By Dr. Jodi Brown, MSW, PhD
Department of Social Work Chair,
California State University, Northridge
On Saturday morning I had the pleasure of attending a virtual event re-imagining social work education. Participants were asked to share what they would like to see in their classrooms. As we discussed our ideas, I was transported to an on-campus classroom and easily imagined sitting in a circle grappling with curriculum or engaging in a community learning opportunity. Excited about possibilities, I left that event to attend the NASW Social Worker of the Year Award ceremony (again, virtually) to celebrate our very own Elizabeth Tarantini. The meeting opened with the moderator (Jolene Hui, one of our Advisory Board members – CSUN is everywhere!) talking about how we would “normally” be in a big ballroom eating lunch and applauding the winners, but I cried my way through Elizabeth’s speech the same way I would have had we been in-person. It was a moving tribute from an outstanding social worker and I am so grateful she’s part of our faculty.
I left these two events feeling proud. Proud of our students, faculty, and staff. Proud to be a social worker. Proud that I made it through another week. And proud that I found a bit of happiness and delight despite the chaos and uncertainty in which we are living these days. Then I opened my news feed. A Black man in Willowbrook shot and killed by LA County Sheriff’s deputies on Friday night; murder hornets; fires continue to threaten the west while the Midwest and east coast are freezing; coronavirus cases are rising across the nation; war; a looming election. And that doesn’t include any personal stuff we’re faced with.
How do I navigate the daily – hourly! – ups and downs? How do I keep myself balanced, steady, and resilient despite a constant barrage of, let’s face it, shit? How do I stay strong for others when I can barely keep myself together? And what happens if I drop any of the many balls I’m trying so desperately to keep in the air? Who will I let down? And who, or what, can I call on for strength when all of us are stressed?
Last week our President, Dianne Harrison, sent a mid-semester email update touting persistence and consistency, and reminding us that faculty are dedicated to student success. She added that “students will likely need to tap into their reserves of tenacity to keep moving forward.” I agree with her on both fronts and would add that faculty and staff are tapping into our reserves of tenacity and grit, too. It is when those reserves are low that we struggle to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and that is when it is most critical.
We cannot serve others well if we are depleted. We can’t serve clients, we can’t serve family members, we can’t serve peers, and we can’t serve our community when we are drained. We talk about self-care, and yes, I almost put quotes around ‘self-care’ because the term is overused, bordering on banal. But whatever you’re going to call it, you have got to find ways to fill your tank. Preferably healthy ways, but I’m the first to admit there are days nothing but a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a spoon will do. No bowl, no sharing, go away and let me watch The Bachelorette in peace.
What fills you up? What can you do to recognize those small joyful moments when they are happening? How can you add more of that to your world? The Dodgers are headed to the World Series and I’m enjoying that bit of sunshine! Corey Seager talked about “grinding it out.” Well, we are too. We’ve made it this far! Continue to do your best for yourself and others. Hold the line. Stay the course. Keep showing up. Breathe. And share your mantras with me because every little bit helps remind me that I’m not alone J