Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I've crossed the finish line.

Hard to believe that this part of my journey has come to an end.  It all began in the spring of 2009, on somewhat of a whim.  I was leaving a job that I had once loved very much.  I was feeling angry and hurt about what the new leadership was choosing to enact and knew that leaving was my only choice.    At the same time that this important part of my life was ending, I was also preparing for the new life adventure of getting married.  I wasn't sure what the future held for me professionally, and I knew that I wanted a change.

I had talked with my friends and colleagues about what my next steps might be.  I was trying to determine where I wanted to go, if I wanted to stay in the domestic violence field or if I wanted to explore something totally different.  As I continued to apply and interview for jobs, I kept getting feedback that I was qualified, and that what social services agencies wanted were MSW's that could supervise interns and staff.  I had a Masters in Public Administration plus years of leadership experience, and it wasn't enough.

As I figured that I didn't have anything to lose by looking, I checked to see when the application deadline was for the MSW program at PSU.  It was then I learned that I had exactly 5 days to complete my application, get letters of recommendation and my personal statement together.  Somehow the Universe saw fit to make this happen and in that very short time my application was submitted for the part-time program.

I spent the next few months planning for both the possibility of grad school and re-entering the work force.  I continued to look for jobs, while also enjoying the dream of going back to school.  In May I got a letter stating that I had not been accepted, and  had been placed on the waiting list.  I righted myself with the idea that this dream probably wasn't going to happen this year and kept moving forward. Then in August, while driving to Eugene to begin the week of festivities before our wedding, I got a two line email from Janet Putnam at the School of Social Work and it read, "There is a position in the full time program.  Call me ASAP if you want it."

This was a game changer.  I hadn't found work, and I hadn't planned for a full time grad program.  Thankfully I have a wonderfully supportive partner who said, "Of course you will go, we'll figure the rest out!"  And that's just what we did.  I went to school full time, worked part time, wrote papers, started a family, read more theory than I will ever remember, fought for custody of my step-son, interned at four different placed, parented, partnered and tried to keep my sanity intact and in 2011, graduated with a sparkling new Masters of Social Work degree.

In June 2011, I entered the world of community mental health. I had spent nearly 15 years prior working in community non-profits in everything from a volunteer to a Deputy Director position and nothing quite prepared me for the dysfunction, mismanagement, lack of true commitment to self-care or betterment of staff, that community mental health has offered.  It also did not give me the depth of understanding about working with dedicated, fierce, compassionate mental health clinicians and remarkably resilient clients that together inhabit the space that is community mental health. So for the last three years, this is where I have chosen, for better or worse, to reside.  Even with all the tears, tension and tiredness that I have experienced, I wouldn't have changed a thing.  I know that I am a better social worker and person because of those that have touched my life as a client or co-clinician.

So today, when I pressed that last button on my LCSW exam, and successfully completed that final step in this journey, I did pause and think of all of those people and experiences that helped me get here.  I wish I could thank everyone individually, and I hope you all know how much I appreciate you and what you have brought to my life.

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