Today Was the First Day

Today was the first day. The first day that a flame has been ignited somewhere in the region of my solar plexus. It’s a familiar flame, burning white hot, just below the surface. It’s a flame that I lost when I was sick. Another thing that cancer took from me. But friends, I didn’t know it until now. I had to disconnect with so many things when I was sick. The world was too raw, so I withdrew. Physically, emotionally, mentally. The connection with other people was too strong. But today, that engagement set me ablaze.

Today I taught a class of new, soon-to-be CASA advocates about working with teens as a CASA. And one of the specific issues that our teens in the system face is that LGBTIQA+ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system. Why? Parents can’t cope with their child coming out. Parents cut off their children, kick them out onto the cold, unforgiving streets of Colorado (or fill in the blank). They are labeled as unwanted, forgotten. But we as CASAs are in a unique position to look a youth living with trauma and see them. Actually see them, their energy, their truth. We see their story already written inside, and we help them uncover it.

Often social workers put in the long, often excruciating hours. Our communities need so much, and we want to give it all to them. (Really, we want to teach clients how to get the things they want — realisticaly, we can’t work harder than our clients.) After a while, not being able to give someone what they need creates a fissure in our idealism. We become calloused and jaded. Change seems distant and impossible. In short, we get burned out. But every once in a while, social workers find themselves in the position to actually make a difference. The long hours finally seem worthy of our time and sanity. I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from this truth, until today. Today, change feels not just possible but imminent. We are the agents of change. And today that realization galvanized my long dormant ardor, my passion for working with and advocating for not just queer teens, but all teens who feel lost. You are not lost, friend. We see you. We love you. We’re glad you’re here.