What does it mean to be certified? Google "certified definition" and you get a third definition of "officially declare insane". Now my friends and family that I've told about my current internship would absolutely agree that I parallel that statement. You see, I am a State Certified Crisis Counselor (CA) particularly for victims of trauma (sexual assault, childhood abuse, elder abuse, etc). Now I'll hold on to let your applause go on. Thank you, thank you. I'll answer a few questions, sure.
You guessed it, this interview wasn't someone asking me questions but questions I ask myself everyday. These are topics that might be sensitive for some readers. Reader discretion advised. No names are given to protect client confidentiality and third parties.
Jan. 6th, 2017
Sitting by a window on the 19th floor of the Liberty Tower Apts... Leela asks herself some serious self-discovering questions.
Why did you choose THIS:
I want to go into social work. Social work doesn't pay much for what I believe to be one of the most mentally exhausting professions in America. I understand mathematicians work hard and lawyers study and re-learn non-stop and that's not to say my future career is any better or worse. It just it what it is. As a social worker, I will meet those same mathematicians when the numbers in their heads might lead them to abuse their children or question whether they should jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge. I will meet those same lawyers who don't care for their grandmother with dementia and leaves them to sit in their own filth. I will be removing people from homes, advising people, taking calls and being there for each client physically and emotionally as best as I can but still come attempt to compartmentalize these feelings to come home and sleep each night. Some nights I won't get any sleep at all. This is why I wanted my first internship to be on a crisis line. I need to know now if I can handle being on call to accompany sexual assault victims, for example, to the hospital at 3am.
Do You Think You're Any Better Than Me?
Now this isn't a question I have been asked point-blank but I have gotten the vibe more than a few times when I tell them what I do. No, I don't think being self-sacrificing is any more admirable than being beautiful or smart like you but it is MY personal trait that makes this kind of work worthwhile and hey, it has it's downsides too.
When did you first consider social work?
Well I could go through and name all the trials I've went through in my oh-so-tough (but still privileged) young adult life but we don't have all day. I'll give you a summary. I first wanted to be a veterinarian. Animals were my calling until the age in middle school when you start having a existential crisis everyday. I found something better, something I thought I was absolutely no-matter-what LIFE OR DEATH destined to do and that was join the FBI. That whole train started because I watched NCIS as a kid then Criminal Minds when I could handle it. I then started watching Law & Order: SVU and something just clicked whenever the character Dr. Wong showed up on screen. I didn't want to be the law anymore. I wanted to be a liaison between the law and the common person. That was my first media-incline towards social work. It didn't become a real career choice for me until I really started getting to know the professors in my department (School of Arts & Humanities at Sonoma State) and most of them turned out to have worked in social work.
So what you're saying is that you just knew it was right for you because you were interested in the same things as these other people? Was there a particular moment?
Yes, actually. I took UNIV238 at SSU. It gives a one of a kind opportunity for students to hear from different department heads and distinguished professors every semester. I enrolled so I could be a peer mentor but it helped me career-wise much more in the long term than I had imagined. A professor came in and talked to us one afternoon about how she spent years working in a jail, helping inmates with trauma. My attention was fixated on her every word. How could she spend time with inmates as young woman in her early career? Isn't that a bit harsh? The professor went on about how she was strong and she believed she was strong enough to do this. She loved people and what was better than hands-on involvement with people who needed someone??!! It was as if she was speaking directly to me and I had that movie moment where the audience was blurred and we [professor and I] had a spotlight. I'll never forget that day or her genuine compromise to who she was in life.
What was the process of becoming a crisis counselor? Would you recommend it to others?
The process. OH GOSH. It was intense (for a very good reason) but well worth it. I want to say that being a crisis counselor is not for everyone but I also believe that this was basic human training on how to not be a bystander so... Yes, we watched videos about sexual assaults and human trafficking rings so the so-called faint of heart should be weary of what will be shown to you during training like I took. However, not all training will be the same, there will be different supervisors at each and different non-profits that offer it. I think the non-profit I'm associated with does a terrific job at really getting to the point that you might encounter people who are done with life and all they need (but might not want) is someone to show them the light at the end of the tunnel. I say that if you are passionate about helping others and you firmly believe that your duty in life is to assist others in crisis (like I believe mine is) then yes. GO FOR THE GOLD!
What is one thing you take away from being in a position to help others?
That it's SO EASY. SOOOO EASY to be of help to someone else. You can seriously make someone's day with the smallest of actions. Just listening goes a long way. A LONG WAY. LIKE I CAN'T EVEN TYPE WITH MORE PASSION THAN I AM NOW ABOUT THIS. Be that person. It may take time, it may take making yourself vulnerable. It will take personal self-reflection but you will learn. You will grow. Human interaction is vital as a human and we're all human so go out and be a human with another human!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this rather passionate article. Please ask questions and leave comments about what intrigues you!
-Leela Hamm, the Blindian
P.S. a Youtube video has been inspired by this self-reflection, #blessed