None of us see a shooting star and wish for hardships. That would be craziness. We wish for things like health, financial blessings, or that job promotion. The only problem with this logic is that growth is often paved with discomfort. Even pain. A lot of people have asked me why I went into social work. Any of us you meet will have a different answer to this question, but I assure you that it is the result of some life experience. I have met social workers that were raised by drug addicts, have escaped a war-torn country, a survivor of domestic abuse, freed themselves from an extremist religion, the list goes on and on. Me? Well, any number of things could have led me here. I mean really, pick a journal entry anywhere from 1985-2005. I would say that one of these facilitators of change took place in 1996.
I was living in a crappy apartment (one of many), in a run down building in downtown Boise. The neighbors below me had created a makeshift skate park in their living room and stayed up all night tweaking. The guy across the hall from me had schizophrenia, and told me he got monthly shots "so he wouldn't kill people." There were many nights when I would hear him scratching his fingernails on my front door, and I would feel serious regret that I was living in this dilapidated paradise. My radiator didn't work, so I heated my apartment with the oven. Hello $400.00 power bill! I was waiting tables for meager tips and had one pan to cook in. Many of my meals were rehydrated potato flakes and canned gravy. I was modeling at the time, but I hadn't been booked for anything and was spending what little I had on my red pixie haircut, and professional photos of my Armani heroin chic' look that my agent was so set on.
One night in particular, I was home late from working, and my boyfriend had just broken up with me by changing his phone number. I was listening to Sarah McLaughlin in the dark with a 64 pack of crayons, and scribbling on construction paper with the intensity of my late adolescent melodrama. I thought of my tweaker neighbors, I thought of the pile of 20 garbage bags balancing on my adjoining landing with Oly stubby caps and ramen wrappers littering the mountain's base (thank you neighbors). I felt pretty low. I made it a point to say to myself, "Audrey, everything after this is uphill. When you are 40, this will be a distant memory you tell your kids about- the hard times you overcame to become...whatever it is you are going to be." I knew in my heart that I was in the midst of some serious character building. To my chagrin, I had a long way to go before the uphill climb began.
This snapshot from my youth lives in a sacred place. I will never go to the grocery store without utter gratitude for the food I am able to buy. I always feel humbled by the luxury of heat that works, and AC in the blistering summer temps. I welcome the silence my home provides me, and the safety I feel in my suburbian cookie cutter landscape. I don't live a glamorous life by any means, but I am showered with blessings that most take for granted.
I am a social worker for a great many reasons. My hard times contributed to this path. For that, I am eternally grateful. This darkness, led to the encouragement I give others, and created empathy for societal rejects. The school of hard knocks shaped this gal into a better person with character to spare. I may not have wished for hardships, but I thank those lucky stars everyday.