Authenticity is the art of being who you are in any situation. When Anna Frymire tried a different route she got a lesson in being real from the very people she was trying to help.
There’s nothing I dread like I dread moving. And if there’s one thing I do year in and year out, it’s move. As a military spouse who relocates often, one of my greatest challenges is reinventing myself every few years. Each state has its own personality and life’s easier when I click with the local personality.
Shortly after moving to Vacaville, I started my job as a case manager at the nearby juvenile detention facility. As I met with each client, there was anger, resentment, and pain in their eyes. It was startling and difficult to respond to. After my first week, I decided that a smiley case manager was not what these youth needed. I would reinvent myself.
Each day, I worked my hardest to be edgier, braver, fiercer. When I tried to be edgy and made a reference to gangster life, the youth said I was “doing too much.” When I tried to be brave and relate to the street life I haven’t lived, the youth stopped talking. When I tried to be fierce and reprimanded destructive behavior, they walked away.
After several months of failures, I finally decided to stop trying. Suddenly, the relationships changed. The youth began to talk with me, laugh with me, and trust me. Withing a year me and my over-sized cardigans became an integral part of that juvenile hall community.
For a long time, I wondered how exactly it happened. Then, on a particularly dreary Tuesday, one of my juvenile clients stopped by my office and just stood there. When I asked how I could help him, he casually responded, “Oh, I don’t need anything. I just like being with you.” Then he gave me a fist pump and walked away. That’s when it hit me: I never actually reinvented myself. I was just lucky enough to work with youth who don’t tolerate fake people.
When the time comes to leave California, I won’t be ready to say goodbye. I won’t be ready to live in a new place or apply for a new job. But most of all, I won’t be ready to reinvent myself again. In fact, I might just skip the reinventing all together.
With a Perspective, I’m Anna Frymire.
Anna Frymire recently completed work as a case worker at the Solano County Detention Facility and will soon be moving to Canada with her Air Force husband and pet rabbit.