Why I like to work here
I was asked to write something that either told a success story from my work, or why I liked working where I do. So, despite that fact that I’m not happy with what is going on with the administration at my agency, I took some time to reflect on why I drag my ass work everyday. So, here is what I submitted.
Why I like to Work Here
I recently sat with some friends at a Super Bowl party, and after seeing a commercial someone asked the group to, “Raise your hand if you are satisfied with your Job.” To my shock and amazement my hand was the only one that went up in the air. I looked around, and noticed the whole room was staring at me. The person who asked the question laughed and said, “Yeah right! I know how much you get paid.”
While we all chuckled and passed the chips around I smiled and said, “Its not about how much you get paid.” This brought some well meaning laughs and jeers form the room. “My job has other things that make it satisfying. I don’t know anyone else here who get paid to help bring change into the lives of children and their families.”
At these words my friends, all businessmen, accountants, cooks, or employees for architectural firms, all got real quite. “Yeah, the money helps. And yes, my Job has days that suck. But I help save lives.” At this they all toasted me, and my luck at having a job I liked.
When I came to this agency as a Youth Service Center Outreach Counselor, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had been trained in crisis intervention as a Residence Advisor during my college days, but it has been a few years since I’d worked directly with kids. A close friend of mine literally bullied me into applying, and told me that I was perfect material for the job. So after I was hired I spend a week shadowing other counselors and being crash-course trained by our Director Bob Hilas. I was sent down to my first assignment, a middle school in Menifee, with the fear that I would flop as soon as I opened my mouth.
My first day on the job I was asked to see a suicidal student, who’s mother had died of a brain aneurysm the week before while the student was home alone with her. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. I called my supervisor for guidance, but both on call supervisors were in a meeting at the time. So I did the only thing I could remember from my training and just let the student talk out what he was feeling. I listened, I repeated back what he said, and listened some more. His grief was so new that I had feeling he was not ready to do more than just let it all out.
After half an hour of tears, and a whole box of tissue paper, a family friend took the student home. When he arrived at school the next day he came by my office and thanked me for listening. Turns out no one else had let him say what was on his mind with out breaking into tears or telling him he needed to move on. I told him if he wanted to talk anymore I’d be happy to listen, and when the time came for him to move on he would know when it was. I worked with the student’s family over the next several months, connecting them with therapists, talking with Dad about how certain behaviors were normal for kids who are grieving, all the while calling my supervisor almost every day to beg and plead for advice. When all was said and done, the family did move on and did start the journey of healing. I was blessed to be a witness to that process.
Currently I am assigned to an after school site two days a week. There I met a girl who always acted very nervous, and seemed to spend a lot of time and energy making sure all the other students thought she was “normal.” The student’s mother called me and told me that the student’s father was currently serving time in jail, and that she was very afraid of people at school finding out. So at the mother’s request, I started meeting with her until mom could find a therapist. During the time that she spent talking with me about friendship, self-esteem, and other kinds of social skills, she started to realize that she was not the only student at her school that had a father that was incarcerated.
Over the next few months I saw this young girl change from a very nervous outsider who was afraid to get to know anyone, to a confidant and energetic student who had a good number of friends. This student greets me everyday with a smile where as before she shied away from anyone who called her name, a difference of night and day.
The thing about what I do everyday is that I don’t do anything. I present student with choices, talk about the outcomes of those choices, and leave it up to them to actually do something about their lives. In this, students start to see and believe that they do have the ability to shape and control their own lives. For me, changing a life is about equipping a person to in act change for themselves. If we encourage students to use this ability, in a world where students are taught that the adults are the only ones with power to change things, we give them hope. Hope that they can choose not to make the same mistakes their parents made. Hope that they can be different then what their family expects them to be. Hope that their life will be better, if they figure out what they can change and take steps to make that change happen. All I do is show students that they do have a say in how their lives turn out, and it is their choice to take action or not.
Every person comes back to work each day for different reasons. For me, I come in each day because today could be the day that I help a person change their life. How many people can say that about their jobs? I know that I can. That is what makes the Carolyn E. Wylie Center a place that I want to be.