Notes to My Younger Self

With age comes wisdom. Well, we’d like to believe that! Even if we can’t crystallise everything we have learnt into those perfect and profound adages, we do pick up some valuable insights along the way. So, if I could communicate with my younger self – the one on the brink of a career in social work slightly more than a decade ago – here is what I would say. And these hold equally true and relevant for my current self too!

No 5. Every organisation is a galaxy unto itself. So, there will be stars, and planets and satellites. You can learn something from everyone. Even those who seem to be floating debris and black holes.

No 4. Your job description (if you get one) may turn out be a very small portion of what you actually end up doing. There will be long hours and countless headaches. But in the middle of all this, remember to grab opportunities that allow you to engage with different kinds of people, to observe, to participate and to find what you enjoy and want to invest in.

No 3. You won’t escape writing concept notes, sharing them, taking feedback and meeting countless people who will make you do it all over again. Sometimes, it will seem like a circus. But these necessary steps will also sometimes lead you to extraordinary experiences and few but significant soul affirming connections. It will also keep you (and the organisation) afloat!

No 2. We can strive for perfection, but may never attain it. Making an honest and competent effort every time – that is achievable. Anything you do now, will look shoddy in retrospect. The important thing is – are you doing your best now with what you know and all the resources you can marshal?

No 1. Being an outsider and yet someone who children and people open their lives and hearts to is a privilege. Honour that privilege. If you are good as a documentation personnel, you will find that participants and staff members will share beyond their project experiences. They will tell you their joys, their anger, their frustration, their fears, their hopes. Sift with sensitivity. Some of this will find its way into the proposed deliverable. But a lot more will, often unknowingly, help you grow.