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CYC-Online Issue 71 DECEMBER 2004 / BACK
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care workers

Four people who make me jealous

A. Freeman

Send in an article, we are invited. What an opportunity to say all those things we have wanted to say. We don’t get many opportunities to do that in this field, so why pass them up when they arrive? So today I want to indulge myself by making a confession. An admission. Own up about one of the inexplicable petty parts of myself. Here it is. I get jealous.

Yes, the green monster possesses me sometimes. Within the field, I mean. Sometimes I just wish I could be like some of my colleagues. I wish I could have their skills and abilities; their orientation and approach; their way of being in the world. Actually, when it gets really bad (my jealousy that is) I just wish I could be them.

Now I’m not talking about those times when I see a seasoned Youth Care worker make one of those seemingly effortless interventions that shifts a whole situation from a negative to a positive experience. And I am not talking about those workers who seem to be able to open up doors for clients, even when those doors have been nailed shut for years. These moments are wondrous to see, and the workers who co-create them are indeed fine Child and Youth Care Workers.

But they’re not the one’s who make me jealous. No. I’m jealous of another type of worker. One who seems to work in this field with little difficulty. One who comes to work, goes home, and never seems troubled by all the things s/he encounters. One who moves through the field with the greatest of ease, sailing between ports of call, under the full sail of billowing defensiveness. Never touched by the winds of change. Never having to navigate through uncharted territory. Never unsure of where they are going, or what they will do when they get there. In fact, never leaving the safe harbour.
They’re the ones who make me jealous. Let me introduce you to a few of them. I bet they’ll make you jealous too.

Norman Knowsit
Most of you have probably met Norman. After all, he seems to have worked everywhere. I say this because he already knows everything about your program. He’s one of those folks who, no matter what one might suggest, he already knows it. He’s the guy who goes to conferences “although I can’t imagine why he bothers “and sits in the presentations with the firm and clear air of someone who already knows it all. He doesn’t need to learn anything new “and why should he “what could anyone possible teach someone who already “knowsit” all.

I’m jealous of folks like Norman because, well, the truth is, I find myself always bogged down in learning something new and often I’m filled with concern about whether or not I'll remember what I’m learning, or how I'll apply it, or how it will fit with the rest of my knowledge. Norman doesn’t have these anxieties. There’s nothing new for him to learn because he’s already learned as much as he needs to know. As much as anyone working in this field needs to know really. New knowledge isn’t necessary. Anything more than what he knows would be superfluous.

I’m sure that Norman has many less sleepless nights than I do; his other activities are probably less interrupted by wondering about this new learning and; I imagine that he is free to not think about work, even when he is at work. I was in a workshop with Norman the other day and when we were discussing something new (well, at least for me) Norman said, and I quote him, “What’s the point of this anyway? I’m not learning anything new here. I don’t know why we have to come to these things."

I so wished I could be like him! I could sleep through the trainings, as well as at night, and I’d be able to give up my neurotic (I know its neurotic because Norman told me it was) obsession with always wanting to know more. When you already know it all, I’m sure life is much easier.
And the thing that really makes me jealous? Norman didn’t even have to work to develop his wealth of knowledge. It just came to him, like he was born with it. I swear he hasn’t had to learn anything new since the day he was born. Lucky bugger!

Teddy Triedit
Teddy is a close cousin of Norman. I think they might even be siblings but they say no, so I don’t want to challenge them about it. I’d ask Norman to check in to it but he’d tell me he already knows. And I’m sure that if I asked Teddy about the possibility of checking in to the familial relationship between himself and Norman, he’d tell me he’s already “tried it” and it didn’t help. He’s a wonderful person to have on a team because no matter what idea someone comes up with he’ll have already “triedit” (it’s a single word when he says it), and, of course, it won’t have worked. So, the nice thing is nobody has to try anything new and therefore nobody has to change. A nice way to be.

Many of the people that I’ve worked with are always wanting to try something different. I bet some of you have the same problem with your teams. I mean, every time something just isn’t working for a youth or family, somebody comes up with a new idea, a different approach, and we all have to try it to see if will be more helpful. Really, what a pain. So much easier, I think, to just be able to turn to Teddy, suggest the idea, have him tell you he has already tried it and then to move on with doing the same thing, even if it isn’t working. After all, as Teddy says, “if it isn’t working, it’s the kid's fault. We just have to keep doing the same thing until the kids gets it.” God, I love having him on the team. It must be wonderful to be him, he is obviously so creative and so far ahead of the rest of us “all the time. I wish I could be him.

Karen Karesnot
Karen is another of the types of people who fill me with jealousy and envy. She just doesn’t care. It’s wonderful. She doesn’t care what her supervisor thinks. She doesn’t care if she is effective or not. She doesn’t care if the kids hate her. She just doesn’t care. And I know this is true because, for example, I heard her say just the other day, when her supervisor suggested that she work on improving her skills, “Who cares what she thinks anyway." What a wonderful way to be to be in the world. No cares. No worries. No anxieties. God, I wish I could be like her.

There are a lot of us who waste our time worry about things like whether or not our interventions will be effective, whether we could do better, whether we are getting across to the youth or family, and all that stuff. We spend time plotting and planning; discussing strategies with our team mates or supervisors; considering what things might mean to someone else. You know, the average neurotic, obsessive, perfectionist Youth Care worker.
Well, you know what? Karen has a lot more time for herself than we do. While we’re busy planning and plotting, she’s thinking about her next vacation, or re-living the last one. She dreams while we worry. She plays while we plan. She has a lot less anxiety than you or I. She is free. At least more free than we are. She’s going to burn out a lot less slowly than the rest of us, I bet.

She is so cool! So, if I can’t be like Norman or Teddy, could I please be like Karen?

Sally Selfless
I read all the time in the field that “self plays a central role” in all of our interventions with young people and their families. I also read that “knowing self” is essential to effective practice. But really let’s be honest here “all this knowing self stuff is a lot of work. Noticing what’s going on, getting in touch, monitoring, ensuring we are not dealing with our own business, connecting self to self, and yada, yada, yada! “a lot of hard, hard work for not much personal benefit.

But not for Sally, and that’s why she makes me jealous. Sally doesn’t know she has a “self”. She just thinks the way she sees things are the way they are. She has no “old business” that gets in the way. She doesn’t have to dig around in the dark corners and recesses of her self because she has never opened that door and so she doesn’t even know she has dark recesses. Heck, she doesn’t even know she has delightful undiscovered territory. When someone else talks about “my self”, Sally hears “myself” and just thinks the person is being selfish and egocentric.

So, really now, be honest, don’t you wish you could be like that “no pain, no sneaky little pieces of self popping up to distract you when you are doing what you want to do. Of course, she wouldn’t do very well on a lot of those Youth Care courses, but it really doesn’t matter because she has a little bit of the “Norman” in her so she doesn’t think she needs to know more anyway.

Ah, to be so free of all that knowing and exploration nonsense. Sally, you make me jealous! Can you help me be like you?

* * *

Anyway, there are many more Child and Youth Care types out there that make me jealous but these four are the one that are making me envious today. I wish I could be like them, even one of them, although in my quiet moments I wonder what it would be like to be all of them at once. Imagine, “know it, tried it, don’t care, and it doesn’t bother me”. Ah, to be like that. Wouldn’t work be a lot easier? Wouldn’t life be a lot easier?

And what about you? Is there anyone who makes you jealous? Or are you like Billy Bestofal? Nobody makes him jealous. How could they? He’s already the ... but more about him another day. I have to stop this. It is making me depressed about who I am. I think I'll go and chop some wood. Maybe that will take my mind off of how inadequate I am. At least for the moment.

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