Three years ago today I started working at the job I currently have. I was just thinking about the way I spent my morning three years ago, and about how much that has changed in the time that has followed. Three years ago I left my children in the wee hours of the morning with my dad so that I could be at work on time. I hadn’t ever done that before. I hadn’t ever worked a full-time job during their lifetime, and I had NO IDEA how to navigate any of it. I was terrified. I was scared about being the new person, and I was scared about how I would juggle things. I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of getting the girls where they needed to be, finding someone to watch them for the days I worked late, who would pick them up if they got sick? All of those things are now old hat – and partially made easier because they’re 3 years old and a whole lot more self-sufficient.
This year has been the year I’ve felt the most confidence in my work. I truly feel like I know what I’m doing here now. I am familiar and comfortable with the language we use, and I am confident talking with both teachers and with families about the high-quality care that we are providing to children. I can tell you where to go in our agency when you need something. I can tell you about resources for families who might need something beyond our scope, and where to direct teachers who are looking to expand their professional knowledge. I’ve learned how to navigate state and federal systems that are flawed or broken. And? I have learned how to shut some of the stuff off when I leave here at night. But not all of it.
This year has been perhaps the hardest in that area. Maybe it’s because of the trauma informed care focus we’ve had in our professional development this year. Maybe it’s because now I know what secondary trauma is and what compassion fatigue is. In a meeting with our mental health consultant a few weeks ago, she said to me, “You know you have compassion fatigue, right?” And I laughed at her, until I read more about it, and now I know I am a walking example of it. If you want to know more about compassion fatigue, what it looks like, or ways to combat it, please go here: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/
I have zero patience anymore for people who can’t take perspective with the work we do here with children and families. By no means do I expect anyone who hasn’t worked in this field to completely understand it, I just mean that it’s very hard for me to talk with people who can’t believe people actually SUCCEED while living in poverty. Here at work I’ve become the squeaky wheel. I know what I’m doing now enough to know when it’s important to speak up, and when it’s important to consider other options or paths to take in the work we do. I’ve found that squeakiness trickling into my personal life as well. I can’t stay quiet when someone talks about systems they don’t know anything about. The whole “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” talk that clueless people like to give? Don’t say that around me. Ever. That kind of talk is from people who have never had to pull their shit together without a single resource. I’ve found this very conversation makes me furious and also incredibly sad at the same time.
Maybe it’s because after three years, I know these families and feel a connection with them far deeper than I ever thought I would when I walked through these doors for the first time three years ago. I’ve watched new babies from current families enter our program, and I’ve seen the older children leave here and start kindergarten. I’ve watched families work through immigration issues. I’ve known families who have been directly affected by this administration’s ridiculous policies. I have learned of births, and deaths, of marriages, and of murders. I have heard stories from the mouths of children that you either wouldn’t believe, and especially that you wouldn’t wish on anyone, especially a child. I’ve learned how to leave some of what happens here at work at the end of the day, and yet, there are bigger things I will never be able leave behind when I walk out of these doors at night. There are things that have changed me as a human being, and that’s just fine with me.