I don’t know what you all believe as far as a Higher Power, faith or spirituality goes, and sometimes I am not even sure what I believe. Growing up in a Catholic family and having the opportunity in my adult life to experience many Christian religions as well as Buddhism and a smattering of other Eastern religions, I have heard many times something to the effect of, “Ask and you shall receive” and “The Universe provides what you need.” This is not a concept that I have always believed or that I have always really understood. And time and time again I have been shown its meaning through the occurrences in my life and come to believe its truth.

A few weeks ago I told you about an experience that I had that really rocked me – when I was told that my hard edges were keeping me from progressing further in my career (March 9th blog entry) and I also told you that it was a challenge that I am willing to take on. Since that original conversation I have reached out to three other colleagues for their feedback and thoughts, read two books about leadership – one about women in leadership and one about Gandhi as a leader, reached out to my mentor who has known me since I was 10 (December 29th blog entry), talked to my mom, and invited my “work crush” for coffee (February 9th blog entry). And as I took action, the Universe answered and provided me exactly what I need.

Through this journey I have learned some things and gotten some amazing advice that I would like to share with all of you because I think that if it can benefit me it can probably benefit others.

“Be patient. If your heart is happy, stay with it. Stay the course and roll with the waves. “

“You are a passionate person who feels emotions deeply. You don’t have to lose that. You do have to figure out how to express them more intentionally. You want those you lead to know what to expect and who is showing up to work every day.”

“Be a good steward. Truly be a servant leader and let the rest happen organically.”

“Live your values and to do so you must first know what your values are.”

“Remember the goals and mission of your work. Stay laser focused on that because it is what matters. Don’t let the rest distract you.”

Holding onto these words and really embracing them has allowed me to breathe. It has allowed me to simply exhale and to remember that as long as I continue to truly follow my heart, I will get to all the places I am supposed to be.

It has also become clear that all the opportunities that I require to grow will come into my life as long as I am open to them – coffee with my work crush will happen this coming week and she has all but said that she would become my professional mentor. And, I am in the beginning stages of planning to attend a mission trip in the fall that could prove to be life changing.

So, wherever you stand on the religious or spiritual spectrum, believe in the world’s ability to give you what you need and perhaps it will come.


From time to time when doing this work, I wonder why, and whether what we do is truly making a difference. I think about the young people to whom we provide services and the lifetime of trauma that they have encountered before they walked through our doors. I think about the survival skills they have developed, the maladaptive behaviors, and the mental health symptoms that have evolved as a result of attempting to function in a world that has never felt safe for them. I think about all these things and wonder if any of it can be reversed or changed. I think about these things and my heart truly becomes heavy. I worry that we are living in a broken world that cannot be fixed and it feels so hopeless. 

And then the youth themselves remind me of the truth. A youth walks into my office door and sits down just to tell me about her new job. Another youth opens the door for me as I enter the building with my hands full, and another asks me if I feel better after having a cold for too many days. It is in these moments that I see the truth. And as I observe all the interactions my staff have with young people and listen as staff tell stories of their clients, I see the truth. 

The truth is that there is one thing that has the ability to change someone’s life and to heal their hearts – relationship. Young people who have been hurt by abuse, neglect, poverty, homelessness, chaos, and dysfunction, heal within relationships with people who are respectful, positive, consistent, and trustworthy.

We may not always have the answers. We may not always know how to fix everything. But every time we show up with a heart that is willing and the ability to allow another individual to feel as though they are cared about, valued, have worth, and matter, we provide the avenue for healing. So to take a lesson from Sheryl Sandberg and Nell Scovell when you question the work, wonder whether you are making a difference, and feel hopeless, the best remedy is to “lean in.” It is at those moments when you re-invest yourself into the individuals you serve, and into the relationships that have been built, that true healing occurs -- and not always just the healing of our clients.


I started this blog with the intention of talking about things that are real and honest and that we all experience and can relate too. Sometimes, that means truly being vulnerable with my heart. This is one of those times.

I had an experience recently that pretty much dropped me to my knees. My professional life has always been a place where I have felt confident and secure. I knew from a very young age that I would work in some aspect of human services and as early as high school thought that it would be with youth who experienced disconnection. Since graduating from undergrad nearly 16 years ago, that has been the case, and every couple of years I have had the opportunity to take on more responsibility and grow in my career. 

Recently, when talking about my professional development goals and what my career might look like in the future, someone who knows my professional self pretty well told me that others sometimes see me as abrasive, hard, and unapproachable. In talking about this further, I began to understand that what she really meant is that when I feel passionate and adamant about something, I often come across as much more hard and having more sharp edges than I intend to. As the conversation continued, I came to realize that my career will remain where it is until I learn to soften my sharp edges. I have advanced as far as I can without honing in my abrasiveness. 

This realization was shocking to me, not because it didn’t ring true, but because I always considered myself to be passionate and fiery and hadn’t really come to understand how others viewed me. I didn’t know how it was coming across in my professional identity. 

My instant reaction and thoughts were to get angry about the system and the double standard. If I was a man would anyone ever say that I was abrasive or hard? Am I expected to be softer, kinder, and less fiery because I am a woman and I am not supposed to have quite that much passion? Even in the human services field, a field that is predominantly filled with women, those in charge are still mostly men. Am I being asked to be less than myself in order to fulfill someone else’s expectations of what it means to be a woman in leadership?

And then, I spent some time in silence exploring my own heart and my own thoughts for the next 24 hours. The truth became clear. When others view me as hard, abrasive, and having sharp edges, I am experiencing insecurity, defensiveness, and fear on the inside. It is not always about passion; it is about self-protection.

So now the work begins. There is no easy answer and no easy path, but I have never been someone who shies away from a good challenge.

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About the Author...

EKleftside-street Webfade

I’m Erin, and I’ve used my 15+ years of human services experience working to understand youth who are on the fringes as an attempt to create services that have the potential to change their life trajectory. I get out of bed each morning with a renewed sense of purpose, and I go off to work to play my part. I believe that if we each do our small part, that collectively we have the potential to change the big picture.

To me, this is more than a job; it’s a journey, a mission, a calling, and an honor.

I don’t believe that I have all the answers, but with some regular meditation, a solid support network, and a commitment to this work--no matter how hard it gets, I believe that much can be accomplished.

I invite you along on this journey. Share what you have learned, what keeps you going, and what makes you crazy. None of us are in this world alone and I am grateful that we can walk beside each other even if only for a few moments.

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