Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Want to Be a Mentee

I switched careers officially in April 2009. I felt like a pioneer, shedding the comforts of living in one place to traverse a great landscape; enduring a chuckwagon wheel breaking and going without - food, water, even strength. I took a risk, and I've done the best I can to adapt - until recently. . . where I realized I need something new now. I need support, a number to call, a friendly face that has been through these trenches and can say that the turns I took were right or maybe too cavalier; too reckless. What would my mentor do differently next time?

Where is my mentor?

It's not just reassurance I need, though positive feedback makes me stand tall and feel capable to not only hit the road on an adventure but have the courage to make the return trip too. I crave a critical eye; someone who cares enough about me to be honest. Someone who has been there before and understands the challenge of self-preservation when you're sitting in front of a young woman who has been raped and is recounting her story from last night, still fresh and open. After hearing about trauma, poverty and crisis, I don't intuitively know how to go home at the end of the day and take care of myself. Even in my sleep, I'm still taking care of these beautiful young people.

I feel trapped many days, working under the weight of what feels like a great and global responsibility. How do I continue to admire a client's journey when I resent, at times, his presence in my doorway? Because it will be another crisis, and I'm already brimming with the residue from the last one. How do I not feel that their problems are all the same, and become blasé to what a conversation with me means to them? I realize that all professionals go through this, but being removed from someone's admission that they are homeless feels downright inhumane.

I love my job. I love the challenge, but I need someone to teach me the power (the necessity) of a deep breath and to not neglect my long-term goals, in and amongst holding back the dam for clients. I know part of it is relinquishing: responsibility, onus and the need to be vigilant no matter what. I am entitled to days where my performance isn't profound, this much I know. It's impossible to be present and to take action for every hand reaching out of the sand.

I guess I need someone to tell me that it's ok. That they have done it before and that my sanity and self-care is the most important task I have every day.


  1. Hi Em, my faraway friend,

    I love reading your posts. I wish I could help with this one. How about an alumni of your program that's been working in the field for awhile and is willing and eager to fill a role like this for someone so great as you?

    Hang in. You are great.


  2. Seriously, I don't know how you do it. I would be a train wreck. You definitely need a mentor. Or just a group of therapists with whom you can hash it all out and let go of some of it. Not quite the same thing, but in our break room at work we will vent if we have a bad or intense client and the support of having your coworkers say, "Yeah, I've totally been there" feels great.

    Deep breaths, baby!