From Social Worker to Supervisor (A Promotion Tale)

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” -Henri Bergson

In a matter of weeks, as social workers everywhere make mention of their bosses at after-work happy hours and family dinner tables, a handful of such may be referring to, well, me. After 11 years in direct practice social work, I have accepted a supervisor position.

In truth, I never expected or intended my social work career to curve in this direction. My metaphorical boots were plunged so deeply into the metaphorical trenches (which were also sometimes actual trenches as things go in street outreach), I rarely bothered to think about the sustainability of my career path.

There were clients to meet, tasks to accomplish and long constructed systemic barriers to demolish.

And so I practiced, expanded and refined my social work skills. With each situation I encountered, I broadened my schema for understanding the human spirit and deepened my appreciation for its persistent desire to overcome incomprehensible suffering.

As the years passed by, I learned social work the hard way. I suppose the hard way is really the only way one can learn the nuances of a profession that, by design, is rife with ethical dilemmas, emotional strain, acute crises and profound complexity. Social work may not have much of what realtors refer to as curb appeal, but it has the capacity to enrich the existence of every human on this planet.

In the face of transition, questions swim in my head like the super-sized goldfish that invaded Lake Tahoe. What will it be like? Am I actually qualified? Will I succeed? In this new context, what does success even mean? What will people think of me? What if they hate me, or worse, what if they do not respect me? What if I make a big mistake? How do I establish appropriate boundaries?  Who will I seek support from? Will I like it? What if I fail? Did I make the right decision?

Today, I sit in unknowns, spiraling in irrational self-doubt, my calendar full of farewell events, my condo stacked with boxes that will soon be moved an hour north of downtown Denver.

I am reminded of one simple truth.

To be happy and fulfilled in this life, we must always be moving toward, rather than away from, the things we value most. When I look past my own bullshit (see above), I remember that above all else, I value risk. Without risk, there is no connection. Without connection, there is no love. Without love, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no gratitude.

And I am nothing if not grateful for the rich and raw experiences I have acquired in 11 years of direct practice social work. So off I go on my journey from social worker to social work supervisor, from deep in the trenches of direct practice to whatever the hell comes next.

And will I succeed?

Yes! Yes. I will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

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