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Why I chose Social Work

For the past ten years I was a social worker. I didn’t seek out to become one, the field found me. In an ironic twist of fate I laughed at one of my early college professors who suggested social work would be a good match for me. I later e-mailed him to tell him he was right on the money.

So how did I become a social worker? First and foremost I had an innate desire to help others. Always have; always will. Which makes me a shoe-in for human services. I graduated from college with a degree in Deaf Studies. Like many college graduates I thought, “Now what?”

I applied for different jobs in the Deaf World. I ended up in a Human Services agency, as an Independent Living Specialist. My entire caseload consisted of individuals with a hearing loss and I helped them with whatever they needed help with. From reading mail to going to court we did whatever the clients needed. Everyday brought a new challenge. It was overwhelming at times, especially being a young twenty-two-year-old, to be helping someone with a problem I might never have come across.

In social work I learned that one didn’t need to know all the answers. Instead we needed to know where to get the answers. Faced with a brand new problem? No big deal, find the source, do the research, continue to help. I worked mostly with low-income adults, some foreign, all interesting.

My easier clients were the elders I worked with. Most of them were adjusting to life with a hearing loss. I’ve worn hearing aids since I was six-years-old, this was an area I was well versed with! There was a lot of joy in helping others adjust. I grew up feeling alone with my hearing loss, feeling uncomfortable with my hearing loss. To have it grow into such a positive part of my identity, a way I could help, was very empowering.

My work with elders led me to my second job, working as a Case Manager for elder services. There I helped frail elders stay in their homes, by coordinating services to keep their daily needs met. This work was more streamlined, less dealing with everything under the sun. It was also more somber as I lost many of my clients through death. Again, being young this has given me a very different outlook on aging. One I am very proud to keep.

I contemplated applying for my social work license but never made it that far. Social work is job that is equal parts rewarding and demanding. I miss the reward. I don’t miss the demand.

But my involvement with social work is not done. Not yet. My newest character is a social worker. I’m having a lot of fun reminiscing over my former career. Channeling the good times, and the bad. Having those memories fuel the plot. At the same time it’s a challenge. There is a desire to portray things in the right light. Ultimately I hope other social workers will get a kick out of my portrayal.

Social work is something I never anticipated doing, but I will never forget it. It has been almost a year since I left and if I am told a story about an elder needing help I jump in with two feet, rattling off suggestions. It’s a part of who I am, and it’s not going away.

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