Fifty years have passed since I was tasked (as part of my first MSW internship) with writing a Social History for a nine-year-old boy’s IEP. Despite my black heels and imposter professional clothing, the boy’s mother couldn’t help but notice I was a freckled-faced kid. As soon as I started the interview, she asked, How the f___ old are you?!? and What gives you the right to ask me these personal questions? I took a deep breath and somehow managed to focus her back on responding to my questions. Decades later, the “age” and “purpose” questions posed to me, are more like, Why are you still working? and Why don’t you retire and start enjoying life?
The simple answer to why I keep working is that “I can.” My health is good and I work for an incredible home healthcare company who (usually) appreciates my contribution. I also work long and hard because it’s good for me. Through my work, I interact with people I would most probably never meet—and, whether I like it or not, the work demands I develop new skills in the “Concentrations” identified as Clinical, Administration, and Community Organization. My work leaves me with a wider perspective on my place in the world and my purpose in life.
My friends and family tell me that they live out quality lives by finding their personal paradise, playing golf, or sitting on a beach with friends and family. I’m happy for them but for me, that’s a vacation, not my life’s purpose. I am deeply grateful for my work and the people who help me do it well.
To all of the future social workers, remember that while the work will likely be frustrating and sometimes thankless, I can guarantee that it will also be interesting and incredibly rewarding!
Celebrate Social Workers everywhere!
Celeste Casey Clarke, PhD, LCSW, earned her degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work history includes school social work, community mental health, undergraduate and graduate university teaching, private practice psychotherapy, and now home healthcare at Independence Plus, Inc., where she serves as their Vice President of Patient and Employee Relations. She is also the mother of four adult children and grandmother of eleven.
The National Association of Social Work is celebrating its 68th anniversary this year and March is designated as Social Work Month. For more information, go to: http://www.socialworkers.org/.