Sunday, June 11, 2006


"So are you happy that you left school?" I hadn't seen my ex-classmate in a few months. In fact, the last time I saw Laura was my final day at the Ehrenkranz School of Social Work. And back then, I told her I would see her the following week, but that wasn't the case. I didn't see her that week, or the week after, or even the week after that. It would have been months before she could ask me what happened.

"Yeah, I think it was the best move I've ever made." And in truth, it was. In my life, I have made many good decisions and I have made many more bad decisions. This was a case of the latter. "Are you happy you stayed?"

"Um, yeah, I guess," she said unconvincingly. "It feels really good to help people but it feels pretty scary wondering where this will lead me. And the school, well, it's kinda a joke."

"A very expensive joke." I understood Laura. That was one of the reasons why I left NYU. When all is said and done, what's the point of paying nearly one hundred thousand dollars to help people? Couldn't you simply help without investing all of that money into a purported education? There is more to be gained by volunteering.

Looking back on my limited time there, I have never been as disappointed in an institution like I was at NYU. And the saddest part to consider is that the school with most likely never change. NYU's Ehrenkranz School of Social Work is not a priority to the real-estate empire that is NYU.

"How often do you hear about a Social Worker endowing a large sum of money to an institution?" said a recent Ehrenkranz graduate. "Would you invest a lot of time into someone who doesn't have the opportunity to return the favor in the future?

"Technically, we're an image boost," the graduate continued. "They say, We've got a reputable law school, a great business school, an impressive real estate degree, and even our film school churns out some impressive auteurs. But wait, we also do some good in the world. We have a social work program."


There are often times that I feel guilty for leaving. If I could go back in time, I would now know better than to apply but the reality is that I did apply and I did go to school and I did meet with clients. I met with them on a weekly basis, formed a professional bond, worried about them, and then one day, without so much as a warning, I disappeared on them.

But the administration claims that that's the preferred method. Your relationship with the troubled individuals that you meet through your social work internship is strictly of a professional nature. You're not supposed to call them at home or contact them outside the contexts of the internship. But alternatively, once you leave the school, you don't have to follow the suggested guidelines. I consider this and then I feel guilty.

I imagine that one day I will run into one of my former clients and he will ask me why he never heard from me again.
"To be honest," I imagine saying, "you represented the school and I was resentful of the school. I was so disappointed that I had no choice but to delete it from my life."
That's not fair to me.
"I know. I know it's not. And I also know that your family hurt you in the past...I am just another person that's hurt you."
Yes. Despite the fact that I don't register emotions in the same capacity that most people do...these things compound.
"I want you to know, though, that I think about you. I wonder how you are. I really wanted to help you and I felt frustrated that I couldn't."
So instead, you left me.

And this is when I think about picking up the phone and reconnecting. But I also wonder if my good intentions would make matters worse...maybe he's since moved on and found support in another? Maybe re-applying myself into his life, even on a minor level, would confuse him.

I always had a hard time referring to the clients as "clients" because I felt it created an impenetrable distance, a tangible detachment. For me, though, not for them. Now, six months later, in retrospect, the only regret I have is abandoning these people. I'm okay with leaving school. I embrace my status as a quitter, but I will always wonder what happened to those few clients I had. The ones who felt deep-rooted scarring from the emotional abuse and consistent abandonment. And while it's comforting to know that I can't simply turn my sympathies off, I am also doing very little about it.

And when this paralysis frustrates me, I find temporary comfort in remembering why I left school in the first place. While there's a great eventual reward in the helping of others, you have to wonder if it outweighs the financial burden. I, for one, will never find that out. Although, years from now, I could always ask the graduates of NYU.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so let me get this want to be the guy driving the truck and not the one running meals on wheels?

10:48 PM  
Blogger Arye said...

i'm not sure what you mean, anonymous. i'd actually like to be the guy sitting at home watching TV.

11:58 PM  

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