By Zisa Aziza, Peer Specialist
There are certain truths that we can only discover for ourselves. Since writing my article in the Fall 2019 edition of City Voices, much has been elucidated. Between August and November of 2019, I had met my aspirations and still felt unsatisfied. As I had intended, I applied to Yeshiva University for their Wurzweiler School of Social Work Program. I applied on August 20th, the deadline, and by the 22nd, I had a student identification number. At work, I desired the role of Case Manager, which at the time exclusively required an MSW or Master’s degree. Due to the bail reform and expansions within the Supervised Release Program for pretrial services with justice-involved individuals, bachelor’s level case management was available. I didn’t immediately apply because it was adult-specific and I had a desire to work with young adults, ages 16-24. I was encouraged to apply for the position by my colleagues. It took about two weeks to receive the job offer, with a salary in the mid-50s. I was convinced that I was on my path—The Path—to the perceived greatness I wished to embody.
During my short time at Yeshiva University, an excellent institution, I was introduced to tremendous knowledge and a plethora of theories on human behavior. As a Jew, I was elated to attend Yeshiva, enthusiastic, and enthralled with the newness of it all. I held my professors in high esteem and was very respectful and appreciative of my classmates. I submitted some online assignments and wrote two papers, one a midterm, before withdrawing on November 8th, 2019. Although the papers received A’s, I found the process of learning about trauma and healing in an academic institution to be inexplicably triggering and retraumatizing. There was this approach of objective distancing that felt disconnected from the very statistics on the trauma that we studied. I took three classes at Yeshiva. In two of those classes, the professors distributed the Adverse Childhood Experience survey. I have a score of 9. The highest is 10. Of the questions in the survey, domestic violence between my caregivers was never witnessed, but intimate partner violence was very present.
I began to feel too wounded to facilitate the healing of others. Although I had withdrawn from Yeshiva University, I was promoted to Adolescent Case Manager as of November 18th, 2019, ten days after withdrawing from graduate school. I felt confident that if I focused on work and remained committed to my mental health treatment process, along with self-care practices, that I could maintain my work/life balance. This was upheaved when I performed an intake for two young men who were both charged with crimes of sexual violence against young girls. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who is currently naming and owning experiences of abuse that were normalized, I simply could not hold my seat at the table. After much deliberation, I applied for the Family Medical Leave Act and Short-term Disability as of January 6th, 2020. I write these words in late February, from a ranch in New Mexico, completely uncertain of my future.
Even so, I deeply believe that wounded healers can be exceptional in their ability to encourage and support the personal transformation of their peers. My pride instructed me that I required an MSW and a higher salary to execute such an intention. Humility is a wise teacher. It is not a matter of what you do, but why and how you do it. The creative impact is my intention. I thoroughly enjoy listening and processing and empowering people. My definitive dream is to live off the land, with a farm, in an adobe home, in a sustainable manner, and with the community. Whatever path that is aligned with my values and ethics that can actualize said dream, shall be explored. I intend on being content and graceful. I have faith in the process. This is my journey.
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Flash forward to Corona times, Rosh Hashanah is upon us. Between February and September, my life has been full of abundance. I was in London to experience an art exhibit by Genesis Tramaine at the Almine Rech Gallery when the travel restrictions were declared. I recall being seated at a dinner reception after the opening of the art exhibit with Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, who after scrolling through my Instagram post suggested I explore the medium of music. The flight from London to Norway, and finally, back to New York was surreal. I returned to my employer at the end of March. I have been working remotely since that time. I currently have about 30 clients on my caseload and find it very manageable. I have also immersed myself into a community with JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice) and Ammud: Jews of Color Torah Academy. I am currently enrolled in the Certification in Jewish Ethics and Social Justice at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Additionally, through a membership funded by my employer with SWEET (Supporting Wellbeing through Empowerment, Education, and Training), I am enrolled in two certificate programs: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Psychotherapy.
Every day I challenge myself to surrender to the present. To do my best and to be most forgiving when I do not meet my own expectations. I have chosen to love myself as though I were my own child and my own mother; the abundance in such a task is life-giving. HaShem loves me, Spirit loves me, and I love me. How could I ever be lost? My path is of my own divining.
Editor: Zisa is an author and artist who writes poetry, prose, essays, and also does photography and strives to create documentaries. Her websites document her journey of self-love and striving for transcendence. She offers this as an open-copyright creator because she deeply yearns for community. For more of Zisa’s creative works visit: truths89.com or zisaaziza.com