Jackie blog2012 picBy Jackie

I feel very strongly that I’m in the right place in my life.  And it feels good.  It’s nice to not have pangs of uncertainty.  You know, those pesky thoughts that pop into your head and those quivering feelings that take shelter in your gut without any summoning required just to ruffle your confidence.  Believe me, I’ve had those.  The constant questioning about what career to choose and what job to take.  No, thanks.  The last two years have felt really positive.  A major part of that is I am doing something I really enjoy.  Another part of that is life seems to keep reinforcing that I am on the right path.

I always knew I would be researching something.  That was settled when I got a summer job at neuropsychology clinic that turned into a 6-year stint learning all about TBI research.  And I knew I would be working with kids when I was constantly amazed and intrigued by them, but also startled by maltreatment issues.  And I eventually found social work when I was in college and helped start a non-profit organization.  And at some time during these years I became very aware of the complexities of child abuse.  That took a cluster of events.  There were the friends who shared their abusive histories.  There were the kids at the organization where I volunteered who had experiences neglect and were doing amazingly well in their efforts to persevere.  There were the family members whose childhood sexual experiences had created difficulties in their interpersonal relationships and whose pain was exceptional. All of these things formed an indelible mark on my desire to help children.

Over the last week, I have been asked three times about what led to my interest in child abuse prevention and intervention.  And I took time to think about it, REALLY think about it.  I never experienced any form of child abuse or neglect.  But I did see the devastation it caused for those people I cared about deeply.  The interesting thing is that it didn’t stop there.  When I was practicing as an LMSW I heard over and over again from clients about the struggles they faced with sexual abuse.  While providing counseling to youth as an LCSW I have often uncovered sexual trauma histories.  There have also been close friends and family members who have recently shared their sexual abuse histories and struggles along their journeys toward healing.  It is a cycle that continues in motion – I am more educated and have more skills to deal with these issues and I meet individuals who share their stories; this motivates me to learn more and do more.  These exchanges have greatly reinforced my trajectory toward both a clinical focus and research efforts targeting child abuse prevention and intervention.

I invite you to think about those issues that are important to you.  What motivates you? Sure there may be uncertainty.  I definitely don’t know where I will be working when I graduate.  But I do know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.  And that feels refreshing.

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