Write Your Dreams Down, And Don’t Crumple The Paper

When sharing with people about my journey into Social Work, my pathway into using intergroup dialogue as a means to work toward social justice, as well as becoming an educator, I often talk about how crucial the courses I took as an undergraduate student were to my development.

The subjects we talked about helped to move me from being a quiet student who would often sit silently in a back corner in class, to an active and vocal participant whose voice became increasingly more sure and confident with each passing day.

One such course was SW 318: Foundations for Multicultural Social Work Practice. Because we talked about a variety of topics relevant to social justice, this class became my absolute favorite.

That class and others helped me to find my voice, largely because they helped to give me an increased understanding of the oppression I had experienced in life prior to that point, as well as new vocabulary and ways to express and articulate my feelings and thoughts on challenges that I was intimately aware of, but did not always know how to talk about. They also helped me to learn ways to support other groups of people who were oppressed in ways I was not.

Ultimately, my experiences in that program helped me to move from anger to action.

A while ago I received word that a former classmate of mine was starting to pursue her masters in Social Work. When I heard the news I had to congratulate her. In her new journey, I plan to be supportive of her as she was of me years ago.

One day, our professor led us in a visioning activity where we wrote about things we were passionate about, and work that we’d like to be doing in the short-term, as well as 10 years into the future on a piece of paper. It was a silent activity that we completed individually to for a few minutes, and later on we had the opportunity to share what we wrote down to the larger group.

I had really begun to enjoy the conversations and learning that was taking place within me, and between my classmates and I wanted to find a way to keep that going. One of the ways I imagined being able to do that was to become a professor, so although I wasn’t sure about a path to get there at that point, I wrote it down as of the long-term things I’d like to do at some point.

It felt good to put it down on paper, and even to talk about it, but when class ended I crumpled up my paper, and tossed it in the trash bin. I can still remember what happened next. My classmate went behind me, picked up my paper, opened it up, and put it back in my hand.

She was so angry with me. She told me that these were our hopes and dreams, and that she couldn’t let me just throw my paper away like that. In a friendly, yet serious way, she even warned me to never do something like that again.

Although I was somewhat embarrassed, I appreciated the message she shared with me. At the time I thought I was just throwing away a piece of paper. However, it was more than activity, it was an opportunity for purposeful reflection and goal setting. In retrospect I can definitely say that I had my doubts, so when I remember that moment now, I’m glad that she stepped in to interrupt it.

Years later I would return to the university to teach my favorite class, and be honored by my students for my teaching style.

Your dreams matter. Whatever it is that you want to do, even if you don’t have it all figured out just yet, write it down, and don’t crumple the paper.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW



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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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1 Response

  1. lorigreer says:

    As always, a thoughtful, meaningful post! Thank you.

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