I arrived here as many do, living in the in-betweens of friends and family, trying to find a home beyond the car, somewhere to lay my head down two nights in a row. No, I wasn’t a client but it got close sometimes. I worked at the DI trying to listen, to teach and help a group of people, mainly men, move on with their lives, lift a few of the barriers that keep them here. As for me, I was a student, working on an eight month internship, returning to school in September to finish off a degree or two. It took me a few weeks to settle in here-to adjust myself to the climate, to acquire the skills that were really needed. It wasn’t the office setting (my first) that I need to learn new skills for, but rather I had to learn to be compassionate, flexible, and determined every day.
I also had to learn that many of the other staff here had a story, that they had as diverse backgrounds as the clients. It made it easier to understand what had gone on in my own life, to see strong men and women who had lived and worked through much worse. They helped me make sense of my own story, to see the abuse I had just escaped as something survivable, something to rebuild from. It helped me feel as though I belonged here, which brought me back here every day with a smile.
Now, everyday that I spend with these impossible people, these men and women who I come to be frustrated by and admire and mourn, I feel a little more able. Some of these men are doing impossible things, coming off 20 year-long bouts of depression and drinking-yet still finding the willpower and motivation to pick it up and put themselves back together. It can be tragic seeing the ones who don't make it, but all you need it the memory of that one, coming back with a rumpled first pay check in his back pocket, a smile across his ruddy face and eyes that light up when he tells you about the northern lights he has seen. He keeps me coming back, keeps the hope alive in me too.
I'm done with the DI for now-but I doubt I will ever be able to forget my time here. I hope I will get to work at another such rewarding a job-and if I can't, then watch for me in a staff vest a few years from now.
Written by: Emily Sharpe