It was hard to tell which was worse.  The smoggy exhaust belching out of overheated transports lurching and squealing in through the open window, drowning out maximum volume on my little Kia stereo, but releasing the acrid smoke of my ubiquitous cigarette or closing the window and turning on the cool a/c, rocking out to the music and not smoking…guess which one I chose?

It didn’t matter though, my mind wasn’t on the barely crawling traffic, it was flying through flashes of the day.   The faces of my clients, the moments in the family court waiting area, the understanding colleague, the pressure in my chest pulling into the parking garage, the feeling of dread as I swipe my security tag and pull open the door…

When my mom was particularly pissed off with me as a child, she had many threats, but one in particular continues to ring in my ears.  ”Do you want me to call CAS to come and get you?”  No, I did not want CAS to come and get me!  I would cry, beg and plead, “No, please don’t call, I’m sorry, I’ll be better, please don’t make them take me away”.

I didn’t know then that my mother had briefly spent time in foster care and recalled it as frightening, demeaning, and horrific.  I hadn’t learned those details, but somehow, she had clearly transmitted her fears and I was left knowing this was most certainly not something I wanted to have happen to me!  These moments, seared into my memory, came with an extra dose of self-induced shame for giving into the (probably) groundless threat and showing my fear, reacting, losing…

CAS…I remember so clearly the look of reproach I received from the Social Policy class professor after I stated, most emphatically, my response to another student, who expressed their desire to work at CAS because they felt it would be an easy job for the money.  I was full of distain and moral superiority.  I would most certainly be using my education for something much more important.  One of the many moments I can now see in the rearview mirror where I unknowingly predicted what my future self would be doing by saying what I wouldn’t…talk about a lesson in the law of attraction!  I’ve had a few big ones of those…I’m sure I will get to a couple of them before the telling of this tale is through.

Fast forward a few months of reality slapping me in the face, driving home the lesson I fought so hard to see, it is not what you know, but who you know.  At least, that was the case for many a social worker with a fresh new MSW in Toronto in the early 2000’s.   My back on, but not long before off again, girlfriend, convinced me to apply at CAS, 4 months after putting out resume after resume and not getting one interview, not one.  Of course, I was offered a position.  Of course, I did not want one.  Of course, I accepted a position, but not even the one I wanted when I applied, as they stated I was not qualified enough for that one.

So, there I was, a freshly minted MSW and working at CAS, the entity I had avoided my entire life, waging an internal battle for 12 long years, becoming one of the faces of the places I feared most. I’m sure, dear reader, you can predict how well that worked out for me…taking a position that felt like a life concession from the very first moment to the bitter end…