Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A little different

"Be daring, be different, be impractical. Be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary." Cecil Beaton

A year ago I had imaged myself as a writer, publishing stories in some big or small newspaper and enjoying late nights with a glass of wine in front of my computer. I had been painting houses all summer and was dying to travel, to take in different culture and open my eyes to the world I had felt so sheltered from.

When I arrived home three months later, my personal ideology and hopeful career moves had changed.

Sure, I love to write. And sometimes when you manage to find yourself in just the right state of mind, writing can be calming and creative, even therapeutic. As a writer you can create different worlds, discover stories about people you never imaged even had stories to tell. But upon returning home I had no desire to write for the local newspaper and cover city council meetings. There was no challenge in it for me.

And then I got a job as a child and youth care worker with a fantastic society in Fernie designed to help individuals who need extra support or mentoring. I had no formal training. I believe I was hired based strictly on character (I say this humbly). It's been seven months, and I have never been so satisfied with working in my life.

The little man and I at Zajac Ranch for Children's autism week.
I work with children and adults with special needs, as well as youth in the community and I feel like each day I accomplish something incredible, something that most people never get to experience in their daily lives; I get to make a difference. And as hokey as it sounds, as trite as it may appear to be, my clients make me feel like I'm doing something important by making their day a little brighter. And in turn, they make my day brighter.

In particular, this past July I was asked by the mother of one of my clients to join her son at the Zajac Ranch for Children. It was a week-long autism camp and I would be going as a PSW (personal support worker). After agreeing to go and driving the 15 hours to Mission, B.C., I spent five days with my client and his fellow campers. I had worked with this particular client for the last six months, but it wasn't until we went to camp together that we shared our first hug.

That in itself was worth the trip. But then I met other campers who--like everyone else--faced their separate challenges. I had kids who would ask me for help or come to me when they were upset, and even the counselors made me feel welcome and invited. On the last night of camp, as individual counselors were being 'punished' with buckets of water and chips covered in maple syrup, I too was summoned to the stage by one of our campers "for being too beautiful." I learned more in those five days about acceptance, patience and understanding than one person is likely to get in their entire lifetime.

Face paint and a bucket of water. Camp is fun. 
I also learned that having a job as particular as this one may lead me to crying in the Burger King parking lost, having been absolutely overwhelmed with emotion and joy.

So while I still work as a freelance journalist with a monthly column in a local magazine, and I am trying to pursue more of a career as a photographer, in the last seven months I've discovered a little bit about myself. I've discovered that most people choose a field of study and after graduating they wind up doing something entirely different. Or at least, something they weren't expecting to do. And I've discovered that all people have their own challenges. I've also discovered that I'm different from who I thought I would be.

And different is okay. In fact, it's encouraged.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful read. Jesse, I cannot wait for you to have children :)


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