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.
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.
In 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.