Waving Goodbye

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It isn’t every day I leave a job I’ve been at for well over a decade.  I took a lot of time to reflect on stuff, to feel all the feels, and to both celebrate and grieve.  My coworkers gave me a lunch and said a ton of nice stuff that made me cry both happy and sad tears.  

I came up with some thoughts about my experience and I shared them at the lunch.  I’d also like to share them with you.  Whether you are a social worker, or a mom, or just a human riding along on the human struggle bus, maybe they will resonate with you.  If nothing else, I just want to share the sentiment with you, because you are here with me and I am so happy.

Someone once told me I was precious.

Actually, she didn’t say it to me, but she said it to an entire audience as she was receiving an award for being a phenomenal social worker upon her retirement.

But I allowed myself to take it personally, and I eventually became very close and friends with the recipient of that award which in and of itself was pretty freaking precious.

Can you imagine that? You are precious. When you are on a dirty floor trying to play with a kid who is angry and defiant? When you are talking kindly to a parent who you secretly think is the most reprehensible and abusive person on the planet? When you are looking down into live, adult lice crawling around in a child’s scalp. When an overwhelmed mom forgets to change her tampon and menstruates on your office chair and you awkwardly offer her a lysol wipe.

You are precious.

It is not easy to feel precious in this job, which is often dirty, defeating, depressing, and filled with an array of malodorous messes.

It is not easy to feel precious when all you can do is show up and smile because you don’t have the power to change poverty or abuse or severe and persistent mental illness.

It isn’t easy to feel precious when you really feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless. But you are. You my friends are precious. Sometimes the simple act of showing up is enough. Sometimes just being a smiling or compassionate presence in someone’s life fosters changes of which we are not even aware.

Some of you don’t know me all that well and you might be wondering why I am sharing this with you. I’m sharing this with you partly because I see how hard you work in the trenches and I’d like you to know that you are all amazing and doing great things, even when you think you are not.

I thought maybe you might like to know that you are precious too because you show up, even when you don’t want to, or when it is really hard and you feel tired and scared.

I’m also sharing this with you for some selfish reasons. I didn’t go looking for my new job. I wasn’t putting out my resume or job hunting. I had actually gotten to a pretty sweet spot here, right where I was. My program was fully staffed with a new and wonderful clinician and I felt like I had the breathing room to do some good work with my clients.

But sometimes the universe offers something too good to pass up. So, here I go. . .

I didn’t think it would be so hard to leave this city.

This city and I have not always been on the best of terms. It perpetually smells like turtle tank and it tried to crush me under tons of snow. Honestly, I’ve often felt like this city can go fuck itself. There was really nothing I learned in graduate school 15 years ago, that prepared me for some of the shit I have seen go down in this town. I don’t need to go into detail. . . I know you’ve all seen it too.

But over the past weeks, as I have terminated with a few dozen families, I’ve been really surprised at the emotions that have come up– both for myself and for my clients. I’ve been surprised and touched by the kind words of clients and colleagues alike as they have shared with me what our relationships have meant. And it has been really hard to say goodbye.

So, I’m sharing this with you because I know I what I am leaving, and I know you will take care of it in my stead as you always do.

I came here nearly 12 years ago, dewy skinned, wide eyed, and a whole lot skinnier. While I have been here, all of the big stuff that could possibly happen to a person has happened to me. I got engaged, married, and became a mom. I suffered a traumatic miscarriage, then had another baby. I bought a house. My dog of 16 years died.  I also met my best friend here– a relationship for which I will forever be grateful.

Many of you have shared in this journey with me, and have also supported me as I learned so many new roles as wife, mother, working mother, home owner.

I don’t know how to explain what it has meant to see your faces every day for so many years, especially those of you who were here from the very beginning and those of you with whom I share inside jokes about octopus, dog anxiety vests, hanging with bitches, and the healing properties of a lovely plate of eggs.

I’ve laughed, cried, freaked out, and raged with many of you. I can only pray my new colleagues will be as forgiving about my numerous quirks, strong emotions, and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is only just hitting me what it means to say good bye to you all. I’m sorry for all the times I took you for granted, but please know how special you all are to me.

And then of course, there is how this place has shaped me clinically, has taught me and forced me to grow. Growth is not always fun or comfortable. There are many moments I wish I’d met with more dignity, grace, courage, compassion, and energy. But at last I am leaving having seen my own face reflected back at me in the faces of my clients.

I think I have learned what I came here to learn.

So it’s hard to say goodbye. . . but. . .

Life goes on. It always does. It already is.

OK. Final words:

Take care of each other. Be kind. Take care of yourselves. Know you are precious. Show up. Find the joy. Those are the only things that matter, and if you get that all down, the rest will fall into place.

I love you guys.

Thank you.

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