Friday, December 13, 2013

Sometimes we fail, and that's okay.

I've worked for the same company off and on for five years.  In that time, I've worked in over sixty different schools, probably for a total of well over 300 days.

On Wednesday, I received my first ever bad review.

My representative called me and said she wanted to discuss some feedback I'd received from a school. She named the school, where I had been last Friday, and have been too more times than I could count in the last four years. The school has almost entirely new staff, and they don't know me. This school used to request me every single day. Every.... Day..... But the last two years have been full of turn over and I can count on my hands the times I've been there.

The school informed my company that a teacher had observed me sitting behind the desk much of the day and playing on my phone.

And you know what? I was.

I know better. I do. I even thought to myself that day, "You should be circulating more. You need to put your phone away - you're not hiding it by just putting it behind your purse." The kids were being WONDERFUL, and I was exhausted, so I wasn't working my hardest. THIS IS NOT ME. this is not how I normally perform.

And I got caught. I admitted to what I had done, though I'm sure my defenses had me downplaying it.  My representative thanked me for being honest, told me not to let it happen again, and moved on.

I called back a few minutes later on a totally unrelated note, but I apologized again and told her all the steps I would take to ensure I never had another day like that. And she was fine.

But worst case scenarios flooded my mind. "OMG what if she calls the school and they tell her it was way worse than I made it sound?!?!" "I'M GOING TO LOSE MY JOB!!" "These schools all know each other and they're going to spread the word and no one will want me!" "I'm never going to be able to use my network of schools to help me find a job when I graduate!" "My company isn't going to think of me as one of their favorite employees anymore and I'm going to get trash-talked during staff meetings." "They're not going to give me work on Friday just to punish me and I have Christmas presents to buy!"


 But the truth is, none of the above is true. The ordeal is over, two short days in, and things are back to normal.... I hope.

You know why?

Because our failures don't define us. They teach us. When my representative called me she was SHOCKED. She told me she assured the school that I was one of their most requested employees and that this was very much out of character.  She backed me up in saying I must have been having an off day.  AND WE ALL HAVE OFF DAYS. But because I've spent almost five years establishing myself as not just a reliable employee, but a superior one, my representative knew that this was an isolated incident.

I learned from this experience. I learned that being really good at what you do does not exempt you from following rules.  It made me reflect up on my time at Summit. When I was there, every day I felt like I was a failure. I felt like I could do nothing right. I wasn't very good at the job, and even when I thought I was doing a great job, I was called out on something I didn't do right. It was miserable.

I am so thankful to have found a field in which I excel. I've had three different social work internships at this point, and I've left all three of them each day feeling like I'd been successful. I'm so thankful for the relationships I've built with almost all of my schools.

I showed up to work at a school today nervous. I felt as though a cloud was hanging over me waiting on me to fail, even though, in over three hundred days I've only had the one complaint, but it was looming.

Today I am working at a school where I have spent many of days over the last two years.  I even got their social worker her job after they started asking me when I was graduating and did I know anyone who was available for this year.

I walked into the office this morning, rushed because it was a day-of assignment. I rounded the corner to see the receptionist.

"Hey!!! It's our favorite person from school professionals!! So glad you're here!"

Yeah, I think one failure is okay.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What I like about where I am

I said after my last post that I would follow it up with a post about why I love my current field placement oh-so-much, but then, grad school happened, and I haven't been up for writing this semester (This is not just applicable to the blog, I straight up don't feel like writing even for school. This is foreign.)

Somehow this semester felt especially draining. What I realized eventually is that
a) I don't have any time during my work day in which I can write process recordings or work on papers - and I had plenty of that last year
b) While I love love love this internship, it is far more emotionally draining than last year, and while that may not affect me AT work so much (okay, sometimes it does), it manifests itself in little ways like making me feel extra tired in the evenings and causing me to be a little bit more absentminded.

All that to say, I do want to share why I feel so at home where I am.

As I said before, I work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NY-Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center. I do family work, particularly with parents whose newborns are being treated for critical illnesses.  My primary job is to serve as a support system for these families. I meet with them when they are first admitted and find out what kinds of supports they have in place, if they have job situations to put on hold, if they have family nearby, if they live close enough to visit, that sort of thing.  I then take this information and figure out how I can best be a support.

Sometimes being the extra support means getting Mom a cup of water. Sometimes it means being the one to give mom a bereavement packet with information on things like "Twinless Twins" and support groups for losing a child after she's had to withdraw care on one of her triplets.

Sometimes my families are really really strong, and have amazing coping skills.  Sometimes they need someone to talk to more than anything and don't have anybody, so I step it.

Did you read that?! I get to TALK to people, as a job. I get to LISTEN TO THEIR STORIES all day long. It's BEAUTIFUL. And tough. Some of these stories are hard. Okay, MOST of them are hard, but going home knowing that I eased someone's stress by simply being a listener and using my "clinical skills" (whatever that means), to help them to feel at ease, that makes me excited to get up and go the next day.

Of the three internships I've had so far, this is the one where I feel I'm getting the most practice at using my actual counseling skills, and having the ability to do that in a place where I get to interact with SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF FAMILIES with so many unique stories, well that's just more than I could have ever asked for.

I admit that some of my days are really really hard. When you walk this journey with these families, you experience it with them, first hand. I was in the room the day one of my babies was about to go into surgery and had just taken a really bad turn and mom called for a priest to come up and do a baptism stat and was waiting on dad to get there to say his goodbyes while we all stood around and watched the nurses do everything they could to keep her stable until time to go into her emergency surgery (and for the record, she's okay :) ). I waited outside the door for the news that one of our babies no longer had a heartbeat after we had to withdraw after months of fighting for his life unsuccessfully. I experience these things with them. I maintain my professional demeanor in the room then go home and cry some nights. But the experience is beautiful, even if sometimes it's that ugly kind of beautiful.

To see these families come through it. To see how they handle being told "he's going home tomorrow," after months of waiting, only for him to have another episode and have to put off that homecoming even longer. To see these moms who have wanted a child their whole lives and finally get to have one at 41, 42, 47.... It's incredible.

Mostly, I like to see them go HOME. I miss these families, and it's always bittersweet when they walk out the door, but there is not much more beautiful than seeing a car seat with a 6 pound child in it and remembering the time when he was 1 pound and thinking "wow, this kid is going home."

As I head into my semester break, I'll miss those babies. I hope that a bunch of them won't be there when I get back. I am in a setting where I never pictured myself working, and I love every second.