Okay, perhaps a Nascar reference isn’t an appropriate metaphor for the description of my first week. I think a bicycle, rollerblades, perhaps a skateboard would work just fine. So, today is Friday. I am 4 hours away from completing my first week as a therapeutic social worker at Jewish Child Care Association and I have quite a range of feelings about my experience thus far. Overall I would say the week has been a positive experience and I am starting to feel comfortable in my new position. The therapeutic branch at my agency is expanding and they have decided to bring on a new team which includes a new supervisor, socio-therapist and social worker (me). Of the new team I am the first to be hired and the other two positions have yet to be filled. At present I have two acting supervisors, no socio-therapist partner, and no cases (!). I have spent the week attending group meetings, introducing myself to coworkers and shadowing yet I have not done any tangible, concrete work. I’m struggling a bit to determine what I should be doing and what efforts I should be making. I have reached out to coworkers introducing myself and making conversation about their cases. I do not feel that I have done nothing with my time, however I have no gauge of what I should/could be doing.
In school, internships and Children’s Corps training I have been preparing and developing my professional identity. During this first week I feel that my professional self has been frozen on a dark stage with a spotlight shining directly on it. The “shoulds” are overwhelming and I am constantly questioning, “What would a professional do?” I often think of people whom I admire for their professionalism or outgoing personalities and wonder- if they were in the same situation as me, how would they respond? On one hand I think this has potential to be harmful because I am truly not those people and acting in a manner different from myself is not being honest to my true self. However I think it also has the potential to be quite helpful. As this is a new situation for me there will be times when I will be uncomfortable and will need to put myself out there and try new tactics. I am learning that you don’t graduate school with an established “professional self” polished and ready to be the perfect social worker. Rather I am just beginning my journey in an unending quest for the perfect worker. How can I know what the best thing to do or say is without trying and failing a few times? Each failure provides a piece to the puzzle, a missing link in the chain that will help me find my way.
Though I have not done a significant amount of tangible work at the office, this week has not been an easy one. Last weekend I moved into a new apartment which I will be sharing with a friend from out of state who will be moving in September. I am learning that moving entails more than just moving a few pieces of furniture and that supers are not always the most reliable. This week I have had my apartment cleaned and painted, had the locks changed, converted all of the utilities into my name and numerous other tasks. I am also adjusting from living in a lively house of five to living on my own. This is certainly a big week of transitions and a time to learn about myself (and watch Netflix).
While I have spent a significant portion of my work week reading and emailing friends (and writing this blog post) I must also remember that I have, without a doubt, begun my journey. Though I have not written my own FASPs or had life-altering conversations with families, I have made connections with co-workers who will inevitably assist me with future cases. I have also been granted the gift of time to settle into my new setting and adjust to the day-to-day life of a caseworker, a New Yorker, and an independent adult. I must also admit that the support of my fellow Children’s Corps members, scratch that- friends, has been an immeasurable help in getting me through this week. From sitting on the floor of my unfurnished living room eating Chinese take-out and watching library movies on a laptop to sharing first week stories at a randomly won free happy hour, I owe my sanity to you. As anxious as I am to delve into new cases and start “saving” the world, I must admit I have done something and I’m certain I will miss this peace and quiet soon.