Why Social Work

Posted on: Saturday, March 24, 2012

As you probably have heard, I plan to start graduate school in the fall (at Baylor!), to get my masters in social work. I'm not sure if everyone quite knows why, though, why social work.
I arrived at social work in a very natural, progressing way. I started out at AU a business and international service double major, and ended up at Pitt at a psychology and anthropology double major. Junior year I thought I'd maybe become the next/real life Bones. At the end of senior year, with a couple different psych research jobs completed and having been a psych tutor, I was definitely headed more towards a psychology profession. My interests were broad and I loved the extremes; biopsychology was as cool as cultural anthropology to me, and I saw that it was all related and all mattered. I wanted to use my knowledge and interest in people to help them. I think this was always my intent, I just didn't know it was called "social work." Don't ask me how I ever thought it was called "marketing," though.

I've considered being a Teacher. But I really don't know what I'd teach; I'm not passionate enough about English or Social Studies or Math to teach only that every day. With social work, I can teach something different every day, something essential, life skills and things some kids don't get taught at school or at home. I will also be learning myself.

I've considered becoming a Doctor or a Psychologist but there's no way I wanted to be in school for that many years, and the hassle of getting re-licensed in different states ins't practical for a military wife. Becoming a social worker in the next two years, I can promote health, physical and mental wellness, and help people with their medical issues that might otherwise go untreated.

I still think it would be cool to be a real life Bones, and I am probably more comfortable tucked away in a lab with dead bone, but I'd like to help the living in a more immediate way. And I know what such a lab would smell like (not awesome). With social work I plan to take an interdisciplinary approach, and to me, incorporating knowledge of what a fall down the stairs looks like versus a blow from another person looks like makes sense.

Growing up I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. I don't think social work is going to do much for me there, but we can't have everything! (And keeping dolphins in captivity is bad anyway.)

Social work allows me to be everything I really want to be, with the hope that I can help to do the same for others.

Honestly, the thought of the things I could do in my future scares me. The idea that I could influence an individual's decisions, a child's life, a family's direction, does not sit entirely comfortable with me. I don't see how it could with anyone. Who am I to know what is best? Who am I to have a say? I learned at PATH that sometimes the kids would take what I said to them to heart, and sometimes it would go in one ear and out the other. Both responses intimidate me.

But then I remember that on the other side, I am strong. I am competent, thoughtful, and strong. And there are those who are stronger than I am but can't even see their own strength, or have had it beat out of them. I want to reintroduce them. There are those who were never taught the basics, whether that is how to read or how to properly bathe yourself or what love should look like. I want to teach them. There are those who are just bad, bad people hurting other people and themselves. I want to stop them.

I know this all sounds very idealistic and unrealistic. But trust me, I'm heading into this with a good dose of reality as well (envisioning mountains of paperwork). I think to be a social worker you can't be an unrealistic dreamer. You can't think that you can save everyone, save the world. You can't blow up a bunch of balloons, grab a hold and expect to be carried away(though Up was really good). Some balloons will pop. Some will escape your hold and dart away. Some will slowly deflate and drag on the ground. Some will be impossible to inflate from the beginning even if you try until your cheeks are sore. Balloons can be so strong and light and full yet so quick to pop, destroy and discard. I think people can be like balloons. They rise and fall.  Even the strong ones only last so long. But, there is strength there.

I think to be a social worker, you have to know all this, accept all this, and witness all this every day, and still not give up.

I am confident in my skills and the ones I will build. I am certain that I will be continually learning, educating, questioning, caring, experiencing waves of being disheartened and uplifted. I am content with the reality I face and knowing I can't save the world. I would like to spend some time making it a little bit better, though.

{find images here}


  1. That's a really beautiful way of putting it. I love how you've encorporated all of your interests and made it a reality. I'm in undergrad for social work (thanks to my love of psychology, surprisingly), but I'll keep reading on about your adventures into your grad program at Baylor. Keep up the wonderful work :)


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