This I Believe

Andrew - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Entered on August 30, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: question

I believe in being unsure. This belief is the most certain one I can lay claim to right now. My job as a social worker has lots of ups and downs. The stress is usually high, and the expectations – though necessary – are higher than one person can reach. The pay is not great but better than any other job I’ve had, and the benefits are good. What this job gives me, more than anything, is confidence. Before social work, I had been too passive to stand up for myself, but through advocating for people with developmental disabilities I had to learn to say “no.” I’ve learned to say it many ways: to articulate it quietly but firmly, to say “yes” to something else first, and even to quote the “no” of the powers that be.

But learning to assert myself through this amazing job has made me unsure if I want to keep it. Before social work, I wanted to be a writer. I have few clear childhood memories, but one is of sitting at our kitchen table, no more than six, writing an adventure about foxes. Even now, I can feel the excitement of creating those characters. Despite my life-long love of writing, I was always too scared to submit work for publication. So when I became a social worker, I also gave up wanting to be a writer. Now though, I have confidence – not that my writing will be published, or popular, or even provide an adequate income – but confidence to handle the potential rejection.

For a year, I have struggled to write while holding down my job, but my writing is squashed by stress. It’s not writer’s block; it’s writer’s annihilation. When I do create the environment to write by making time to read regularly and sitting in front of a blank screen for hours at a time, it takes days before words visit – and then my work performance suffers because I can’t turn the words on and off at will. In college, I had mastered the ability to write what suddenly struck me during class and make it seem I was taking thoughtful notes from the professor’s lecture. As a social worker, though, I can’t lead a problem/resolution meeting where someone’s health and safety is in question and suddenly have the right phrasing for a troubled sentence emerge.

So, do I leave my job to which I give much and receive much to pursue what feels should follow next but will break me financially and may never adequately support me? I am deeply unsure and for now believe in this incertitude. It is a scary, unmapped place, but I know it is familiar ground to everyone who has outgrown who they once were and what they once wanted. I am certain that I should be unsure. This I believe.