March 28, 2022

Not Bigger or Better 

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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One of the biggest challenges of working as a caregiver is the idea that it’s a stepping stone job. 

It’s a job that at until we get another offer. A better offer. 

That employees work at in a transitionary time in their life until they figure out what is next. 

That is a short-term source of income. Or that it’s a job that we work at until we find something more long-term.  

A job that people don’t want to do forever. It’s a job and not a career. 

And this makes me feel so, so, so guilty. Because I know this isn’t true but I have also made a plan to move on.

A few weeks ago, I was accepted into a Master’s program that I was hoping I’d be accepted into. I was overjoyed and called my parents crying because I was so excited and happy. I’d been holding my breath for 48 days waiting for this very email. I think most of my joy came from my relief. Relief that I could finally release the tension from my shoulders and start to plan my next steps. The relief that I could finally picture what my life was going to look like next fall, which up until this point has been a huge question mark. 

Each summer except for one I left my job at the group home to work different jobs. Firstly, because I needed full-time hours and secondly because I knew I needed a resume filled with diverse experiences to progress in my career. And now, I’ve made a concrete plan to move on from the group home again in the fall. Which makes me just as sad as it does happy. 

I have popped in and out of group home life over the past (almost), four years and my work family has been nothing short of completely excited and supportive of me. But each time I’ve left there has been a guarantee I’d be back. This time I’m not so sure. Of course, all of these people will be a part of my life forever and ever but I may not ever be as intensely involved as I am right now. And. That. Scares. Me. So. Much. 

I won’t always be there to drink tea at the end of the day with them. 

I will miss out on some excited and drooly ‘I’m really happy right now’ hugs from residents. 

Songs before bed, good morning stretches, slow walks through the neighbourhood, movie nights, karaoke performances, painting each other’s nails, laying on the floor together. 

No matter how tired I am these small moments re-energize me and remind me that this is where I’m meant to be and these are the moments that I will miss when I move away in the fall. 

What makes me the saddest to move on is that so many people have moved on from the group home and the residents have stayed the same. That they have had to say goodbye to a lot of people in their lifetime. 

I was expressing this sadness to one of my closest coworkers the other day about how this is going to be a very sad goodbye for me and how I am nowhere close to being ready. To which he responded “Liza, nobody here cares if you have a Master’s degree. We all just love you because you’re you, Master’s degree or not.”

Now, this wasn’t a ploy to get me to give up on my Master’s degree but rather just a reminder that moving up the ladder doesn’t always be the goal. There is beauty in not moving on and there is comfort in staying in the same place because you love it. 

This is the same coworker that has dedicated his life to this group home and has created the most beautiful relationships with the residents that I cannot even begin to describe. He expressed to me how hurtful he finds it when people ask group home staff what their plan is after the group home. Why does there need to be a plan post group home life? Why can’t we accept this job as a forever-type-of-thing? Imagine being a resident and constantly hearing people talk about their plans to move on from your life and care. That’s unfair. 

My guilt stems from the fact that I agree with everything he said to me yet I am still moving on. Even though I know there would be so much love and happiness in my life if I were to stay put. As much as I understand that moving up the ladder is not always the goal and that working at the group home forever would give me a perfectly respectable and happy life and career – I know that there is more out there for me to know and experience. No matter how sad it makes me to leave.

How do I keep building the life I dream of without leaving others behind? 

I do dream of a life where I can create positive change in the world for people with disabilities. And so the reality is that I need to have diverse experiences to gain a fuller understanding of the disability community and I do need an impressive resume to keep getting hired and chosen for such opportunities.

I think I just have to trust that when the fall rolls around I will have dedicated enough time, energy, support and love to the group home so my time there has been worth it for everyone. This guilt I feel about moving on is something that I think I just have to feel and there’s not much I can do about it. I also think that while it feels uncomfortable and sad, it’s also a good thing. This feeling shows what an impact the group home has had on my life.

I am excited about my next step but if you take away anything from this blog I hope it’s that I’m not moving on to bigger and better things.

The group home has been one of the biggest and best things in my life. Getting to know these individuals has been one of the greatest honours of my lifetime.

I am just moving on to something different and I’m feeling all the feelings that come with this change, even though it’s still months away. 

Read More of Liza’s Posts Here

Liza McClelland

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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