In June of 2014, after 6 years, three colleges, two laptops and countless cups of coffee, I finally earned my Master’s in Social Work. Yep, that’s right- the coveted “MSW” is now an eternal attachment to my professional name: Megan Cornish, MSW. When I turned in the last paper of my college career, the massive and instantaneous sense of relief was something I’d expected. What I’ve learned since then, however, is that the diploma is a ruse. A sham. A ploy designed by higher education for purposes beyond my understanding- human experimentation, perhaps?Here’s some examples of what information your tuition dollars fail to gain you:
- You know nothing. Yes, I realize the point of this blog is to say that graduate school left gaps in your education; but literally, grad school fails to teach you that you know nothing. You could memorize all the theories and be able to recite the DSM-5 word-for-word by the end of grad school, but theories won’t help you where you’re going. In a lice-infested home, there are no theories. There is only fear. The only theory you need is the theory that if you don’t sit down you won’t get bedbugs. Or that if you look at your watch, you client might realize that it’s 5:30 and that she’s been talking non-stop for 45 minutes.
- People are messy. They don’t fit into nice, neat case studies and even a “textbook case” of bipolar is going to be confusing as hell. You might think you’ve built rapport with that kid you have to pick up every morning for school, but one day he’ll get in the car and hate your guts. He is treating you like he would his mother. This means you’re doing social work right.
- People are surprising. Once, a drunk client made me cry. And not in the “I am so compassionate and tender and I care for you and your issues” kind of a way. In a straight up, “This man is slurring his speech as he is teaching me profound truths about the world” kind of a way. I don’t think that man remembers our conversation, or could even pick me out of a line-up, but I would take a graduate course from Budweiser Philosophy Man any day of the week.
- You don’t have what it takes. That’s right; the weight of the world is too much for even bright-eyed social work graduates. One day, you’ll be in a grocery store staring at the cough syrup and wondering how to make meth. Your brain will be so curdled from the barrage of Jerry Springer stories that you will start to suspect that your elderly neighbor might be in a gang because she wears so much red. You will need other people in your life to help pull you out of this spiral- your spouse, best friend, bartender, whatever. Someone who doesn’t strategize parking for the best escape route. So let me rephrase things for you: you don’t have what it takes to do it alone.
- The world doesn’t need you. At least, not 24/7. People have been screwing up and getting traumatized and finding hope and finding redemption and making it work since long before you came on the scene. So if you take a vacation and miss a work crisis? Big deal. You need to find hope and redemption, too, which you can’t do if you never put the weight of the world down every once in a while and let yourself breathe.
There you have it. The MSW degree is a hoax intended to get innocent people like me and you to believe that we are qualified to go out and change the world. And you know what? Sometimes, we do it. Sometimes we naively charge society’s social issues and the world does change, even if for just one person at a time.
(Keep it up, social work educators. I think it’s working.)