The Luck of the Draw

I see he journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

The other morning early 2:15 AM I was awakened by an alarm on my phone and then the storm/tornado warning sirens. I was in a panic. Living in Texas almost all my life I have grown accustomed to the storms that can be so menacing. I love them. I love violent thunderstorms. I am one of those crazy guys you see standing on their porch watching the skies toss and turn like a clothes dryer.  They do not really frighten me. You can’t tell me though that there is no climate change. The storms used to never be really bad at night and a couple of Decembers ago we had several tornados and hail so thick it looked like a sheet of ice sliding from the rooftops. I can’t really see the skies anymore. So I started to panic, putting on shoes, sticking my magnifying glass and my phone in my pocket and turning on the news to see where it was. I was lucky in that the storms were north and south of me but for a brief moment the winds were severe and then the rain came.

I graduated high school in May of 1981 and started classes at the University of Texas at Arlington that September.  It was huge, and there were so many people, so many cultures so many languages being spoken, It was perfect for me. I would never have done well at a small school. It was easier to fit in because you really could not fit in as there were just too many people. It was so easy to be invisible.  I walked into my American History class and it was a small auditorium. I could sit on the front row and not a single person ridiculed me because no one cared. I could ask questions, make comments and no one cared, no one called me names. It was my education.

Naturally my dad did not like my social work major and he spent a lot of time talking to me about doing something different with my life. I still wanted to work with the developmentally disabled. My dad was never going to understand that. He wanted me to make money, that is how one is measured in his estimation; how much money they make. If I could have been a social worker who made two hundred thousand a year he would have never said a thing to me. Being a social worker was going to disappoint him, was going to embarrass him with his friends. I tried to conform, to do what he wanted of me so that he would be proud of me. What he thought about me still mattered, what he said to me still could hurt although by then I was way past crying. I remember when I did graduate that I brought him my degree.  Yes I still remember I wanted him to hang it on the wall. I wanted him to tell his friends that I had graduated college. He told me he didn’t want it. His exact words in a laughing voice were “I don’t want that thing.”  My dad has this wonderful defense of the things he says, the mean things when you bring them up to him. He jut denies saying it and that’s that. Naturally he says he never said it.

I bounced around with a couple of more majors before turning back to social work. I almost dropped that major for good except for a strange fluke in my schedule. I started taking social work courses in the spring of my sophomore year which was actually my third year of school because of the major changes and taking classes I did not need. I took two social work classes, introduction to social work and the first direct practice class. In a fluke intro was the second class scheduled while direct practice was first. It was luck of the draw, The dean of the undergraduate program taught intro and never was there a more boring disinterested instructor. I hated that class. Direct practice though was everything. With every student there  is that search for what they want to do in life, or validation that what you have wanted is actually right. Direct practice turned a giant light bulb on that never went out. As part of the class we had to volunteer for two hundred hours at a social service agency. I chose Child Study Center in Fort Worth,  a wonderful place that serviced the developmentally disabled that I wanted to work with. As a volunteer I did nothing groundbreaking. I washed and sanitized toys, cleaned up after teachers and students alike and did it with a smile. I was there that semester in every spare second I could give and did way more than two hundred hours. The class and the volunteer work changed the course of my life. My dad was not going to be proud of me but there was a completely different motivation burning inside of me. I wanted to be a social worker.

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