And then I dropped off of the face of the planet for two weeks. That might have had something to do with working 60 hours at one job (all overnight shifts) and 21 hours at the other in the space of eight days. I don’t really want to do that math, especially when you figure in all of the extra-curriculars that I had in there as well. And then lets not talk about the 16 hours I slept one afternoon/evening/night, sleeping through the alarm that was supposed to wake me in time to go to opening night of the world premier for an opera.
In more exciting news, last week was also one of events that have felt a long time coming. Within the space of 3 days, I interviewed and was offered a full time (temporary – maternity leave) position at the place where I have been working casual. It is something of a social work position working with individuals in transitional housing and an emergency shelter. I start next week with a three day conference in Vancouver. It is daytime hours only…!
Possibly more exciting things coming up in the next few weeks.
Today’s Friday Photo is brought to you by Homelessness Action Week.
This is the first year that I can actually say with confidence that I am on a first-name basis with many of the homeless in our city. I had that brought home twice last week. On one occasion, I was sitting in the atrium of the Public Library and two of our clients at the shelter walked by. I knew both of their names and have had interactions with both of them. One of them, I knew something of her story and we’ve talked on a slightly deeper than surface level about the joys and pains of family. On the other occasion, I stopped to get a coffee at the 7-11 (pretty much the only place serving coffee that is open after 10pm on a Friday night) when a young fellow on a bench caught my eye and said hello. My attention had been grabbed by one of his companions, a girl who didn’t look like she could be more than 16 or 17 with a sign saying she was pregnant and needed money. I didn’t know the girl, but I knew him. I knew his name and where he was staying. We’ve talked a few times and he seems like a fun kid who has had his innocence taken away by living on the street and in a homeless shelter.
I don’t know if it is possible to classify a “most tragic” case of homelessness, but the one that always gets me is the working poor. I see so many people who have no mental illness and no addiction issues but, for whatever reason, cannot get together enough money to hold down a place to live. It really sucks to see them on the street or in the shelter. These are the people who are participating members of society and yet they do not get enough back to be able to have a place to live.
I started a new job. To date, I am just casual/on call (which means that my phone is always on and by my side so that I can pick up shifts), but I have begun a new job. I am working in an emergency shelter.
To be honest, it isn’t the job I thought I would have when I finished my Masters in Counselling. I had all sorts of grand ideas about setting up private practice somewhere and settling in to that working world. Now that this has happened and I am getting into the rhythm of working here, I am enjoying it and right now I would rather be doing this then establishing a practice. Not to downplay the important work that is done in private practice – work that I have participated in myself in my sessions with individuals dealing with marital conflict, anger and alcohol use, mild depression, identity questions, and grief – but there is something quite satisfying in working with people on a more base level of survival: providing food and shelter and basic human contact.
The kicker is that some of the individuals I see regularly at the shelter are not individuals I would have placed in that arbitrary category of “homeless” or “needing shelter housing”. They look just like me. They don’t all have that glaze of addiction over their eyes. Some are quite well-dressed and well-groomed. They are intelligent. In other words, they don’t, at least not obviously, all belong in that ‘other’ category of “mentally ill” or “addicted”.
Others do, and I have already had my share of entertaining encounters with those who are high, drunk, or experiencing delusions and/or psychosis. We’ve had to call the paramedics but, thankfully, not the police (yet). All in a day’s – or night’s – work as they say.
While I make it a practice to not talk about work on my personal blog, sharing my responses and reactions to working in this field is something I feel okay about doing because it is about my own personal growth and will hopefully be able to continue as I spend more time with a segment of society we often ignore and overlook. I’m looking forward to getting to know people and sharing parts of life with them.
[As I was writing this, I checked my rss feed and read this post by Tall Skinny Kiwi on choosing to be homeless and thought it an interesting comparison/compliment to the individuals I work with and challenge for our spiritual life.]
Some late night, only slightly coherent ramblings as they cross my mind. Written here mainly because my computer is on my lap and my journal is out of reach.
I am reading the Old Testament lesson next Sunday (Genesis 29:15-28 for those of you who do not have the lectionary at your fingertips). After being sent the reading this evening, I was looking it over to see what I’ll be reading next week. Wow. Jacob worked for 7 years before getting what (who) he wanted. And I am whining about 1 or 2 years of school or work before “getting there” (unsure where “there” is at the moment).
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
Puts things into perspective. I don’t know whether to hope that this time of not knowing what I am doing or where I am going passes quickly or mourn the lost time as time spent doing something other than what I would like to be doing.
We kind of had a lot of snow yesterday (enough that Victoria and snow were Jian’s opening essay on Q this morning). I ended up walking to work where about six of our staff of over 20 made it in for staff meeting. Of fully booked schedules for the doctors, about six patients showed up. I went home early.
I don’t remember having seen that much snow all from the sky here for that long of a period of time (virtually all day from 5:30 onward) in a long while. With the snow, it has gotten cold, cold by Victoria in February standards. It is well below zero outside at the moment and the snow shows no sign of leaving any time soon.
Consequently, I stayed home today. So far, I have gone up and down between floors, made bread, caught up with the computer work I’ve been avoiding for a few days, did some knitting, and contemplated doing some research for my clients. I am still in my pjs. Did I mention it is half past noon? Snow days are a glorious thing and since we get so few of them on the South Island, I am milking it for all it is worth.
That isn’t to say that I am doing nothing! Last night I cycled across town to meet a friend for dinner. She is visiting from out of town on a work trip and it was easiest if I made my way to her. The roads looked alright (and the main roads were fine) so I headed out on my bicycle. It would have taken me easily three times as long on the bus.
This afternoon, I again have to cycle across town towards the highway to help out at an after school club at an elementary school. Then I’ll head downtown, again on the bike, to meet friends for our weekly coffee gathering. Then it is the opera this evening. So I’ll be out in the cold soon enough. Until then, I’m enjoying the warmth of tea and a fireplace from the comfort of my couch.
Without breaking my “don’t talk about work on the blog” rule, I feel that I can say that this week is going to be a busy one. I have more appointments this week than I’ve had any other so far and most of them are concentrated onto two days. It is good to be busy but I’m also hoping that it doesn’t drain me too much. I’m leaning a lot about making sure I get enough sleep!
It was a good weekend though. My roommate had a birthday on the weekend and her boyfriend and I managed to get a whole bunch of her friends over for a surprise board game night. I got home from work and had to wait until she left the house for a soccer game before I could make cupcakes in order to have them ready 2 hours later! I now know that putting them in the freezer for about 10 minutes after baking cools them sufficiently to ice. Nut/Dairy-free (as they need to be in our house) Chocolate cupcakes with caramel icing!
From time to time, a patient at work will ask me how much school is required to do my job. I have to be honest and say that I have had none specific for my position; everything I know about my work has been learnt on the job.
Today, when a patient asked that and after I explained that I’d been doing this for six years and had learnt a lot as I went, he responded, “Its nice to know that there are still some jobs left where you don’t need any school.”
I know it was not meant in a condescending way and I know that there should be no offense taken, but I always take offense in situations like that. I have done seven years of post-secondary education and have three pieces of paper to prove it; I’m working on the fourth piece of paper. I feel like I deserve a little credit for that.
Next time when someone asks me that question, I’ll tell them “None is required, but I’m working on my Masters degree” and just leave it at that.
So I get to do a bit of work over the next bit! It likely isn’t going to be full time (which is just fine with me!) but I will get to pick up a few hours/days here and there at the optometrist I used to work at. So it is back to eye testing for me! It will give me something to do over the next little while and make some money at the same time.