When life happens while we’re busy making other plans.

Do Power Differently.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, and I’m coming up on a whole decade of advocacy work. Time flies!

This past weekend I led a healing arts writing workshop for survivors on the topic of self-compassion. The turnout out was triple the size as previous workshops. It was a gift to be among such resilient humans to honor the courage and strength of survivors.

Also featured in this newsletter:

  • Where have I been for TWO years?!
  • Call for support!
  • Highlights & Opportunities to share

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Where Have I Been?
Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I last shared an update in May 2015 as I completed half my MSW at Smith College. After a series of challenging events, I decided to take time off from school and found a life-changing opportunity to work as the Career Coordinator at Project Place in the South End of Boston.

Read more about my year working with the homeless.

This Fall, I will embark on the final leg of my program at Smith. Next stop: Lasell College Counseling Center in Newton, MA!

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Call for Support! Work with Jocelyn:

Today, I am reaching out to my community to help me identify part-time admin, project/event-based opportunities. I’d be happy to share my resume if you think you may know of any leads! Thank you for keeping me in mind. 

“You created a remarkable healing opportunity on Saturday with your facilitating of the Healing Through Creative Arts workshop. I looked around the room to see the wide range of participants and appreciated how skillfully you affirmed our shared purpose of healing from sexual trauma.  When you stated it simply and clearly I felt you ground all of us in the courage of that common intention.  Then the tone you set of respect, generosity, loving kindness, honesty and nonjudgmental acceptance gave us all permission to write with honesty and vulnerability.   This tone combined with your thoughtfully sequenced guidelines and prompts created an afternoon filled with beautiful moments of support, appreciation and powerful writing.”
-Healing Arts Workshop Coordinator, Survivor Theater Workshop & Teacher

Read more about my services, and let me know how we can work together.
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Highlights & Opportunities
As I near my 28th birthday, I am excited to share a few highlights from the past two years and share resources I’ve discovered along the way.

-Led workshops sponsored by the Survivor Theatre Workshop for survivors of trauma at the Cambridge Women Center.
-Led workshops at Project Place on topics ranging from public speaking to meditation and life skills.
-Participated in self-defense and assertiveness training through Impact Boston
-Received a scholarship to attend my first American Group Psychotherapy Associationconference
-Reconnected with colleagues at the MASOC’s annual conference
-Sat my first week long silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA
-Completed Level 1 Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training
-Met Rachel Grant (see picture below!) in-person on a beach in CA after several years working together remotely.
-Completed psycho-analytic courses at MIP & BIPSI (Play Therapy, Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Infidelity, Dimensions of Gender and Sexuality, Basic Concepts).

Coming Up:

After producing podcasts (Transforming Trauma) and social media content for the past 1-2 years, I’m transitioning into a direct service role with my colleague Rachel Grant. We are offering a free virtual support group for Adult Survivor of Child Abuse, Additionally, the next Beyond Surviving Group begins in June.  If you can think of anyone that might be interested, please let me know. I’ll be happy to send along more info!

Join me at the Omega Institute: Women & Power Retreat: Do Power Differently: OCTOBER 6-8th 2017. They are still be accepting scholarship apps, apply now!
Poet Sylvia Plath says we should wear our heart on our skin in this life. My love and appreciation for this work and my community that supports and inspires me, makes this easy!

Happy Spring!

Choosing Love,

P.S.  If you don’t want to receive my monthly newsletters — but you still want to stay in touch — click the link below to unsubscribe and I’ll look forward to keeping in touch!

Have you made difficult choices that have changed the course of your career? I’d love to hear what’s going on in your corner of the world!
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Celebrating a decade of advocacy work.

“…I saw your post about sexual assault awareness month. i’ve thought so many times about the speech you gave [in college] (i guess like 8 or 9 years ago now…) and I’ve wanted to go back and read it again. i was wondering if you have a blog online or something. You explained how you felt so eloquently. Thanks again for telling your story back then – it made an impact on me and I was very proud of you.”

“You created a remarkable healing opportunity on Saturday with your facilitating of the Healing Through Creative Arts workshop. I looked around the room to see the wide range of participants and appreciated how skillfully you affirmed our shared purpose of healing from sexual trauma.  When you stated it simply and clearly I felt you ground all of us in the courage of that common intention.  Then the tone you set of respect, generosity, loving kindness, honesty and nonjudgmental acceptance gave us all permission to write with honesty and vulnerability.   This tone combined with your thoughtfully sequenced guidelines and prompts created an afternoon filled with beautiful moments of support, appreciation and powerful writing.”

-Healing Arts Workshop Coordinator, Survivor Theater Workshop & Teacher tumblr_oir0pxQGPh1sz0omqo1_1280.jpg

This past week, I led a healing- arts writing workshop for survivors through the Survivor Theater Workshop @ the Cambridge Women Center.17309460_4460534826654_7108000988534932529_n.jpg

At my first American Group Psychotherapy conference in New York meeting new inspiring colleagues. March 2017. 13406756_4062022864104_6612211373539402086_n.jpg

With my mentor at MASOC’s annual conference in April 2016. I am grateful for her example and showing me the power of writing groups.

A Roadmap to Success

In January 2015, I attended Haymarket’s anti-racism event where I met the now Associate Director, Polly, who graduated from Smith School for Social Work. We connected about our mutual affiliation with the program and I followed up to keep in touch and was able to schedule an informational interview in March.

I took a picture in the lobby of the “Roadmap to Success” and was inspired by the organization’s mission and comprehensive approach to individual change.

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My own career took a detour in the Fall of 2016 and I ended up applying for two positions at Project Place. I spent this past year working there and am just beginning to make sense of my enriching and complicated experience as I go through the mundane motions of updating my resume. How can I express the significance of Project Place in the world and in my life? I was fortunate to work with resilience and inspiring clients: individuals in re-entry from incarceration, in recovery from addiction and trauma; those managing the stress of mental illness and employment; veterans and women in shelter with children in obtaining jobs and housing.

Each week, many Project Place clients and alumni attend enrichment workshops that I was responsible for coordinating, covering a broad range of topics. These workshops provide opportunity to practice interpersonal effectiveness, learn new skills, and share in thoughtful discussion and self-reflection, while providing a supportive community.
15542016_10154770739411838_4999760364690011543_n.jpgTo read more, visit http://buff.ly/2h3uSAn

 

17103355_10155010821466838_9140530622371148587_n.jpgI could tell you about our feel-good holiday party and the inspiring stories of clients who have transformed their lives. These stories are so important to share because change is happening thanks to organizations like Project Place. To learn more about homelessness, “The Chronicle has joined with more than 80 other news organizations to focus attention on the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness in the Bay Area. As part of the SF Homeless Project, The Chronicle’s Beyond Homelessness series explores possible solutions that might ease, if not end, the suffering of thousands of people living on our streets, and improve the quality of life for all residents. To date, the SF Homeless Project has been emulated in several U.S. cities where homelessness remains a humanitarian crisis.”

Though I largely worked with clients who were courageous and focused on making great change in their lives, today I feel unsettled, angry, resentful of our mental health system and how inaccessible it is. What does inaccessibility even mean? The more marginalized one is, the more invisible they are to those in power, and those with privilege to remain unaware of others’ suffering. A perfect illustration is the media coverage of how Our Opioid Crisis Reveals Deep Racial Bias In Addiction Treatment.

For many of my clients, mental health services are inaccessible to them in part because they have been betrayed and abandoned by the people and institutions that were meant to protect, educate, and care for them. Many of them would not choose to see a therapist because trauma makes it hard to trust that a stranger could care about you when again and again you have been made to feel invisible.

It wasn’t enough to listen, to care, to show up for my clients because there are powerful forces working against them succeeding in their quest for change. What does it mean to work IN the system and not be OF the system? Some days, I feel complicit and guilty that I’m not doing enough. I feel tired of working in the wake of trauma. Yes we need resources and services until they become obsolete, but I want to work towards the prevention of trauma, to promote wellness and equity by creating new paradigms. I want to practice social work in a society where therapists don’t have to make career choices based on financial necessity. Additionally, I see my colleagues struggling to stay in the field because of lack of structural supports. When the majority of social workers are propelled into the field in large part because of their own relationship to systemic oppression, there must be best practices to support them.

 

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My recent trip to SanFrancisco was a reminder of how most people see the homeless. I don’t live there and can only speak anecdotally and share my reactions because these are difficult conversations to have. I want to be effective in revealing the truth of what homelessness actually looks like and advocate for better services & policy to prevent homelessness. 

Beginning on the plane ride, I sat next to a 24-year-old, sensitive and caring White man. We spoke briefly about the news and a story of bullying that had upset him. Shortly after he warned me of all the homeless youth who choose the streets in the city. We had been talking for awhile and I felt comfortable sharing that I don’t believe anyone wakes up and prefers to be homeless without more complicated reasons. We had a great conversation about the nuances of mental health, trauma, addiction, etc. I was impressed with his curiosity and genuine interest.

The rest of my trip was marked by comments about fear of the homeless, cars being broken into by “junkies,” warnings for my safety when people were doing drugs on the street. I acknowledge that the homeless situation in SF was shockingly more visible than anything I’d experienced in Boston or New York, but still struggled in how to respond to the comments.

A close friend brought up Dylan Roof and I could tell even though she doesn’t believe in the death penalty, she was pained by his lack of remorse for the crime he committed. How can we understand that nobody who is well commits murder? A 17-year old didn’t choose his upbringing. My response was that most people who suffer from mentally-illness are not violent, but often most vulnerable to being victims of violence. The media often perpetuates our fear and it leads to an adverse affect on how society views punishment and ultimately impacts access to mental health services. I don’t have answers, but I wish more people would take the young man on the plane’s approach and keep asking questions rather than accepting the face value of what you see on the streets or read in a news story.

My work at Project Place gave me an intimate understanding of how people’s mistakes impact their families and their lives. Obama’s sentencing reform speaks to the injustice of our criminal justice system and it’s time we address the racist policies that perpetuate the impact of trauma, mental health issues, and addiction. My clients care deeply about their children and communities. So many of them aspire to work in the field of recovery and to inspire youth to be leaders. 

The injustice in the world feels overwhelming and if I were full-time organizing or working on policy change, I’m sure I still would still feel like I was doing enough. There is so much suffering right now. To stay grounded in my relentless hope, I remind myself that the relationships I built with clients and in my community mattered. My efforts made a difference. In the years to come, I will feel more confident, but I feel less hopeful about retention in the field and the lack of attention to workers’ interests. We can only care for our clients as well as we care for ourselves. I am more committed than ever to develop and strength what we’ve coined “self-care” practices because at this point I realize most institutions are NOT  equipped to provide such support. I will keep being critical of the institution and work towards making them better, but refuse to burnout in the process.

As I get ready to return to Smith College and reflecting on how I feel about the field and re-entering the program, I think about how I’ll never know the reason why my friend and classmate graduated from social work school and took his life. I will let his legacy remind me that we can’t  continue to stigmatize social workers’ lived experiences and promote martyrdom. I am learning to set boundaries on my time at work and in my personal life, to know my limits and know that these changes in myself will ripple out and allows me to sustain myself and be even more present for my clients.

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. -Anne Lammot

I vow to find ways to create systemic change and not be complacent with the status quo, while still honoring the tremendous value of bearing witness to suffering and helping others recognize their humanity.

A Favorite Quote by Mark Nepo

We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are, when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed, and beneath every sadness is a fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances for joy.
It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting that we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. In this way, our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world, but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold, and the car handle feels wet, and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being soft and unrepeatable.

Define Life on Your Terms

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The only definition of success that matters is your own. Your worth is not based on what you do or look like or accomplish, but it is inherent to who you are. Your crown cannot be removed. When we realize that we don’t have to prove ourselves because we are already enough, we can embrace the opportunity to define life on our terms.

My vision for life is about appreciating beauty, being present to the experience of being alive, connecting with people, living my calling to spread love and building a more just, loving world. What matters most to you? Beyond our society’s definition of success, what do you want to live for? how will you live this one precious life on your terms? I’m always rooting for you.

~ Annie Escobar

www.annieescobar.com