The other day as I was leaving my office I looked at the plaque I have hanging from when I worked in youth corrections. The plaque shows the years I was employed there and it got me thinking about the time I have spent at various jobs. I can't believe how much time has passed already since we moved to Canada. I have now been working out of this office for as many years as I worked in youth corrections. That seems bizarre to me.
I really feel as though my time working with youth changed me. Partially I think I matured just because I was getting older, but I learned some things while I was working in a facility with troubled youth. The actual work was something that really challenged me.
I was assigned to advocate for kids I didn't like and had to learn to put aside my personal feeling to be the best advocate I could be for them. I had to work with a team whose strategies were not always my own when it came to dealing with issues. I had to apologise when I was wrong and sometimes when I didn't think I was wrong. On one occasion I got into a huge fight with someone who I now consider to be a very dear friend - and it brought us closer. I wasn't the boss or in charge of anything - other that serving dinner, or supervising clean up or occasionally dispensing medications. I learned more about drugs and sexually transmitted diseases than I think I need to know to live my life.
I experienced the consequences of other peoples poor choices (being punched a few times by a kid MUCH larger than me because of another staff's poor decision) and I knocked the wind out of myself horribly sledding down a mountain trying to "keep up" with the kids on another occasion.
I laughed a LOT and even cried once or twice.
I had to learn to not take things personally, which was a huge challenge to overcome, but somehow I "got it". I was able to become a trainer for control techniques to use with out of control kids and there are some strategies I actually learned to apply to my life.
I certainly left feeling as though I had gained something from what I was doing, even if I don't know that I ever made a difference in any of the kids lives. It feels like I learned a lifetime worth of lessons in what now looks like such a short time spent there.
I got to be pretty good at ping pong.
I watched the twin towers fall with a room full of kids.
I saw Sunny Al Roker filming the weather at the Winter Olympics.
I had a chair thrown at me.
I had poo thrown at me.
I threw a massive tantrum on the floor in a bedroom and calmed down a kid who had been out of control for hours.
I once told a kid it was better to just go ahead and do drugs than to drink the bleach he was drinking to try and cover it up.
I played football.
I played basketball.
I went to comedy nights.
I folded a LOT of laundry.
I ate gross food.
I played a LOT of card games.
I taught anger management.
I taught positive control.
I went to conferences in cool locations.
I loved a boy who no-one else loved.
I heard of a youth dying a young and tragic death after "aging out" of a system which failed to meet her needs.
I gave a lot of lice treatments.
It became a huge part of my life and I am glad I was able to spend the time there when I did, with the people I did.