At the age of 33, I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life: I was going to be the best social worker I could possibly be. It was actually what I had already been doing with my life for the past 10 years or so in various Bachelor level positions. I always enjoyed it for the most part, but kept waiting for a “better idea” of what to do with my life to come along. I mean…who would actually choose to be a social worker the rest of their lives?? Only a crazy person. Well, the better idea never happened, so I decided to get married to my career. And once I decided to commit, I went full speed ahead. I enrolled in graduate school last fall and will receive my Master’s in Social work by the end of summer 2014. I am passionate about social work and can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I know I made the right choice for myself.
During my undergrad experience, I fell victim to the flawed yet idealistic and feel-good logic of my liberal professors and peers. Before I knew it, despite my upbringing by my staunchly conservative parents, I was a bleeding heart liberal myself. And I thought I knew it all. My perception of conservatism was what you would expect any liberal to have; that they are a callous, uncaring, greedy bunch who care nothing about the poor and elderly and neglected and abused. All they care about is making a buck and screwing over anyone who stands in their way! Or so I thought.
I have always strived to have an open mind, and to consider both sides of any argument before settling on my own conclusions, though this is always easier said than done. I can say though that if I didn’t at least try to consider the “other side’s” point of view, I wouldn’t be sitting on the polar opposite end of the political spectrum today. During my liberal years or, the “dark ages” as I like to think of them, I engaged in many lively debates with others about politics, most often with my ultra-conservative family members. I was certainly stubborn in my opinions, and where I lacked logic in my arguments I made up for in emotion, err… “heart”. I didn’t see heart in my opponents’ arguments, or maybe I was just blind to them. And I assumed that since they were not in favor of, say, boundless social welfare programs, that meant they just didn’t give a hoot about the poor. I mean what were we supposed to do, just let them starve?!? Do these people not have a SOUL??
Fortunately, I eventually saw the “light”. Emotion gave way to logic, and I could no longer deny that all the various government enforced laws and mandates that carried the supposed altruistic intent of helping those less fortunate only, in reality, served to hurt them even further. And here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter HOW great the intention is with ANYthing; if the results do not line up with the intention, the intention just doesn’t mean squat.
I still care about all the same social issues/problems as I did in my dark ages, even MORE so now that I am immersed in social work, both in my career and academic pursuits. I just changed what I believe are the best solutions to those social problems. I am a proponent of solutions that actually produce a favorable result. Liberal solutions, by their very emotionally-charged nature, do not typically produce those favorable results, unfortunately. They actually tend to produce the opposite.
My political beliefs don’t always line up with other conservatives I know. I consider myself to be libertarian because it is the only political party or ideology that fully supports my fundamental belief that everyone has the right to live their lives the way they see fit; unless of course, their life choices result in the infringement on other people’s rights. Therefore, unlike many other conservatives (especially those who intertwine their religious beliefs with their political ones), I do not support the government saying who may or may not marry the partner of their choice. I do not support the government telling us what we are allowed to put into our own bodies, even if those substances would cause our bodies harm. Do I think that people who choose to shoot up are making a poor choice in doing so? Absolutely. I also think that people whose diet consists primarily of trans fats are making a poor choice. But who am I to tell them not to as long as the only person they are hurting is themselves? Now, if someone under the influence gets behind the wheel, or begins to neglect or abuse their children as a result of their drug addiction, then by all means, they should pay serious legal consequences. Otherwise? IT’S THEIR LIFE!! And if/when they decide to get help for their afflictions, us social workers will be there waiting for them.
This all being said, I have to remind myself on a regular basis to continue to strive for having as open of a mind as possible. My political beliefs continue to this day to evolve and be shaped by new information I receive about how the world works, and I hope that never changes. Who knows…maybe I will start to sway back the other direction again at some point. It happened once; I suppose it can happen again. But that is so very hard to imagine. I can’t fathom going back to my same way of thinking knowing what I know now. But we can’t stop having open dialogue with people, on both sides of the spectrum. We have to at least try to see where they’re coming from. We can always learn from others, even those who we adamantly disagree with. We must always respect and love one another and strive to rise above the emotion that’s often present when we discuss difficult issues that affect our society today.
I’d like to continue to write about my adventures of a social worker in more posts to come, so please, if your interest is peaked, stay tuned. I feel I bring a unique perspective to the table. Believe me when I say that being a conservative social work student makes me an anomaly. Not only that but I was once liberal so I know exactly where liberals are coming from when they make the arguments they do. I know they often come from a good place and are just simply (forgive me liberal friends) misguided. It’s easy to become misguided in the age we live in. We can (should) only take what the media tells us with half a grain of salt. And I certainly don’t know it all, and anyone who claims to is FULL of it. But we have to keep trying to know the truth. We have to embrace logic and reason as our leader because emotion will only get us so far. We must strive for the truth because only the truth will set us free.