I wrote a blog many months ago about the intersection of sexual violence and the history of wedding traditions. It was part of the research that I did to figure out what traditions I wanted to keep, what I was tossing, and what I wanted to tweak a little bit. I am happy to report that both the wedding and the honeymoon were a great success. We greatly enjoyed being able to spend a day surrounded by people we love and care about and then having three weeks backpacking and camping through Europe with just each other.
While I was glad to be away for so long, I can say that I honestly and truly love what I do and working with BARCC. When I describe my work and the organization, I get the traditional responses of: “Isn’t that hard?”, “How could you do that everyday?”, etc. However, the more I talk about it, the more people realize that I love coming to work everyday and that the environment is a positive one. After these realizations, I typically get comments like “You’re so lucky that you love what you do, not everyone has that.” or “How fulfilling it must be to do work you are so passionate about.”. And you know what? I am and it is.
When our trip was coming to a close, I was sad that we wouldn’t be able to traipse across Europe anymore but I was also excited to be able to come back to work, see my colleagues, and address the issue of sexual violence. I recognize that not everyone has those reactions when a vacation is ending; in contrast, my partner was dreading his first day back. However, I was also nervous to come back to work as one of my goals during vacation was not to talk or read about sexual violence. It was harder than you might think but I was successful most days. I was nervous to come back and be in a position where I had to think about, engage with, and confront violence each and every day. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle it anymore and that I’d have to go get a new job that blissfully ignored all violence, prejudices, and oppression.
Luckily, that didn’t happen. I have been back for almost a month now and while it was a hard readjustment at times, I am still excited to get up every day and come to work. I have been in other positions (volunteer and paid) where I have done anti-sexual violence work. And therefore I know that it isn’t just the issue that inspires me to get up and come to work every day. The environment and the people in it are just as important as the work I am doing. And therefore, I owe all my colleagues and volunteers at BARCC a huge thank you for their many contributions each and every day.
I think that we often focus on the great services that we are offering to survivors, their significant others, other providers, and communities. And, without a doubt, that is amazing and extremely gratifying work. However, we forget that we also offer great services to each other. We are a community and the fact that we can support and turn to each other for help is extremely important. While we are all passionate about the work we do, we also recognize that it is hard and can be draining. Therefore, we encourage each other to set limits and practice self-care. It can be hard to take one’s own advice but we are looking out for each other and trying to ensure that we are all avoiding the burn-out and vicarious trauma that can sometimes come with this type of work. We strive to celebrate the big and small accomplishments of each other. Whether that is recognizing which volunteer took the most shifts in a month, having a piece of legislation finally be signed, facilitating your first engagement, or completing a giant project. We value the work and effort that the people around us are doing and we take the time to let them know that.
The elements of teamwork and support are also extremely integral to our working environment and one of the reason I greatly enjoy being a part of this organization. I never could have left for three weeks unless someone was able to pick up my job responsibilities for that period of time. The volunteers also were incredible at filling the engagement requests and quickly! Many of the September engagements were already booked before I even left, which made it easier for my supervisor to cover all my job duties. These examples are certainly on a grand scale of how we help each other out but it certainly happens on the day to day as well. If we’re having a tough moment or need a quick brainstorm, we can always find someone to chat with. We know who stashes chocolate and other goodies and these individuals are always willing to share. We ask for help with clients, workshops, office coverage, etc and rarely ever worry about whether someone will be able to assist (the one exception being that Friday afternoon office coverage because we all want to start our weekends!).
I don’t believe the support and work that we do for each other can be recognized enough, but I would like say THANK YOU to all my colleagues and BARCC volunteers for making this an organization that I am truly proud and happy to be a part of.
And to close....