“…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~Henry David Thoreau
Confidence. It’s an essential trait when working in the nonprofit world. We beg for money, we rally supporters, we organize the masses–all to support something we see being for the greater good. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s easy to access that confidence when I’m wearing my prevention hat**, but sometimes it’s harder to carry that confidence in my personal life.
It seems kind of silly when I think about it. I can stand in front of 2 or 200 people and speak, without even having to picture them in their underwear. I’ve shook hands with businessmen, legislators, and even a governor or two. It seems that one would have to possess a certain level of confidence for that. Yet whenever those events occurred, it was in the name of something greater than myself. Would I be able to speak those words or shake those hands if the reason were just for me?
This past week, I talked to a colleague about taking on a role that *I* could see him stepping into naturally. If someone were to list the qualifications for this venture and then list his personal attributes beside it, the lists would align almost perfectly. However, if appearances were correct (and he wasn’t just trying to be nice and let me talk), he seemed reluctant to even consider this endeavor–for a number of reasons that genuinely made sense in his mind. It was one of those moments that all I could think of was, “If you could see yourself the way everyone else sees you, then you would know that you could do this.”
Prevention is a “sink or swim” environment. I don’t think I know one single person who went to college to become a substance abuse preventionist. Most of us jumped into the water not knowing how deep it was, and we either learned to swim or we crawled onto a lifeboat and headed to shore for a new profession. But should we stay there treading water or should we find a dock and keep jumping in?
My point is that we constantly ask our coalitions and our community members to take chances and to approach tasks which may seem insurmountable to them. Why don’t we present ourselves with those same level of challenges? Maybe it’s opening that Twitter account to take on the world of social media. Maybe it’s stepping up to a leadership role that seems totally unnatural since we’re so used to keeping things rolling behind the scenes. Maybe it’s showing our long-standing coalition a new technique learned at a training–one that seems exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
Prevention is one of the most rapidly-changing fields in mental health–just ask anyone who’s been doing this for 20 years. We accept the changes (though sometimes begrudgingly) that we’re presented with year to year, grant to grant, conference to conference, and we make it work. We learn new curriculum, advocate for proven policies, work with diverse populations–and we do it because we are confident in our message and confident in our shared goals. Why would we not be as confident in our own skin? I urge anyone who happens to read this to channel that confidence you exude every day while wearing your prevention hats**. Take on a challenge not knowing if you’ll fail or succeed, because honestly, can it really be a failure if you learn something new?
P.S. For the record, this blog is my own “jumping back into the water again.” My writing skills are beyond rusty, and I second guess every idea out of my head. But I take solace in knowing that only 2-3 people who probably already like me read this–so what is there to lose? 😉
**My prevention hat would similar to a cowboy hat, but with brighter colors. And it would probably shoot glitter.
This blog will be about how I’m writing this blog. One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered in the past with keeping up with a blog is finding time to write. In the evenings, my best ideas are but distant memories, or at most, a scribbled phrase on a notepad I keep in my purse. I can’t use my work computer for personal use (with good reason), so even if I could blog during my lunch hour, I have no means… Or do I? Enter the WordPress app! I’m currently typing this entry with my thumbs via an iPhone 3GS, because I’m old school like that (i.e. “cheap”). Autocorrect seems to be taking care of many spelling and typo issues, and it even aids in typing some words faster. Granted, not as fast as my fingers work, but not bad! What this really means is there’s really no excuse for me to not be writing in my free time. So long, excuses–Hello, technology!
And as an added bonus, I’ve even uploaded a test picture from my weekend getaway stop in Roslyn, WA. Enjoy, Northern Exposure fans!
What’s a Prevention Geek, you ask?
Well, it’s not me. Not yet anyway…
Currently, I work for the Washington Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery as a member of the prevention training team. The goal of our project is to record a series of trainings (both in-person and webinar-based) for prevention professionals so that they can be added to the state’s professional development website, The Athena Forum. Though I love my work and give it my all, many days I feel greatly under-qualified for my job. I have approximately three years in the field as a prevention specialist, but the training and technology side of things is entirely new to me. The Oklahoma girl in me would compare the experience to being a barrel racer who suddenly finds herself on the back of a bull trying to hold on for 8 seconds.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in four full-day trainings with CADCA trainer (and self-proclaimed Coalition Dork), Rhonda Ramsey Molina. Our technology consultant, LaDonna Coy, traveled to Washington to assist with the recording, uploading, editing, and ultimately the publishing of these trainings. LaDonna is the latest in my series of professional mentors (though said mentors may not realize their role in my mind!), and an all-around shining star in the field of prevention. She’s the kind of person I could sit and talk to for hours if we ever had the time and the means. Some of it is probably due to our shared sooner state roots, but so much of it is about my fascination with her view on not just the history, but the FUTURE of prevention.
At the end of our final day of training while discussing the various means of technology that we had used over the course of the week, Rhonda casually said to LaDonna, “You’ve been a prevention geek as long as I’ve known you–even before anyone else used computers.” Prevention Geek. I liked that. Later on, I tweeted to LaDonna: “This week I learned the difference between coalition dork & prevention geek. I’m aiming 4geek because they have cooler gadgets.” And there, the seed for this blog was planted.
I once heard Dr. Paul Evensen say that coalitions need to be able to tell their stories to secure funding. In turn, I think that preventionists need to be able to tell their stories not only so we can see the evolution of our profession, but also so we can mindfully plan its future. This is the prologue to my story–a wannabe prevention geek who has no idea where I’m headed or how I’ll get there. Let’s see where this story goes!
Opinions expressed on this blog are not a reflection of my employer. These are my own ramblings from my own brain on my own time. 🙂