A Busy New Year

Life for me has been going surprisingly well. Uni’s starting back up, and I’ve been surprised at the level of preparation it’s required. It’s taken me hours to buy textbooks, check blackboard, get unit outlines, organise stationery, set up a diary for the year, register for classes and other such things. In addition to my full time studies, I just started my casual job at the library working as a Student Assistant. You know, I don’t think I like working very often. I’d much rather spend the time at home. It’s not that I hate my job(s), it’s that I’d rather not have to do them. I could do a lot worse, of course, working 40 hours a week in a place I can’t stand with people I am tempted to hate, so I’m grateful for what I can safely call a comparitively good job. In addition to my own study and work, I’ve chosen to opt for the role of a student mentor, showing the ropes to fourteen first year social work students. I’ve done training and met up with them once already, throwing handfuls of (what I believe to be) helpful emails out there with limited replies. It’s disheartening, but not unexpected. While I won’t carry their weight for them, I’ll take some time to help them learn all the basic and important information about thriving in university- an experience I want to share out of gratitude to my own medium-term mentor, Tess. Speaking of Tess, I’ve moved into the position of Secretary for the Social Work Student Association (SWSA), Curtin’s student body in the department of social work. So far we’ve had a meeting in Leederville and hosted a morning tea for 40 (we were told to cater for 120: a lesson I am quickly learning) first years. On Wednesday we’re meeting with Robyn Martin, one of the academic coordinators to organise Ron Coleman (a big name in the field of the recovery model of mental health) to join us for a night as a guest speaker.

And all this before uni’s even started.

But you know? Something’s changed in me over the past few months. I remember in second semester first year I couldn’t bring myself to so much as read my unit outlines without breaking into tears. The stress and anticipation of weeks upon weeks of assignments and readings and never an hour to be found for leisure pushed me over the brink before it even started. But this year I’m more than ready- I’ve organised all the expected events that will be happening over the next few months in my personal and study life. My schedule’s a little busier than I would like it to be (with barely any time to see Bethwyn and even less time for video games), but so far it’s very manageable. I haven’t even begun to feel the strain (though I haven’t started studying properly yet).

So what’s changed? I think it’s just the way I look at responsibility. My semester at Centrelink, while trying, taught me many lessons. Of them, the most important is that I can do this. I am more than capable of being a social worker- I have many qualities to really be good at what I do, foremost compassion and maturity. That’s almost all you need to cut it in social work. My keen interpretive/analytic mind and capacity to perceive the pith of both problems and people can take me far yet. Being placed in the field has allowed me to see that I really can be a social worker if I want to, and that knowledge has filled me with such self-assurance that, not to be cliche, I feel there’s nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it. I could probably even change the world (though I think I have enough on my plate at the moment).

Despite the fact 2010 is looking busier than ever, I’m actually excited to start studying again. A further ego-booster came in the form of an invitation to the Social Work award’s night last Tuesday. Anticipating a stuffy evening of people being congratulated on a job well done, I politely ignored the email until Polly gave me a call asking if I was coming or not. What they had neglected to mention was that I was a prize recipient, so I instantly and candidly said I’d be there. It turns out I got the highest marks in second year! While not staggeringly impressive (80%, 80%, 79% and 81% for the four units), it was still a delightful surprise and further reassured me that I could continue to top the classes if I choose to. I’m not expecting to pull it off again (though it would be nice), but I know I have the capacity (or luck/karma) for it, and that’s enough for me to try my hardest.

What saddens me most about my chock-a-block schedule is how little time I have to see Bethwyn. I met her today for about a half hour when we ate quickly and quietly before heading to the guild reception to sign up for yoga. She rushed back to work while I joined the queue again to sign up for two more courses I didn’t have the extra minute or two to write on the first form I handed in. I’m a little worried that the rest of semester (and possibly life) is going to be like this- little snatches of ‘free’ time between too many responsibilities. I might just have to pick up and leave someday to spend months on spontaneous holiday or in meditative isolation.

Well, better get some sleep. Gotta get up early and meet Bethwyn so we can go shopping for her birthday present before study, work and karate. Pip pip!

PS: I met Garth Nix yesterday. He reminds me of Mr Mueller from Lit- witty with beautiful, flowing language. He told some pretty amazing stories that drew in the audience as they breathlessly waited for what happened next- it wasn’t so masterful that I didn’t realise what he was doing, but it was wonderful to hear an artist at work. As part of one of his stories, he gave a "cursed" silver ring to an 8(?)-year-old kid, which I childishly felt I would have appreciated more. I bought Lord Sunday (at last!) and had it signed to Xin, Nix upside-down/back-to-front. It was quite the pleasure. It seems Bethi might have missed out on meeting Julliet Marillier, but there may be a next year.

PPS: Bert’s surprise graduation picnic went off well! It was a devilishly hot day, and we arrived punctually an hour before Ai Lin, the organiser. When she did arrive, she left again within two minutes and came back another hour later with Bert for his picnic. Compared to Beth’s very Buddhist version of getting to spend some quality time with me watching ducks be ducks, I feel a little ashamed to write that I was a little annoyed at Ai Lin for being  solate, and then keeping everyone waiting while she had lunch at Bert’s house rather than coming to the picnic to eat. It was, however really very pleasant spending time with some old friends. You know, it’s only just occuring to me now that we could have invited some other people to come along and share the festivities. Ah well.
My favourite part of the day was wandering along the path looking for a public toilet. When I finally found one, it turned out to be automatic with a button to open and close/lock the door. The friendly voice on the speaker ran through the process, before playing "What the World Needs Now is Love". The toilet paper was dispensed with the press of a button, and the toilet flushed automatically when the handwashing basin began (or the door was unlocked, for those icky people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom). Brail was above each of the instructions, and the building was big enough for a wheelchair or two. The wide basin had three sensors for soap, water and hot air respectively, and one friendly push of a button later I was skipping off into the sunshine. Banal to you perhaps, but I love toilets (those bringers of cleanliness and taker awayers of filth) and this was a great discovery. I also spent some time enjoying the spring day so much I did the basic obstacle course on the playground and tested my jumping skills by clearing a picnic table after a few tries. Sadly, my skill has diminished, but at least I haven’t lost it entirely. I’ll have to practice free running more often.
By the time I got back about half an hour later I intercepted a search party (headed by Bethi) to make sure that the ducks hadn’t eaten me. Bless her heart.

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