Is it time to hang up the clipboard?

I’ve known that I wanted to be a Social Worker since my sophomore year of high school. It’s been part of my persona since I graduated from college 32 years ago. So even thinking about changing gears, at this point of my life, is scary as shit. Am I actually ready to hang up my clipboard? And if I am, what’s next for me? I’m not ready to stop working and while my technology skills have improved, they may not be ready for the current market.

All Social Workers wear capes

All Social Workers wear capes

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do, and I do it well. I’m at the top of my game. Social Work is not a stagnant profession, it is a living, breathing, constantly changing job. Why? Because our clients are living, breathing, constantly changing human beings. That’s why. Duh! I’ve worked with juvenile delinquents throughout my entire career, and have held a few titles: Probation Officer, Social Worker, Social Work Supervisor, and Court Expediter.

Juveniles delinquents are probably the most honest liars you ever want to meet. Working with them saved my own daughters a lot of grief. No matter what the consequences of their youthful antics were, at least they were not wearing a jumpsuit and shower shoes.

expediterIn the early part of my career, we were pretty much overwhelmed with car theft and drug dealing. Then we were overrun with the children of drug abusers, the so-called “crack babies”. The kids who, through no fault of their own, could not make rational decisions because their wiring was faulty. The juvenile justice, child protection, educational, and health care systems cracked under the pressure. We were drowning and so were our clients. A juvenile detention facility with a capacity of 100, was suddenly serving an average daily population of 245, and it was my job to ensure that those children received adequate, appropriate care and guidance from their assigned worker.

The juvenile justice system was the first to respond and make an entire overhaul. Subsequent tweaks, a buy in from the court system, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears later, we have a system that only detains those who should be there. The rest are sent home under supervision, our supervision. While we can now boast of an average daily population in the 80s, the struggle continues to ensure that those children receive adequate, appropriate care and guidance.

So getting off my soapbox and focusing on my own dilemma. Being passionate about the work I do and considering early retirement are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Why leave a job I enjoy? The current job market may not be ready for a dinosaur like me, and as youthful as I may seem, I am a dinosaur. I believe in a strong work ethic. I believe in doing the job I’m paid for. I believe in going above and beyond.

I’ve given myself a year to make this decision, and I’m going to take every minute of that year, all five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, to weigh the pros and cons.

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4 thoughts on “Is it time to hang up the clipboard?

  1. Not an easy place to be in….especially after so many years and so many lives that were touched and impacted by your dedication.

  2. As a future social work professional, I loved reading this post. One of the things I have been warned about with going into this field is the likelihood of becoming burnt out easily because of what you are exposed to daily and the toll it can take on a person mentally/emotionally. This in no way deters me from wanting to be a social worker, however, it is nice to know that such a versatile degree allows for so many different job opportunities. Good luck in your decision, it is indeed a very important one.

  3. It took me just about a year to make my decision. I worked for a non- profit organization that I love dearly, at which I had several jobs over a span of 35+ years. I agonized over so many little details, I’d be leaving colleagues, a family of friends, daily routine, exciting work. Was this a wise financial decision, what if no one would hire me? and on and on. I had not told anyone but my immediate family of my intention and was able to just take everything in that last year, knowing in the back of my mind that this might just be the last time I would experience a particular even a routine event throughout the year, that had been so much a part of my life. I finally reached my “not so easy to make” decision after tossing everything back and forth so many times I lost track. And it was a peaceful relief. I kind of knew what I wanted to do with my newfound freedom but it took me some months to grieve what I missed so much about my work. Then like spring renewal I found my footing. I could pretty much do what I want, when I want, and how I want. Am now enjoying doing rewarding volunteer work, have time to take care of home and family, read, walk, catch the occasional play, movie you name it. I was always a weekend crafter, I now have a passion for paper crafting mostly greeting cards. You have certainly given yourself a good cushion of time to make this choice, and after all the choice IS yours. You can go either way– but the way you should go is the one that’s going to make you happiest. I’m a firm believer that.. when one door closes another one opens. Keep your heart and mind open to all the possibilities. I will be checking on you in a year to see how you’re doing.

  4. Pingback: Living my dash | Mariposa Social

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