24 April 2011

In the midst

So, while surfing the net today, I found an article on WebMD that stated that a lot of the states ranked as the happiest states also had higher suicide rates.

Say WHAT? (this ends the talk of suicide in this post. I don't want to chase anyone away)

But then I thought about it. Say one is a middle-class citizen, working 5-6 days a week for a mediocre but sufficient salary. Everyone around them is living in million dollar homes, working only a few days a week, with home theatres and whatnot, and this individual is just barely making ends meet. Where does their confidence level lie?

Take the same person, put them in a lower-middle class or poverty stricken neighborhood, and this person is probably more likely to feel satisfied that s/he is able to make ends meet, and might be more satisfied with their standards of living.

I admit that I, myself, tend to compare myself to those around me, and it's something a lot of people do. Some people have to undo that thinking or work around it in order to be satisfied with their lives. It's very difficult to feel good about a mediocre paycheck when everyone around you is living a glamorous life. It's very difficult to feel awful about a mediocre paycheck when your neighbor can barely feed their kids.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's all relevant to the environment you're in, the challenges you have faced, and the way you perceive things. I know that some people, when placed in a neighborhood where the median income is lower might not feel any better, and there could be reasons for this. I know that some living around those with a higher standard of living may be perfectly content around those people. This generally is not the norm, but there are some people like that.

When it comes to myself, I try to think of not just the people in my geographical area, but the world in general. I don't put myself down by hating myself for having a meal because there are starving kids in Africa, but I also don't lament myself for not having something exclusive. There are a few things that I want, but the importance of life, for me, lies more in the meaning of my relationships and the things I'm doing.

I know that I've had a rough time getting through college. I've been on the brinks of probation from the university, but here I am now, facing two weeks and final week of this semester, then one more semester of university level classes before I get my bachelor's degree!!

Granted, it took a lot of my peers only 4 years to complete the degree that it took me to complete...but somewhere inside, I tell myself that it doesn't matter how long it took me to get it, the fact is, despite all my obstacles, I am getting it! That's more than what I could say in the past, where I have seriously considered dropping out of college, and I'm glad I didn't. I feel a bit bummed seeing younger people completing the same program, but at the same time, I remember the years I spent lost, not knowing what I was going to do, and not finding social work until my third or fourth year of college. Had I not taken that extra time, I may not have found the calling I love! What would I feel then?

In fact, not only did those extra years give me the chance to find the major I love, but it gave me the insight and the obstacles that led me to that major! For the longest time, I faced so many obstacles it was nearly unbearable. I fought and tried my hardest, and was disappointed to see the lack of help in the services I needed.

After being referred to social work by the psychology department, I realized that there is a lack of social workers, and that if I graduated with this degree, I could help to close the huge, gaping hole in the social service sector. No, I won't completely fill the hole, but every little bit helps. I think of the little things I do every day, especially in my internship, and when I get home, I try to remember the little things I did, the difference that I have made; even if I only affected one person that day, even just the slightest bit, then I have made a difference. If I had not been there, I would not have made that difference.

Thing is, social service jobs pay so much lower than regular jobs, so not as many people are willing to do them! There is also such a low supply of social service workers that the ones that do get hired have extremely high caseloads and severe levels of burnout- making a need for education specifically on how to avoid (or lessen) burnout. It's sad that such a helpful and important job is neglected by low funding and even lower supply of workers.

Not many people are willing to do this kind of job without high pay. There are so many challenges and risks that many don't find it worth it. The thing is, though, a great number of people are in their job for the extrinsic rewards (think paycheck), and not the intrinsic rewards (think the satisfaction and sense of worth when you've accomplished something, especially something big). I don't honestly want to be rich. I don't care if I live in a house or in an apartment. I don't care if I have a fancy car or a pool in my yard. For me, it's the importance of people receiving services that gives me a sense of accomplishment I can't seem to find anywhere else. That's what keeps me going every day.

I could compare myself to those around me, but I'd be greatly disappointed in most aspects. Sometimes, it is precisely that which brings me down- realizing that I'm not up to everyone else's standards, or that I don't agree, or that I stand out. It's not a pleasant feeling. I try to leave myself little time to dwell on these things, and that tends to be sufficient enough to keep me from thinking about those things. After all, we all have our own strengths or weaknesses, so it's really difficult to compare one person to another.

I have no job, no paycheck, it took me 6 years to complete a 4 year degree. I'm not really close with anyone. I still live with my parents, and have never lived on my own, or even in the dorms at school. I don't have the fanciest car, or the fanciest clothes; the majority of my closet comes from Goodwill. I'm overweight, and not that pretty. I could go on for days.

The thing is, because I've learned how to look at the different perspectives in different situations, I try to think about these things differently, although sometimes, I'm not very good at it. For instance, yes, it took me 6 years, but I had so many obstacles standing in my way, yet I kept going, where a lot of others would have quit. I'm not close with anyone, but I do have connections. I live with my parents, but, over time, I've saved on living expenses. I don't have a fancy car, but I have a car that I can (usually) rely on to get where I need to go, and it's not an old clunker. My clothes come from Goodwill, but not all clothes from there are that bad really. If you look hard enough, you can sometimes even find brand new clothes from there. I'm overweight, but....well, haven't thought of a positive for that one yet. I'm not all that pretty, but....well, not that one yet either.

Some days, I'm more down than others, and some days, I'm the complete opposite. Positive- I'm feeling emotions. I know how to better handle them (although not perfect in this area yet). I have rocky relationships, but I'm working on them. I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I can say with certainty that I'm not completely stupid. I don't feel positive things about myself, even if I know they're true, but I'm working on all these things. I compare myself to others often- moodier, less intelligent (than some), more intelligent (than others), etc. I have my own place in the crowd, a place reserved specifically for me, because I'm the only one that can be me, see through my eyes, and live my life.

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