(This was written During my term break while at a cabin in Vermont at 3 in the morning.)
One of the more unexpected (at least for me) side effects of this program is the amount of personal reflection and examination takes place. I think this is especially true for us first summer students who don’t have that client base to draw from when we are trying to muddle through the complex concepts presented in our classes.
The default is to use our own life and our own experience as the benchmark for exploration. This can be both incredibly positive and extremely problematic. Much of the time our own experiences add incredible insight and soul searching. The problem is that bit of time where our own experiences give us tunnel vision. All that can be true is what we know to be true. I suffer from this extensively I am sure. The rub is, when you do it, who are you to call yourself out?
I am a person who is constantly evaluating herself and working towards being a better version of me. Yet, as a social work student, I am thrust into realizations about myself that can be incredibly uncomfortable.
And I am one of the lucky ones. This program breaks you down to build you up. The intense workload and accelerated timeline is nothing compared the energy we all put into the internal and interpersonal growth that is necessary to become better social workers. The emotional output that is truly exhausting.
Additionally, the discourse we engage in both in and out of the classroom is difficult for me to swallow sometimes. Idealism surrounds me, but the harsh reality is it doesn’t really matter how much we debate theoretical concepts or try to understand our bias framework. We will never know enough. I will never know enough.
If I have learned anything from my first term here, it is that it is impossible to learn everything. I believe that this is the core truth that, intentional or not, this program is trying to make us understand. We will make mistakes. We do make mistakes.
Even among friends mistakes are made. This environment creates instabonding. It is a wonderful thing. I am serious. The friends I have made here and the support system that I have built is invaluable. Yet, no matter how accelerated our time warp is, six weeks does not true understanding create. A theoretical debate is only theoretical, until it accidentally triggers an adverse reaction in a friend. Those cracks are still being mapped. It is impossible not to step in it from time to time.
As always, I am a pragmatist. While I have learned to appreciate theory and how it can be applied in case work, I still believe that debating theory for the sake of debating is a waste of time. I categorize it the same way I do philosophy. While people (not me) might enjoy an engaging conversation on the subject, the only true value of theory is in its practical application.
In this way, I have not changed. I probably should. But, I have yet to find someone who can convince me that theoretical debate is anything other than taking someone else’s words out of context and flinging them around until it makes sense to you.
I don’t really know how much I have changed, or if I have at all. That will only come to light when I return to real life. This is not real life. This is a bubble where people speak like social workers and really want to know how you are doing, for real, not just as a polite passing remark.
One thing I do know is that I like myself. I really do. This is an interesting assertion since apparently we are supposed to come out of this year with some sort of apocalyptic change in our sense of who we are as people. Honestly though, despite uncomfortable realizations here and there, I am good with me. I don’t know if this means I am missing a big pink elephant, but I’m ok if I am. Who knows? I guess I will see when I hit the field.
I guess I am just comfortable sitting with the ambiguity.