A few days ago I got a reminder of a status on social media that I wrote when I arrived at college for the first time. It brought me back to ten years ago when I first arrived to my college campus as a student. I had a unique experience in that I already had been to the campus multiple times growing up and my parents had attended, my grandfather had attended, and my grandmother had taught there. The journey to college wasn’t necessarily easy. I was homeschooled and used a distance learning school to earn my high school diploma. I was a senior in high school at age 15 but the bane of my existence was high school algebra and I wrestled with it until I finally finished. Needless to say, I’ve only taken one math class since high school algebra and I don’t see myself taking another one in the foreseeable future. I finished high school about 6 weeks after my 17th birthday and I took a year off to take some classes and work before I went to college. I didn’t know what to expect 10 years ago when I started college. I was worried about how I was going to afford it and if I would be able to afford it for all 4 years. My parents had informed me from a young age that they wouldn’t pay for college so I understood that I would have to figure it out without their financial assistance. The bonus was that I had a scholarship that covered about half of my tuition. I didn’t know what to expect once I went to college and in the spirit of true preparation I brought WAY too much stuff. I quickly realized that the 8 storage containers that I brought from home would be way too much for the half of the dorm room I shared. I remember waiting in line at registration and hoping and praying that I could get in. After a small scare and an ok from the director of admissions I was in. The next three and a half years were filled with challenges and acclimation to a more traditional educational environment. One of my goals was to finish in less than 4 years and i was able to accomplish that. I actually had to study for tests and finals week meant that I pulled a few overnighters to finish a paper or put the finishing touches on a project. I focused on the books and attended every class on time. I knew that I was there because I wanted to be and the effort that I put into my education reflected that fact. I honestly can’t believe that ten years has passed by but I can honestly say that I am a totally different person than I was back then. I’ve learned a lot since then and I plan to learn and grow more in the next ten years.
I remember sitting in a chair in my therapist’s office in college. As a part of my academic program we were required to go to a mandated number of sessions. I remember telling her that I wanted my future husband to be able to sing and that it would be a deal breaker for me if he couldn’t. Today I think of that day and chuckle to myself. While I absolutely believe that music talent is wonderful, there are so many more important qualities that need to be present. Having all his teeth would be nice for starters. Qualities like faithfulness, respect, ambition, attractiveness, honesty, and compassion. Life has definitely changed in the almost decade since then. I’ll have to admit that my dating experience up to this point hasn’t been successful; But I guess it’s been successful in the regard that I’m not stuck in a relationship with someone who isn’t suited for me. I still love music but it’s harder to find a guy that will call me than a guy that can sing. While there are a lot of fish in the sea, a lot of them are hiding behind the coral reef. Apparently.
I had what one might call a pretty rigorous religious upbringing. The mandatory family worships every morning and evening and attending church services weekly. My family was at church even when other people weren’t and we did hundreds of hours of volunteer services for the good of the church. Church was never a suggestion, it was a requirement. My parents (bless their hearts) kinda sabotaged my spiritual life, I wasn’t allowed to choose what day I could be baptized on and what my religious beliefs would be. It was already chosen for me. My beliefs followed me through high school and college due to the extensive foundation. After graduation from college, I moved 1000 miles away from home and continued to attend church regularly as I had been taught. I found a church and I was very involved. However, as I was going to my graduate school classes and working I realized that I really hadn’t taken the time to develop my own set of beliefs. I learned so much from all my classes and realized that my religious background was ill-equipped to address the questions that arose. I became a bit of a religious wanderer and joined a huge church with 7,000 members and immediately became very involved. I was there at least 4 days out of the week assisting various ministries. But I eventually decided that it wasn’t for me. Needless to say, my upbringing has made me think about how I would like to raise my future children and I have to say it will be much different.
2016 was one of the most challenging years. As usual, I didn’t get to travel as much as I wanted but I had two epic all inclusive vacations that were both a week long. While some of my year (7 months) was spent in a cubicle in a job I hated answering phones and sitting in an hour of traffic each way, it didn’t last forever. I made the decision to make a change and I put my stuff in storage and moved across the country to start a new job. I got dumped by a boyfriend and loved and lost several times. I conducted several couples therapy intensives and helped people to have better marriages. I had a beach day in Miami and several places in Mexico. I had my own apartment with cable and DVR for the first time. There were many ups and downs but I’m grateful to see the end of the year. I learned a lot about myself and others and I’m looking forward to being better and doing better in 2017.
1. Just like the Jazmine Sullivan song, “forever doesn’t last always.” You can’t control the choices of others but you can decide your reaction 2. Online dating is hard and doesn’t always yield the results you want. Assume everyone is lying until proven otherwise and it’ll be ok.
3. It’s ok to live outside the box for a while. A normal 9-5 doesn’t and won’t fit everyone.
4. Appreciate the small things and don’t sweat the big stuff. Take it all in a stride.
5. Don’t take people who care about you for granted. Life is short.
This past week I had a chance to do one of my favorite things in the world–vacation. I honestly don’t know how people live life without taking a break from everything and recharging. There’s nothing like it in the world and as someone who tends to internalize everything, it’s good to take a break. For the first time in my life I took a cruise and it was amazing. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to sleeping to the rocking of the ship and the sounds of the waves from your open balcony. From the unlimited drinks to the cute guy I met, to swimming with dolphins, to snorkeling for the first time, the trip was a raging success. I’ll definitely be cruising somewhere again soon. I don’t usually post pictures but I’ll make an exception. Best trip of 2016!
Not too long ago I had the experience of being flown in for an interview. I have to admit that it was an experience that I’ve never had before and I enjoyed the opportunity to travel without any personal expense. The position was for a job at my alma mater. It felt so surreal and full-circle to walk the same grounds that I walked as a teenager and be there in a different capacity. All my former professors seemed happy to see me back as a potential colleague. I met with the president and vice president. And all I felt was confined. It wasn’t that the position wasn’t nice or that I felt that it was totally out of my comfort zone. It was the expectations that came along with it. While I had a good college experience, it was also very sheltered. There were multiple rules that had to be followed in order to escape expulsion. While I had a genuine desire to give back, I realized that I didn’t want to teach or enforce rules that I didn’t have any intention of keeping. I appreciate people who are genuine and I knew that I wouldn’t be my best personal self if I felt conflicted between what was expected of me and my own thoughts and opinions. I’ve learned that sometimes the best professional decisions aren’t the best for me personally. I want to be fulfilled in a position but also feel that I can be genuine about my experiences and perspectives while learning from others. You have to learn how to say no to things that won’t benefit you in the long run. Now, to only learn that lesson about men…
As my birthday draws a bit closer I thought I’d do a throwback story from way back in the vault on one of my first romantic interactions. Growing up, I was homeschooled so there wasn’t a lot of time for meaningful interactions with the opposite sex. While my parents were active in a church, dating was highly–and I mean HIGHLY discouraged. Needless to say, nothing notable happened on the romantic front during high school. Fast forward to the summer after my first semester of college. I did a youth scholarship program to raise money that consisted of going to the DMV area to sell books (door to door, parking lots, and businesses). While I learned a lot, it wasn’t easy being rejected on an hourly basis but I survived. I went with a group of other college students that included a few guys. There was one in particular who was interesting. He was very headstrong and not the most mature like many 18 or 19 year old freshman. Living with a group of people for two months straight has its pros and cons. We all got to know each other really well. The guy and I became pretty cool. Not close, but cool. We had some good conversations but nothing remotely romantic in nature. Fast forward to the end of the summer. The group disbands and we all go our separate ways. Not too long afterwards he contacted me. We talked for a while and then he confessed that he had had a crush on me during the summer when we worked together. He talked about wanting to get to know me better and spending more time together when we went back to campus in August. I was surprised but somewhat agreeable to the idea. He got off the phone with a promise to call the next day. The next days rolls around and I get a call from him as promised. This time it’s a very short call. He’s made a mistake and he’s sorry. He wants to take everything back about getting to know me better and doesn’t know why he said that but he still thinks I’m a good person.While it was surprising, it wasn’t crushing. I didn’t have much of a reaction. I pretty much said “have a nice life” and hung up. And as expected, I never heard from him again…
One thing in life that is always inevitable is change. I remember imagining what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always imagined myself with stethoscope around my neck shouting orders in some emergency room as a trauma physician. Instead I ended up in mental health calming down psychotic people, explaining to parents why I was taking their child, and attempting to reason with psychiatrists. I worked in the mental health equivalent of the ER and found that I did enjoy it. It’s always been interesting to me how our life experiences can shape our perspectives and general outlook on life. If I had seen myself 5 years ago I would not have believed it. For me, the change happened once I was outside of the protective bubble of my family and the group of people who thought like me. It was eye opening to work with people who had a totally different set of beliefs and values than what I had been used to. There’s a lot of people who don’t agree with the traditional education system but it helped me to build my critical thinking skills. My post-graduate competency based program taught me how to conceptualize and justify every intervention that I did while doing therapy with clients. I think that it’s so important to be open minded. While I’m not saying that every varying perspective needs to be agreed with, I think that seeing something from another point of view is important.
Like many people on social media, I was immediately worried when I saw the missing person poster of Nayla Kidd, a student in New York who had gone missing. It was almost as if she had disappeared into thin air. As is my practice whenever I see a missing person poster, I prayed for her safe return. She was enrolled in a rigorous program of study at a pretty prestigious university. I followed the case fairly closely and was relieved then the news broke that she had been found safe and sound. You can read more about her story in her own words here. As I read her words I realized that her reasons for wanting to get away were very similar with that of many others. Life tends to happen so fast after high school. You get into college, you start working a job and you are immediately thrust into a path that sometimes already seems pre-destined. You’re expected to make adult decisions that can have a permanent impact on your career and life. I could identify with Nayla’s sentiments of feeling overwhelmed and upset with the current direction of her life. In her situation, she made a very deliberate choice to take a break from it all for a while. She needed time and space to consider her options and make decisions that were more in alignment with what she wanted out of life instead of forging forward through labs and classes that she didn’t enjoy. I don’t fault her for this at all. However, I also can’t imagine what it was like for her friends and family who were probably worried sick about her safety and well-being. Last summer a former college classmate of mine went missing for a long period of time. It wasn’t a case that got a lot of media attention but it had a horrific ending when her body was found in a lake. She was a beautiful soul who left behind 3 kids and the entire situation was just so numbingly sad. I say all this to say that a lot of anxious, tears and worries could have been avoided if Nayla had felt she could communicate her displeasure in her current situation and let someone know that she was fine but needed some time away. However, those type of declarations aren’t always supported or respected and this was probably one of the reasons why she didn’t feel comfortable sharing her plans with anyone. I’m so glad her story had a better ending than my college classmate and I hope she finds what she’s looking for.