A few key themes

Yesterday, I reviewed an 80+ page document, looking for patterns and themes. My colleagues and I have been writing weekly reflections about our work, and we want to summarize what we’ve learned.

The act of reflecting is not unique to people in the social sector, but writing reflections is something any social work student quickly becomes familiar with doing. When I was studying social work, I sometimes grumpily called it Reflection School. Less grumpily, I know we were asked to reflect because social workers need to consider their actions, words, and thoughts in relation to professional ethics. We’re meant to be constantly checking on how we’re treating people (especially considering most social workers have power over at least some aspect of people’s lives), how our biases show up, and so on.

Here’s something interesting though: many social workers aren’t required to maintain a reflective practice in their jobs. It wasn’t until I came to my supposedly-evil role in a corporate foundation with no other social workers that reflection became a formal part of my work. (I say “supposedly” because I don’t think my employer is evil, but many people I meet seem to think otherwise.)

Anyway. Yesterday I was reviewing our team’s reflections from 2019, to understand how this thinking might have influenced our work. And let’s face it: I also volunteered for this task because I like organizing information and seeing how ideas fit together. So, it also seems fitting that after one year of Maybe There’s More, I should summarize some of the themes I blogged about during the last 12 months. Here goes:

Beyond my introduction to the blog, my explanation of the ideas driving a “maybe there’s more” theme, and my recent education and career decisions (linked above), I spent quite a bit of time thinking through topics from the perspective of family.

I wrote about the need to recognize people’s strengths while thinking about my grandma’s birthday party, and I wrote about the way our personalities are shaped by family on what would have been the week of my grandpa’s birthday.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the way my family can discuss and debate difficult issues, though I’ll admit that some of us (me included) pushed the limits of that theory in the months that followed. But then I was reminded while attending an annual event with my mom that the positive parts of tradition can act like an antidote to angry ideas around us.

The importance of family also came up when I shared a link about how we might help a family in need, and I continue to take a broad view of our relationships to each other when writing and thinking about who’s really in our “tribe”.

I also spent some time writing about one of the things that seems to divide us these days: politics.

During the provincial election for Alberta, I was frustrated with some voters’ logic. By the time of the federal election, I was (and still am) fed up with all major political parties (and their so-called “leaders”), and what I see as a broken electoral system.

But I also wrote about how my political posts have been fairly well-received. Partly that’s because I’m not well-known enough to attract haters, but it’s also because people are capable of being kind and thoughtful while listening to each other.

And at the end of the day, if there’s only one thing I can say on this subject, it’s that we don’t have to choose a side. On any topic, there’s a middle. There’s nuance. We can go back-and-forth. As a well-known, progressive-conservative politician once told me, “the sign of having a mind is the ability to change it.” I understood him to mean that we should hold our views relatively lightly, and be open to new or different information.

But when all that gets to be too much, sometimes you just want to retreat somewhere safe. One of my favourite spots lately is under a blanket on my couch. To that end, I also wrote about home.

In fact, I blogged about all the homes I’ve ever lived in, and the things I learned or experienced there. Then I followed with a post about the new-to-me house I bought, and what it feels like to finally start feeling settled – not just in a house, but in life.

I was thinking of that feeling – and how it can sometimes necessarily be preceded by serious difficulties – when I wrote about how we respond to life’s disruptions

While on the subject of horrible things that some people go through, I also wrote about certain issues that have my attention. I think this is where I lose some of you: maybe you don’t think these things can happen to you? Or maybe you think some people deserve their suffering? Or maybe you’re just too distracted by your own struggles? I get that last one, but I don’t think I’ll ever agree that anyone deserves to be murdered or go missing, or die of a monstrous illness like addiction, or be killed for holding certain political views, or even have to climb extra hurdles to get work experience (as was the subject of a guest blog by a friend).

And finally, looking back on this year of posts, there’s a topic I only wrote about once, but it relates to almost all the above. And that’s our ability to use social media responsibly and carefully. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Whether or not you work in a place that encourages reflection, let’s all take the time to think about how we use social media. For all its possible benefits, there’s an increasing amount of evidence to show how risky these platforms can be for democracy, individual wellbeing, privacy, and more.

Speaking of privacy and the internet tracking your every move, I’ve also found it interesting to see the stats that WordPress keeps for this blog. According to the numbers, 33,585 people have visited this blog a total of 39,568 times. This number mostly comes from the political posts, but there were also significant visitors to my post about the family who needed support, and quite a number of people read my thoughts on “keeping doors open” vs feeling settled. The post about taking my current job was also a big hit, and it was the only one where strangers contacted me to say thanks for articulating some of the same thoughts they’ve had on their own careers. That was pretty cool.

But you know what? The whole thing has been pretty cool. I was – and still am – nervous about this blogging thing, and I often wonder why anyone would take time to read what I write. But I’m glad you do. So, I’ll end this too-long post by saying thanks. It’s been quite a year, and I’m glad to have had you with me.

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