When my coworkers had warned me that once STAR starts it gets pretty busy, I didn’t take them too seriously. The first week of STAR was great! It was what I had hoped for and more. The students were knowledgeable, willing to learn, and not afraid to participate. As expected, it took a bit to break the ice, but it was exciting to see them make new friends and to challenge the material they learned with their own ideas. I could see the wheels turning and I appreciated their openness to discussion and new ideas.
Each day I felt prepped and I was excited to facilitate a specific topic or lead an icebreaker. The structure wasn’t as formal as I had thought, but the students were so outgoing that it made it very easy to just flow with the material and go where they wanted to take the discussion.
Then the second week came and everything felt like it was crumbling. All my preparation was slightly off, the daily schedules were not aligned with the worksheets I had, and the students were harder to real in. Changes had to be made. I adjusted and prepped only what was deemed useful, I jumped in to volunteer to lead different discussions, and I had finally mastered all the students’ names and had gotten to know them a bit better. Professionally, I felt a bit frustrated with my role and I felt a bit out of the loop and unable to give as much as my coworkers did. I took time this week to talk to my supervisor and check in. She reassured me that they were happy with my work, so I will continue to push myself and offer assistance when possible.
The hardest time came early this week, and even with the heads up, there was no way to really prepare myself. One of my coworkers had a family emergency and we had just received devastating news about a previous STAR student. Our STAR session was adjusted to include a talk about suicide and the resources available to the students. We were focusing on how to deal with feelings and emotions, and it opened a discussion about pain and hardships the students had gone through. Some students went to talk privately and others openly shared, bouncing off one another and maintaining a supportive space. At the end one student thanked us for allowing time for the discussion and we offered them an early release. Instead, most of the students stayed back to make buttons and bond, while Snap Chatting of course. For most of them it seemed like a release and a chance to share, but for me and my coworkers it was a bit stressful.
Our director had my coworkers and I debrief with each other and asked us how we would all let go after work and practice self-care. We ate some chocolate and laughed and headed home. I had plans to thank one of my friends for their constant support, but when I got home it was hard to let go of what I had heard and my own pain that I remembered after hearing the students’. I ended up calling my friend, and my sister, and leaving another friend a message. The support didn’t make the pain go away, but it did provide moments of release.
When I returned to the students, I saw them with new eyes. These were some resilient little warriors in front of me and I was proud to be working with them. From the outside you could never tell; a reminder I needed.
The curveballs keep coming, but I’m more comfortable to just be “swimming in it” now.