My work, no surprise, gets me down sometimes, although not because of the other staff anymore, which has to be counted as a blessing. We are a good team; friendly, but not in each others’ pockets. We’re pleasant, intelligent people who all have lives outside of the office. It’s pretty awesome. No one ever asks me anymore, “Do you think I’m STUPID?!?” That’s an awful question, because really there’s only two answers. If it’s yes, you’re in trouble. If it’s no, you’re lying. I usually chose not to answer at all, which was taken as a tacit “yes”, but really couldn’t be used against me.
When I worked for lawyers in private practice, sometimes people were happy. Sometimes people were buying their first home. Sometimes they were making wills because they were expecting children. Sometimes they were getting settlement proceeds from accidents or inheritances.
None of my clients now are happy. They either have been accused of crimes, have problems with the mental health system, or have terrible family problems that they can’t resolve without a lawyer. Sometimes they have overlapping problems. They’re frightened, they’re threatened, they’re defensive. They smell like fear and depression. They’re afraid of losing their children, or their liberty. They cannot be joked with. There is no relieving levity, just relentless heaviness, day after day.
There’s me, sitting in my office at court, counting the number of times I hear the “f” word out in the hall. No wonder I say it so much. There’s me, reviewing the inmates’ requests to be seen, mostly badly spelled, and sometimes completely unintelligible. There’s me, respecting an inmate’s request that his papers not be sent to the institution so the others don’t see that he’s been charged with sexual offences against children. There’s me, reviewing a court application brought by Childrens’ Aid for Crown Wardship. There’s me, interviewing a young person who’s in trouble with the courts because nobody cares about her. There’s me, trying to explain why I can’t help them.
And here’s me, at home, still chewing it over after 13 years. I still haven’t learned to leave it all behind. I hope I never do, because it would mean I’ve stopped caring. I care, but caring weighs such a lot, sometimes it wears me out. I’m tired of poverty and illiteracy. I’m tired of a system that would rather put people behind bars than into treatment programs. I’m tired of uniforms and suits and protocols. I’m tired of policies and procedures.
So, I think I’ll go be a crack whore for a while and see how it looks from that side. I’ve got lots of contacts, I’ve been networking for years. Maybe I can change the system from within. I’m sure as hell not making a dent from over here.