Thursday, October 30, 2008

Doesn't that scare you?

Whenever I meet someone for the first time the typical "introduction" conversation inevitably ensues. You know EXACTLY the conversation I'm referring to. " are you..where are you from...what's your major...when did you many people in your family..." and it's at approximately this point (give or take a mundane inquiry or two) that you realize you can barely hear the voice of your fellow conversant because the screaming inside your head has reached an unheard of decibel and is distracting you by shouting "SWEET MERCY!! If I have to have this SAME conversation with one more person I'm going to be forced to do something drastic!!!". We all know that this introduction is completely necessary and yet, it is so incredibly painful...particularly in the world of young, single people....
But I digress. (gee what a shock) Lame introduction conversations and how much I despise them is not what I came to write about. Invariably this conversation ends up leading to what a person is doing with their life- school, career, etc. At this point take a deep breath, prepare myself, and I explain that I graduated from BYU in History and Secondary Education, specialized in teaching high risk students, taught at an alternative high school and treatment center for my internship, worked as a staff at that treatment center, and now work as a staff and teach for the Journey- a treatment program that deals with juveniles in state custody and specifically work with their all boys long term rehab program. At this point I usually get a "look"- A look that communicates something to the effect of..."so you work with criminals? you work with bad kids?" In fear of offending me or sounding rude what generally comes out of people's mouths is a more tempered version of that idea- something to the effect of, " So do they have records? Have they been in jail?" The answer to that? Yes. These kids have been in and out of DT ( what you and I referred to as "juvy") for years by the time they reach a long term rehab program. They all have records, and their charges vary but are primarily related to drugs. Almost all of them have relatively violent histories, most of them haven't been going to school consistently for years, and not a single one of them wants to be here. To these responses I ALWAYS...100% of the time...Invariably...get some variation of the exact same question:
I should add that accompanied by this invariable question there is almost always another "look". But this look is different than the first. It is a head-to-toe summing up of my massive 5'2" frame with an expression of utter disbelief.
I would like to address this question now: Does my chosen career scare me?
The simple answer? No. Absolutely not.
The longer answer: No. Not at all and I'll tell you why:
First of all when you read through the files or hear the stories of these kids' lives there is one thing that becomes very clear: Most of them never had a fair shot. Truly and honestly, if my parents had given me weed from the time I was three years old ( literally) I'd be a drug addict, too. If my father had started sexually prostituting me on the internet at the age of 5, if my mother had dropped me on door steps to abusive relatives because she was too addicted to cocaine to take care of me, if I'd been beaten within an inch of my life by my drug addicted and alcoholic father on daily basis, if I'd been taught that drugs were the answer to all my problems my entire life...I'd be in rehab, too. They're just people. Just kids. They have the same desires, impulses, wants/needs, spirits, etc as everyone else I know. They just have a different history
Second of all: Yes, some of them are violent and yes sometimes they get very angry, and yes I'm about a third of the size of some of them. But you have to understand something: They are angry. They do not enjoy inflicting pain. They're not murderers. They simply lash out at times. There are generally two reasons why a teenage boy would attack another person in the situation they're in. 1. they're feeling incredibly threatened; usually physically; and their fight or flight adrenaline kicks in. No teenage boys feels physically threatened by me. And so actually my size is to my advantage. 2. They want bragging rights. They want to war-story, glorify, use it as an example of how they're tough and nobody should mess with them. Once again, my size here: completely to my advantage. No one is going to want to brag about beating up a little girl. Yes there have been times when I've been around and had to assist or do a physical restraint of a kid. But it's truly rare.
Thirdly, this is a time in my life when I can be completely dedicated to my job. I'm not married, I don't have any kids, and so all my energy can go into them. When I have my own children it wouldn't be a good idea to be around "dangerous" people, or to have my patience being constantly tried by them and have none left for my own kids. But for right now, they can be my life. And as I like doing it, I feel I have a responsibility to do so until my priorities need to be elsewhere
Fourth. I'm stupid and think I'm Supergirl and that nothing will ever happen to me. I hope I'm right. (c:
So no. It doesn't scare me. Let's talk about about how many kids are in my family now. (c:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Which one will you feed?

First of all, thanks to my mom for pointing out the type-o in my last blog title. All of you who caught it please rest assured that I know how to spell the word ridiculous. Sometimes my fingers are a little faster than my brain....
For this post I want to share something that was read in a student's recent graduation from our Rising Phoenix long term rehab program. It is my experience that when a concept resonates true to me it is almost invariably simple, making it irrefutably profound. This short story was no exception.

Two Wolves: A Cherokee Teaching
An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil--he is fear, anger, greed, envy, regret, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.The other is good--he is happiness, peace, love, hope, sharing, humility, kindness, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and every other person, too." The elderly Cherokee man's grandchildren thought about this for a moment, and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The grandfather simply replied: " The one you feed."

I often fear that I tend to view this battle as something I cannot control, that once I feel fear, guilt, self-pity or dishonesty boiling up inside that I have somehow lost the battle. Conceding defeat is feeding that evil wolf- it is wallowing in that self-pity, stewing in resentment, fueling my fears. Instead, when we are feeling those negative things, why can't we take what we would feed that evil wolf, and instead focus our energy on that good wolf? When we feel afraid, we should turn it into faith. When we are feeling resentment, anger, or envy we should turn to compassion and love.

Ultimately whether we win or lose in this life comes down to which wolf we feed. Which one will I feed? I want to make the simple statement, yet deep and life-long battle of a commitment to feed the good wolf and to starve the evil one. He might never go away in this life, but I can make him weak and ineffectual. Let us all focus on the good, and starve the bad in our lives. It's a much better use of our time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

my ridiculous bias

Okay confession: I've never had a blog before. In fact, not only have I never had a blog, I've looked at MAYBE two blogs in my entire life. So this is definitely new territory for me. The reason behind my complete dis-interest in blogs is kind of silly, but as I am a silly and kind of ridiculous person, I guess that fits. Here it is: I hate the word blog. It's not a real word. It's ridiculous. And sounds stupid. There. I said it. I meant it. I think maybe it's because it sounds a little too close to the word "blob" or something. I mean honestly, what rocket scientist came up with this word? And why did we all listen to him? What's the root of the word blog, I'd like to know. But I digress, I'm not positive on the source but whatever the reason, the name alone was enough to deter me from having any desire to read the blogs of others, much less any interest in creating my own blog. And before you go all Shakespeare on me, telling me that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, allow me to quote one of my favorite heroines of all time: " Well, I don't know. I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I was never able to believe it. A rose just couldn't smell as sweet if it were a thistle or a skunk cabbage!"
Now although I am, by nature, immovably stubborn, nobody has tried to get me to start a blog, or told me my ridiculous bias was...well...ridiculous..and therefore it was inevitable that over time, I would eventually concede that maybe a blog, although the word sounds unbelievably asinine to me isn't such a bad idea. I can rant and rave and post my ridiculous thoughts and biases all I want- and everyone else can mock and enjoy. It is, after all, one of the great pleasures of my life to provide people with amusement. I have nothing if not incredible entertainment value. (c: