high–nearly kissed the sun. And wax melts. It becomes slippery, elusive, trickling through trembling fingers until we can only fumble with the broken pieces of our once brilliant wings and, like ash, our blackened bodies fall, careening side by side to predetermined doom.

Time…It flies.

I am adrift in a tiny raft, staring at the bucket’s broken walls. They lied. Once, they had promised shelter, encircling this unsteady pool like a womb. But I have learned that walls, no matter how high or how thick, are destined to come down and that its stones crush those below who foolishly staked their peace in them…

The empty space beside me has long grown cold; the invisible imprint remains. Occasionally, a new form lies in its place. Different, it is cut from another cloth and yet I find it fits, perfectly. Will I be damned for tearing down the walls of my cage with my own two hands? Or will the light of that elusive sun at last touch this sallow face?

I will drift.

And I will wonder.

I will drift again.

And I will wonder some more.

But right now, as I bounce upon the lilting waters, the whole world appears as a limitless sea…

Copyright @2014 Dyane Forde