End of an era

This post turned out to be longer than I thought! I suppose my thoughts just kept on coming.


For sixteen years I have worked for the same organisation, and I have loved it.

In my job I support people with an intellectual disability. Some of them have what’s described as “behaviours that challenge,” as this can present as anything from being vocal to being violent.

I’ve stayed mostly in the one residential until but have also done some work with the day centres, or “Programme Areas” as we call them.

My days can range from very stressful to very relaxing, and each day is different.

Even on days when I’ve been sick there hasn’t been a day I haven’t not wanted to come in. I’ve joked about it, saying things like “Working on a Sunday! Don’t they know who I am?!” or “I’d rather be at home!” and it’s true, I would rather be at home, but I still loved my job and wanted to come in.

In 2019 I decided to retrain. My goal was to move away from healthcare and look at Social Work. To do a social work degree I’d need to take four years out of work and what if I didn’t like it? So, I looked at other routes and the one found suited me perfectly. I took up a Social Care degree. After that I could do an MA in social work, and this would give my way in. Yes, it was a long plan, but it was what I wanted.

The course was classed as part time but, after four years, let me tell you it was not part time! Every third Friday we’d have a day of lectures, then we’d have either research or assignments to write. As well as that we’d have 200 hours of placement to do during each year. Those 200 hours were unpaid! Personally, I felt this was grossly unfair This was something I tried to fight but the student union (USI) didn’t bother following up and although my one voice can be loud, it wasn’t loud enough. Once the new USI body had been elected no one thought to carry on with our grievance. So be it, that’s for different entry.

Well, I did my four years, I did my assignments, exams and four 200-hour placements and last year I qualified and came out with Bachelor of the Arts in Applied Social Care (with honours).

Early in my fourth year I started to look at doing a MA come the September, after I’d qualified, because, maybe arrogantly, I knew I’d qualify. My lowest mark the entire course had be a B+, there was no way I wasn’t going to qualify.

I looked at the various options, while still thinking about social work and found two I really liked. An MA in Deaf Studies or MA Gender, Sexuality & Culture, both at UCD.

These were two areas I knew a lot about being both deaf and gay. And yes, I know it’s easy to say you know a lot about ese subjects because you are part of that community, but I’ve studied deaf history and culture, give talks on LGBTI+ mental health and history and have been involved in a number of deaf and LGBTI+ organisations. Me saying I know about those subjects is not just lip service because I belong to those cultures.

I wrote out lists of pros and cons and I went to various people for advice, including Brad, my boss and the lectures from those courses.

In the end it was very clear that by doing either of those I was potentially limiting myself to those areas of work and as much as I wanted social work, I liked the idea of it being linked to my current role of Intellectual Disabilities (ID), and behaviours that challenge.

I started to write my dissertation and my chosen subject looked at the quality and availability of training for staff supporting a person with ID who may wish to explore their gender and/or sexual identity or explore a same-sex relationship. Sidenote – the training is very poor and mostly non-existent.

While writing and researching this something interesting happened. Over the months I started to realise I was actually very happy doing what I did and felt that I had more to offer the field. Through conversations with friends on the course and work colleagues the idea of going into social work started to get pushed away as the thought of me staying in my current role, but expanding it with this new degree, became more and more like the route I wanted to take.

Back to the drawing board of MA’s, which would be suitable. Well neither of them to be honest, so I looked at the MA in Health Sciences.

The more I looked I looked at the more I liked it and the idea of going in Social Care, not Social Work seemed to have so many more opportunities for my field of work and the work I liked doing.

I made the decision that this was MA I was going to do but not straight away. I spent four years doing the degree and as much as I loved it at times it was very stressful. Thankfully I was lucky enough to have amazing support, so my stress was dealt with very easily. I was one of the lucky ones. I decided I take a year or two off from education and come back to the MA then.

But what to do in the meantime. I could work from the Social Services, in Tusla, with my Social Care degree but I’d already made my mind up that it wasn’t for me. I wanted to stay where I was. The problem though was that there were not jobs for me in my current location using my new qualification. I wasn’t prepared to waste my four years.

I spoke to my boss, and he did as much as could to sort a role out for me. He talked to senior management about the work I do and how essential I am. Yes, writing that feels weird and big headed but its only what I’ve been told from almost every member of staff. Its nice to hear, even if difficult to accept as I’m one of those that struggles to accept praise sometimes. I also do feel like I don’t do anything extra compared to most of the other staff, I just do different things. We work well as team and recognise each other skills.

Senior management spoke to me, and we tried to come up with a plan, but nothing was working. It all boils down to these two issues:
– There are no roles for my qualification in my building.
– I don’t want to waste those four years.

The only option, albeit heartbreaking, was to accept it was time to move on.

I applied for a job I didn’t want. Part of me wanted to get offered it as so I could come back and say “Hey, I’ve been offered this, please offer me better so I can stay!” Not a nice way to do thing, I accept that, but at this point I was desperate to stay.

See, I really do love my job. I have moaned about it in the past and there are times it’s difficult but even on the worst days I still love my job. The people (most of them!), the place, the people I support, the role, everything. I love it. I tell people I’m the best member of staff the place has, and when I say people, I mean anyone who will listen, including my boss and colleagues. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. I feel like it is and that makes me work better. I feel so lucky to be in job I adore. I would do anything to be able to stay. Anything but waste the four years.

I didn’t get offer the job I went for, so I applied for another, and then another. I didn’t even get offered interviews for those but to be fair, I didn’t tick all the boxes, so I get it, I understand, I just wanted the interview.

Then I did get an interview for another role. A role I thought I didn’t want. New title, better pay, new location, very similar role.

But did I want it?
Well yes, part of me I did and wanted to be offered it, but I still had the feelings that I wanted to stay in my current place.

And then I got offered the job.

I genuinely agonised over taking it. I rang my husband, and yes, he said take it. It was, as I said, better pay, new title, new location and as a bonus, it was a lot close to home.

I rang my boss. My boss is also someone I’m very close to. We socialise often, we buy each other and our families Christmas gifts, we support each other. If I was 12, I’d be telling you he’s my best friend. I love him. How could I tell him I was leaving?

I couldn’t. And didn’t. Instead, I asked him what I should do. I put him in that awkward place of talking to me as a friend and as a boss.

“As your manager I’m going to tell you now I’ll do anything I can to get you to stay. When you go my workload will increase 100%. As your friend I think you’d be foolish not to take it. The opportunities there are better than here. You should take it.”

I wasn’t what I wanted to hear but it was what I needed to hear.

So, I took the job.

Pending garda clearance and occupational health screenings (both of which shouldn’t be an issue) I’ll soon be leaving my current place, a place I’ve been for sixteen years, and moving on to pastures.

I’m nervous and excited but I’m also very sad to be leaving where I am. I know I’m making the right choice but I’m still so down about moving away.

The lads I’ve looked after for sixteen years have become so dear to me. I know I can pop in and see them but it’s not the same as taking them to see family, taking them to the cinema, supporting them through difficult things.

The staff I work with have become my extended family. It must be that way. You must be able to trust each other because sometimes your life depends on it. And I mean that quite literally.

But now I’m saying goodbye. And it’s killing me.

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