I never work a day of my life.

Who remembers that cliché and cheesy “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” shtick? All of you? I thought so.

Today I’m thinking about that and thinking about how truly beneficial my job is to me. Every quarter my agency hosts a staff forum in which there is a guest speaker and lunch is served. This past quarter we had a speaker come in and discuss the benefits of employment for the mental health community. Many of my clients are able to lead productive lives in the work force, and as someone that struggles with my own mental health (anxiety and depression– this is a post for another day), work can be a true solace of mine. I enjoy throwing myself into my work and letting it occupy my time and feed my soul.

If you’re not familiar with what I do I’ll explain. I’m a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working as the program supervisor in a residential mental health facility. Essentially, it is a 50-unit apartment building for people living with serious and persistent mental illness where we provide intensive services to assist them in gaining the skills necessary to live independently. Working in a residence is really difficult (one of my cherished friends and coworkers, may he rest in peace, used to say, “In residential social work you get to get down and dirty, to the nitty gritty, and smell the piss…I love it!”) but it is completely fulfilling and rewarding. Plus, I always have the best work stories. But truthfully, you cannot work in this field if you don’t have a true love for others. You need patience, compassion, a strong backbone, and a strong stomach.

Back to my original point. My day started terribly. I don’t want to get into it, but all you need to know is that it involved Geico insurance company and my thickly-accented and verbally aggressive Armenian neighbor. I came into work in a mood. I was dealing with said incident all morning and did not have enough time to properly finish my morning routine. The second I walked in the door I was greeted warmly by a few of my clients, who didn’t even notice that my hair was in a wet messy bun and that I did not have a stitch of makeup on my face. They are literally always happy to see me. Stigma about the mental health community drives me crazy and kills me a little on the inside because some of the people I work with are nicer, warmer, and more resilient than anyone I know that doesn’t carry a diagnosis. But I digress. #Resist

Later in the day, a client that barely ever speaks told me a cute joke (How do you turn vegetable soup into gold? You put 24 karats into it!), one client offered to assist us by sweeping up the hundreds of cigarette butts polluting the outside walkway and garden, and another client that moved out a few months ago came back to visit and gave me a big bear hug. These are only some of the things that made me smile and feel warm inside. Somehow even when dealing with the not so great things I still can keep a smile on my face. So much happens in a day. Although I had some great interactions in the morning, I also happened to be called rude by another client because I wouldn’t breach HIPAA privacy laws, got side eye and major ‘tude from another one that I had to address for bringing alcohol into the building (program contract rule), and caught a third one of my clients watching pornography in the client computer room in the afternoon. It’s all relative.

But that’s just one day in the life, and that speaker I mentioned earlier really knew what he was talking about.

Let me tell you something, Sallie Mae is an evil mistress with green dollar signs in her eyes. BUT THAT’S OKAY. I know that I got into a flobbityjillion (science!) dollars worth of debt and that really sucks, and seeing the direct debit come out of my account every month really REALLY sucks, but loving my career and feeling like I don’t work a day of my life doesn’t suck so much at all.

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LDR? NBD.

So I mentioned in my ‘About’ post that I’m in a long-distance relationship (LDR). Matthew and I have been together for 5-plus years. I say “plus” because, depending on which one of us you ask, results may vary. I acknowledge our anniversary as being in May 2012, however, he thinks we’ve been together much longer than that. If you’re wondering how that is possible, chalk it up to what can best be described by referencing yet another television show (this is a pattern of mine): “Awkward”. There was no set point in which we sat down for the conversation–the DTR (Define The Relationship). After several months, we finally were unmistakably together in Spring of 2012, but — get your buckets ready because it’s gonna get mushy– it’s a well known thing that I was his long before that.

Not the entirety of our relationship has been long distance. We only fell into this when his career brought him 5 hours away in February 2016. Since then he’s been on an 11p-7a schedule and has come home (and I refuse to allow myself to reference his apartment as “home”) whenever he can. Sometimes this is weekly, sometimes this is biweekly, sometimes worse. It varies because he does not have any set time off and his schedule rotates. My career has similar caveats;  I work as the program supervisor in a  residential mental health setting on a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and I’m on call on a pretty regular basis. Managing our careers with our relationship has not always been easy or convenient. but it has been worth it.

I’m writing about this today because I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection. I mentioned in starting this blog that I would be using it to process, and wrote previously that the last 2 or so years have been difficult. I’m sure I’ll write more on those things another time, but my main coping skill has been taking time to reflect on the beauty of the positives. Today, this is exactly what I need.

Matthew is one of the people that there are no words good enough to describe. He has been my absolute rock when life has gotten overwhelming and I just couldn’t deal. Thinking about when our LDR is no longer long distance, where I can see him every day, whenever I want, at normal human hours (remember he works overnights!) makes me feel hopeful and keeps me going. I’m the kind of person that does well with things to look forward to. His move back here has been in the works pretty much since he took this job, which was something he absolutely needed to do to better himself in his field. I couldn’t really make the move with him because we agreed that I needed to be here for my job. These are the tough decisions and conversations you have to have, the ones that nobody told you could be a part of doing the whole ‘adult’ thing. (It blooooows.)

Someone told me just yesterday that they did not know how I did it (the LDR) because they missed their boyfriend who was away for a few days. Having the one you love away for any amount of time sucks. As for the people that have their significant others living much further than 5 hours away…I don’t know how they do it.

Patience, catching one another awake at the same time to call/text/Skype, and loving each other fiercely is the only way to make the days count. I love this guy more than anything. He’s the smartest and most attentive person I know and today I feel better by reflecting on how lucky I feel to have not just someone that “gets” me, but to have him, even if he is a flobbityjillion miles away (science!). He’s a goofy, sarcastic, loving, stubborn pain in my ass and I would not change or trade him for all the rice in China.*

 

*FUN FACT: That one was a “You Can’t Take It With You” reference, which is how he and I met! We did theatre in college.

Why Ya Gotta Go & Make Things So Complicated?

So something has been plaguing me for the past few days. It brings to mind a silly little haiku I read once:

To err is human

But why insist repeating?

You a broken record? 

Okay, maybe it’s not so silly after all. I would imagine that there are some magical unicorn people out there that can make a mistake once, learn from it, and never make it again. But I, my friends, am sadly not one of them. This is what is on my mind at 10:23pm  on a Tuesday, while I can’t sleep, and I haven’t yet finished my allotted 80 oz of water for the day.

The thing I insist repeating? Thinking that other people will learn from their mistakes. No, you read me right. Am I the pot or the kettle today? Well I guess that depends on what shade of black I’m in the mood for.

So, the thing is, logically I know that to err is human and that people have flaws. I know that people- for the most part- tend to repeat their mistakes, just as I do, but where is the line? It gets messy. What happens if a friend keeps making a mistake that they know will hurt you? If you can see through my hypothetical questions, you know that this is the situation I feel I could be in.

I don’t expect anyone to be perfect but I do expect people to recognize when they say/do something, whether it is once or twice (depending on how forgiving you are), that hurts you and do what they feel is necessary to make it right. I don’t want to believe that this is asking for a lot. To whoever my audience is, I feel like the natural response to this would be, “Well, does Person XYZ know that what they’re doing hurt(s) you?”

Yes. They do.

Why do I put up with it? Because life is stupid and complicated, duh! I like this person. We have a ton of history. They’re comforting to me and they listen to me bitch about [insert stupid thing that I don’t remember being upset about]. You ever have a person that feels safe and familiar like a security blanket? That seems unhealthy. I don’t care. That’s this person to me. I know that this may not make sense to some people, and maybe these are some of the magical unicorns I mentioned earlier, but I’m willing to bet that most people have someone out there that just feels like ‘home’ in some way– dysfunction be damned. For me, I guess I don’t know when enough is enough.

Is it actually my repeated mistake for allowing myself to be hurt by someone else’s repeated mistakes? 

A significant amount of time has passed and this person has not made any attempt to try to acknowledge the situation or make things right. I’m a huge proponent of not needing to agree with how you made someone feel. Regardless of your intentions, if you know you made someone feel badly, acknowledge it. If you care about someone, you find a way to get past it, because you don’t get to decide how other people feel about your words and actions.

But maybe that’s what’s bothering me the most here. Reread that last sentence in the paragraph above. Did you see it? I did. That’s how I would think someone would act, trying to make things right…if they care enough to do so.

I was watching (my fourth rerun of the series) “How I Met Your Mother” recently. The main character, Ted, narrates something along the line of how sometimes we may know that something is a mistake, but we know we need to make it anyway. I can wrap my head around this. The thing I’m struggling with is knowing something is a mistake that will hurt someone and still somehow needing to make it anyway and then knowing that they are upset and not reaching out to make it right. I’m not a fire breathing dragon, I forgive and I try to work things out. Let the record show that I do recognize that I also have a lot of esteem issues and personal hang ups (see: baggage) coming into play and influencing me here and it’s worth noting that I understand that this person has a lot of issues of their own as well.

I’m a broken record but it’s really not that simple.

I totally copied this from the ‘About’ page

Hello, friends!

My name is Alex and my life is incredibly average. I’m a 20-something Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working in residential mental health. I live on Long Island, NY with my mother, Liz, my college-aged sister, Jordan, and my two Yorkies– Sadie & Olivia. I’m also in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend of 5+ years, Matthew.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never made good on any of your New Year’s resolutions. Well, this is me trying to change that. One of my resolutions for 2017 was to start writing again. I spend my days counseling people ad nauseam about the benefits of ‘coping skills’ i.e. “Journal!” “Get it all out!” “Sometimes you can’t sort through things unless they’re right in front of you!” “Are you even still listening to me?” You get the idea.

Anyway, things have been pretty rough around the edges for the past two years and I think this “blog” (Am I qualified to call it that? Do they have requirements for this sort of thing?) could be really helpful for me to process some things, get them out into the universe, and finally take my own damn advice.

If you’re reading this, thank you. I hope that you find some comfort in my stories, struggles, and musings on whatever this wild journey takes me on.