Observation and Human Connection

CFHAI am an observer. I am often only two speeds when interacting with more then one person in a social situation, quiet and observational, or loud, silly, and sarcastic. [I at least think I am funny…that’s what’s important right?].

I was taking a writing class at the Denver Public Library and we were talking about a piece of literature that was written by a German author in the 1920’s and it was from the perspective of a mail carrier observing one particular woman’s interactions with her family. It was short – less then 5 pages. After sitting in silence reading, people voiced the opinion that they thought the reading lacked depth and richness because of the woman’s voice throughout the story was not present. My reaction was so different. I thought the notion of the author was incredibly romantic. Sometimes you learn the most about people you know well through observation. Like watching you partner interact with a child, an elder, or an old friend when she doesn’t know you are watching. Sometimes knowing less is often knowing more.

I knew that the experience of getting to know the individuals at my internship in Bosnia was going to be special. I was excited about the opportunity to be in a [social work] position where I knew little to none about the language and the culture. I knew I would be pushed outside of my comfort zone while still getting to be exactly who I am in that moment without any pressure to present myself in any other manner. I didn’t know how exactly how special the experience of that was going to be for me. My experiences over the last year have been difficult at best. I didn’t always like how the affected me as a person and how I see the world. Several nights before I left for Bosnia I wrote in my journal:

“It’s either that I don’t want to or can’t comprehend what has happened in my life over the last year. I feel out of place in my own world. The things I have worked so hard to accomplish have turned out to be the most difficult experiences in my adult life. I feel like I have lost myself. My life energy has turned into that of insecurity, judgement, resentment, anger, anxiety, frustration, inadequacy, depression, and fear. The only place I feel like myself is in my work. That scares me. The very place[grad school] I thought I would find connection and grounding has derailed everything I thought about who I was as a person. Why don’t I feel like I belong here? Why am I struggling finding human connectedness in the very place where people are training to do social work? What is wrong with me? My heart feels broken and I feel like I have failed. I feel like I have sacrificed so many good things and have failed to achieve what I thought the benefit of this experience would be. To become a better person and therefore become a stronger practitioner.”

The process of getting to interact with the men and women at The Center for Healthy Aging has been incredibly healing. In a way that I never possibly anticipated. Away from school, away from Denver, I have started to realize that the experience of human connection[in many forms] is why I am passionate about my field. It feeds my soul. Its why I feel at home in my work. We all have the same needs to varying degrees. No matter what experiences separate us. I needed the love and connection from these individuals as much as they appreciate it from me. Getting to know people outside of language by observation and direct interaction is a culturally rich experience that money can never buy. My heart is full.

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