7:30(ish) – I wake up and do yoga, to attempt to start the day right. But really, my mind starts to worry about the things I have to do (or haven’t done yet) and I feel anxious that I won’t be able to finish everything in one day. I guess my morning yoga is just my excuse to buy time before I deep dive into work. I take a shower and get ready for work.
9/9:30am – I start checking and replying to emails. Is it just me or do people seem to be sending endless emails and copying me in every correspondence unnecessarily? Anxiety creeps in as I try to get to zero unread (and unreplied) emails. There seems to be an expectation that we all just respond and do everything on the same day since we’re working from home.
Sometimes, the meetings have already started at 9.00am. Why people choose to schedule an online meeting first thing in the morning is beyond me. Still, I show up (and continue to multi-task as I also read my emails).
Mid-day – I look for services and opportunities for young people. They want jobs, but not just any job; they want meaningful work that enable them to contribute to community. It is tough, because these opportunities almost don’t exist unless you’ve had several years of experience and a university degree (or more!) and job ads are almost always discouraging especially if you’re a young person with no experience, or a young person with a foreign name or disclosable court outcomes. But the young people also already know that, so they also tell me that their realistic expectation is to find work in any job – retail, hospitality, construction, anywhere they can potentially get hired so they can support themselves and their families.
Lots of people lost jobs during the pandemic. But for the people I work with, finding a job has always been a challenge, even before COVID-19. The problems we think we have because of the pandemic are problems these young people have always had to deal with most of their lives. They can’t get ahead because they can’t get any opportunities.
In my work, we hustle. Because you’re not only a caseworker, you’re also the networker trying to find employers who will hire your young people. You’re also somehow a fundraiser looking for grants to make sure your program will continue. You’re also a community engagement person connecting with different organisations and communities trying to gain trust and establish your program. You’re also an advocate working tirelessly to convince not only external stakeholders but also your own organisation that we need to be authentic in our engagement with young people and listen to communities, not “correct” them.
Somewhere past 1pm – I have lunch and get more bad news from my home country. If people think Victoria’s a bad place to be in during the pandemic, they really have no idea what else is happening around the globe. I already feel exhausted and find it hard to focus, but I push on. (Also, that feeling of guilt starts to linger – I’m in such a privileged position to be here in Melbourne and I also have a responsibility to the people I support. I can’t just look after myself and my mental health!)
By 2 or 3pm – I start to do my calls and check in with young people. It’s not always easy and I’m lucky if they pick up. Some days are better than others and they’re keen to engage and talk to me. Sometimes they even reach out to me on their own. But most days I struggle because they too get frustrated. They get frustrated with a system that continues to fail them and won’t give them a chance.
Today a young woman tells me she was fined by the police last night for being at McDonalds past curfew. The fine is over $2,500 and she can’t pay it. She’s just got a job and hasn’t saved enough money yet for that kind of fine. I explain to her that we should request for a review and because she’s under 18, she’s not even meant to get fined more than $500 in the first place. She says she’s been targeted because of her race and that this isn’t something new. I agree, because it’s something that happens all the time, sadly. And it happens even when there’s no pandemic or any restrictions.
4/5pm – I’m either on a call or I’m writing case notes, which also take time because I need to document everything. I also write all the things I still need to do, which is almost always a longer list than when the day started. I’m exhausted as I end the day, feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything. Sometimes I attempt to reflect and unlearn that internalised capitalism and tell myself I’m not a machine meant to produce outputs at the end of each day, that the process is just as important (if not more critical) than the outcome. But most days I’m too exhausted I just want to watch trash tv and binge eat.
This No Compass edition is supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria, as a part of the 2022 Ahead of the Curve Commissions.