When I reflect on my career I find myself being drawn to my very first work experience with a youth and how it made me feel. I remember my heart beating faster than ever, an empty, knotted feeling in my stomach; how my throat was dry and hoarse, and how my hands trembled, my palms sweaty. I was very nervous and a little scared, doubting my abilities as a child and youth care worker. What I didnít realize at that moment was how powerful and unique this field was and how it would alter a piece of myself forever.
That first encounter was with a fourteen-year-old male. I was to work with him for most of the summer months, but I will always remember one particular learning experience when going on a fishing outing with him. To go fishing was something that he had never experienced. I remember how excited he seemed and how I personally felt to have this opportunity. I was anxious, excited, and curious about the experience as we drove to the lake that day. However, nothing could have prepared me for the powerful learning that occurred during this activity.
We arrived at our destination and found two rocks near the shoreline on which to sit and fish. He began to laugh, ďHow do you put this bait on anyways?Ē he asked. ďI donít want to touch it, itís gross!Ē
I joined in his nervous laughter and proceeded to show him how to bait a hook. The feeling that I had when teaching him this was remarkable and sent an unexpected feeling of sadness throughout my body. It took me a while to understand why this feeling arose and where it came from. It took me back to an experience within my own childhood with my father.
Throughout my childhood and adolescent years I was always involved in various sport groups, clubs and committees. However, in all those years, I cannot recall my father ever taking an interest or being present at a school concert or play, a basketball game, or even my school graduations. Because of this, I felt worthless and not important in my fatherís eyes. I always found myself yearning for his love and acceptance. I felt lost when it came to the relationship that I had with him; we never really made a meaningful connection. The only fond memories I have of my father and me engaging in some activity together was when he would take me fishing. I remember how excited I was when he would take me out and the feeling of closeness that I had with him when he would teach me how to fish.
When this young boy and I were fishing, a huge learning experience and self-awareness occurred within me. As we continued to fish and engaged in conversation we began to connect more than ever before. As I experienced this youth from within myself, I felt a sense of comfort and a clearer picture of my purpose and intention as a child and youth care worker, and of how simple experiences can be so significant.
We didnít catch any fish that day, but I believe that the whole purpose of us going fishing was fulfilled in this hidden agenda that neither of us knew.