I have often found the words “life is a journey, not a destination” very comforting. As a caregiver these are words to live by. Earlier on in my career, I often found myself consumed with a goal and a “destination” for the ones I was caring for. With the best intentions, my hopes would inspire a goal and I would give every ounce of my time and energy to support this. What I failed to see was the importance of the daily journey: the day to day changes, challenges, successes, failures, laughable moments, mistakes and “aha” breakthroughs. With my focus on the end result, I was missing the point of being a caregiver entirely. Not to mention, I was likely setting goals that were not shared by the individual receiving care, the only person that mattered.
Being a caregiver is truly about embracing the daily journey and using creativity to support, love and challenge someone in a way that is specific to them and their unique needs. This also means pushing aside your own hopes, desires and expectations (even when they’re rooted in love). I do not intend to imply that goals are not important, as they often help motivate and inspire great breakthroughs. However, when working with people, a caregiver must be prepared for the unexpected and constant changes in direction. In other words, the “destination” changes daily and often multiple times a day.
Once I began to embrace the journey, I realized how much further my impact as a caregiver could reach. It is truly remarkable how much we limit ourselves, and others around us, when we are consumed with an expectation. Being a caregiver is a true gift that is nearly impossible to describe and is more of a feeling than anything else. It is something that both fills your heart and breaks it, often in the very same moment. These moments define why caregivers get up each day to do what they do and why I am certain that I get more from this work than I could ever give in return. I am overcome with gratitude to be on the incredible journey of a caregiver.
Joanie Lennick-Goulart is Housing Manager at Ebenezer Tower Apartments in Minneapolis.