05 December, 2009

One year down & one to go

Quote for the moment: "When you start to doubt yourself the real world will eat you alive." - Henry Rollins (who was so great this season on my favorite show - especially in facing his end)
In Heavy Rotation on the iPod: Dead Kennedys, Sleater-Kinney, The Clash, Black Flag, Rollins Band, Sex Pistols, Dropkick Murphys

Hard to believe I've been back in the U.S. for a whole year. Hard to believe I just finished my first full year of graduate school. It feels much, much longer and that old familiar itch to move has crept into my bones and blood, a feeling not helped at all by what turned into a rather difficult semester full of fighting the powers that be to wrench my higher education back onto the road toward my desired future. I figured it would be the workload that would get me, but I was wrong.

It's actually a bit complicated, but I'll try to parse it out. The end-result is a bit easier to state: depression, anger, frustration, rage, lots of questioning my decision-making, wanting to burn The System down more than ever, terrified that I am formally being trained to be part of he Problem and NOT The Solution. Good times. A dear friend here who I had a serious talk with about all this said she loved that I feel things so strongly. I suspect not many share her sentiment.

I didn't want to sign on for just a technocrat's degree and I sure as hell didn't want to be a counselor or therapist, but at this point Social Work is feeling an awful lot like a psych or therapy program. Pat disclaimer to calm folks down: While I laud mental health professionals (some are buddies of mine) for their valuable work, I have no background or interest in the matter and certainly no business treating anyone or coming close to it, which is a lot of what direct service feels like at this point. As I've previously noted, I am a big picture girl. As one of my favorite professors in my program recently told me, "You're so macro your almost meta." However, I believe viscerally that a bunch of technocrats and do-gooders cannot end poverty without actually speaking to and working with those in poverty. The times I've worked with communities on the ground have been some of my favorite experiences in life and something I hope to continue in the future. There is a vast gulf between "educated" and "intelligent". I love the big agency I was placed at. The folks there want me to run with my ideas, projects and partnerships. They want this to be my learning experience. And, in shooting for a U.N. internship (I'm like Mulder - I still want to believe!) getting some experience at a big public agency can't be bad.

So, what's the rub? It's not my learning experience. It's not oriented to my goals at the moment in any way. When I lay out how I feel I could fix the situation, I feel like I've been ignored until recently. The future I once could envision at the end of this 2.5 year road is evaporating like a mirage while I rack up a hefty student loan debt. I am not able to see how this will get me to any of the places I want to go and I wonder why in the hell I made this decision. I have not been challenged intellectually at all this semester. There's no going elsewhere at this point and I don't really want to. I just want to make this work, for me and for those down the road.

I didn't mind that this program was not as internationally oriented as I'd hoped. It's given me a great chance to dig in and work with the faculty who are trying to move it that direction and get involved in pushing the change. I didn't mind that I didn't fit into either our program or the global public affairs program entirely. I never really fit in anywhere anyway and it gave me a chance to dive in a work on finding a solution for the next poor soul who falls between the two. And may give me a chance to serve as Guinea pig for a new internationalist dual degree if I push hard enough. I don't like to just bitch. I like to rumble and I like to solve things. I don't even think the problems lay just with the school or program. I have developed some great relationships amongst the faculty and admin, enjoyed a few great courses, so I don't mean to insinuate the whole place is a total loss. However, I believe the profession on the whole and the Council on Social Work Education need a swift, substantial kick in the ass. What happened to the radical traditions of social work? What happened to focusing on social issues?

I've been told the mantra pushed on those who question our department is "trust the system". No, sorry. I don't. Granted, now that I've completed my work for the semester in the last 48 hours, my urge to find a match and some gasoline has gone down considerably. I have a few weeks off now, to read what I please and do some thinking and planning for the coming year. I may have eased off for the moment, but I remain uncompromising about my future and the fight to get there.

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