Standing in front of a classroom full of teenagers, all ready to judge and whine whenever I ask them to do something more than listen to me, can be terrifying any day of the week. But, this is what I signed up for when I started as an employee for the Prevention department of my local rape crisis center. And in 4 years, I have never looked back.
I never wanted to be a crisis worker. I didn’t have visions as a little girl of growing up to be sitting next to a hospital bed at 4am, dressed in whatever presentable sweatpants I could find and the comfiest sweatshirt that didn’t double as a sleeping shirt, next to a crying woman because she was being subjected to an invasive gynecological exam, only this side of more intrusive than the rape she just experienced. There were no big dreams at high school graduation of talking people into revealing details of their most recent sexual encounter, their deepest fears, their innermost demons, just to get them to a place of a cool calm in order to get through the rest of the day. Never did I think that I could spend hours of my life desperately fighting back my own fears and insecurities to check on a stranger and help them stay alive just one more night. And yet, here I am. All because I answered the phone.
Standing on the stage at my high school graduation, I was bright-eyed and looking to the future, planning to go to college to be an English major, following in the footsteps of my heroes like Rory Gilmore and Ryden Malby (and yes, I know they are both Alexis Bledel characters), in order to be a publisher like Ryden and my 9th grade English teacher once dreamed of being and discovering the next great American novel. I would have one of those college romances that my parents had and grow up happy and secure with all my dreams coming true and never having to be afraid where my next paycheck was coming from. I was going to turn into the real-life version of Alexis Bledel and be glamorous and suddenly my blue eyes would be brighter and more electric and boys would trail after me and I would love it all. Simple right?
God decided that there was another path for my life to take, even though it took a while for me to realize it. College was a period of change for me, and I changed my study goals from women’s studies to criminal justice, trying to find the right spot for me. Eventually I landed in the human service studies field, only because I wanted to be a police officer, and that was the closest field of study that I could major in and still get the skills I needed. I was in the throes of learning how to help people and about all the different facets of the community, all in the pursuit of catching the bad guys and solving crimes for the victims, when God intervened. He sent me a phone call, one that had a victim on the other end, and I learned what I was truly capable of. I learned how much of an impact one person can have just by being a voice on the other end of the phone, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand in the lowest time of someone’s life. And I was hooked.
I learned a new part of myself, the helper, the healer, the steady rock that could be next to someone hurting so deeply. And learned my own strength, and the support that I can offer another human being. I have never known that part of myself. Now, I’m addicted.
4 straight years I have been in social work, and I am constantly finding new challenges. Now, I have moved on to helping people, as well as teaching Prevention education, with a crisis line volunteer position on the side. Words cannot describe how amazing it is to spend so much time with someone, helping them through the darkest times of their life, only to make it a little bit brighter at the end. The world is a dark and lonely place, where people struggle every day, and I relish my job of being a shoulder to some of the hardest times and having a front row seat to the true strength of humankind.