At the end of September after a long hiatus I started traveling a bit more again. Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely love to get away from the mundane and have an adventure. I have a pretty good mix of domestic and international travel planned that includes a birthday trip for the first time in my life. The majority of these trips are solo and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’ve learned a lot this year and have decided that being alone is definitely preferable to being in a toxic situation. I’m wrapping up my 3rd trip in less than a month and I still have 4 more to go before the end of the year. I’m going to try to squeeze in a 5th. But I’m working towards creating a life that I don’t need a vacation from and I’m closer than I was at the beginning of this year.
Lately I’ve had the opportunity to delve a bit more into a new career and I like it so far. While I like direct practice, there’s something cool about talking about it within an educational context. Being in a helping profession can be challenging because people are always looking to you for help. However, they don’t realize that your help and assistance has limits. There are situations where you don’t have an apartment to give them or you can’t take their chronic ailment away or make their estranged relative talk to them again. It’s one of those fields where you learn by doing and as you do it becomes more instinctual. You start out with a whole lot of theories and information about being ethical but when you finally get into the field the rubber hits the road. Six years of practice has taught me to always expect the unexpected and that sometimes it’s ok to take a break. I like working with patients but I really like working with students and I think that it’s time to be a bit more deliberate in switching gears career-wise for a bit. I like the change of pace and I think that it’s needed for right now. It’s a new challenge and I like the idea of tapping into my creative side for a bit without the additional pressure of someone’s emotional health hanging in the balance. There’s more of a chance to stay in the same location for a bit and that would be nice.
Part of the nature of my job is that I completely change places every few month but it also means that I tend to move quite frequently. Recently, I went through yet another move due to the lease ending on my apartment and it has been more of an adjustment than usual. I try not to do it, but I think that I got emotionally attached to my old place. There were so many good memories but also countless tears cried as I tried to figure out my life and navigate the ever confusing world of dating. My apartment became the place I could go when I had a long day at work and just wanted to sleep when I got home. It was the apartment I went back to after graduating with my PhD and where I celebrated getting a faculty job at my alma mater. It was also the space where I dealt with some of the stress going on in my life and started to meditate in order to sleep more deeply at night. It was the space where I got to spend some quality time with someone who meant a lot to me and where we had some amazing conversations about everything under the sun. I inwardly groaned each time that I walked up all those steps to the third floor but I was secretly glad that at least I got some cardio from merely going home. It was the place where I got a second job offer and completed a total of over six weeks of training. It was my space. And for some reason, losing it has been really challenging. So many times people talk about having something or someone that grounds them and losing my space was a big reminder that I need to be deliberate in doing that for myself. The downside of traveling all the time is that there really isn’t a space to call home and that can make it challenging to really build meaningful connections with others. It’s not impossible but definitely challenging when you’re a homebody. I love to travel and by love, I mean LOVE. But there’s something to be said about having a home to go to after you’re done with traveling. So as I type from my new temporary place, I’m reminded of the fact once again that I think I’m gonna need to settle down soon. Stability is good for the soul. I think.
I had a memory that popped up in my timeline of a post that I made about four years ago. It was about making your own opportunity. This week I got an unexpected email inviting me to teach an additional graduate class. I was honestly torn because it was a huge time commitment and I have multiple trips planned in that same time frame. I love the opportunity to stretch myself as a teacher but I knew that it just wasn’t a good time for me. I declined the offer. As I typed out my polite “no” I was reminded of the fact that I’ve become more comfortable with leaving things that aren’t healthy for me or will conflict with my self care regimen. It still was hard because I’m not a fan of saying no to money. However I knew that it was the right decision for me. The next day I got the job offer I’ve been waiting on for weeks. It’s the stepping stone to my dream job and it was more in line with what I wanted to do. I’ve worked so hard to be a bit more untethered and it’s great to see a small return on dozens of applications.
As someone who regularly functions in the role of a therapist and also who believes in getting help, I decided to find a therapist. There wasn’t a huge stressor other than regular life and the typical occurrence of getting ghosted by someone I really liked. Except for the fact that it was someone I really REALLY liked so I was feeling a bit more affected than normal. So I went through all the motions that I tell other people to do. Contact more than one therapist, research their background before calling them, etc. After a barrage of emails and finding someone who offered evening sessions, I finally booked an appointment. But first off, I had to complete a 10 page intake questionnaire on my life and stressors. Tedious but thorough. I decided to use my insurance instead of paying out of pocket and was informed by the administrative assistant that I would have to be diagnosed. Fine with me. So the time finally came around for my appointment and I went to the address listed on the paperwork. There was one minor problem. The office building locked at 5pm so there was no way to get into the building to go into the interior therapy office. So I had to wait around until someone came out and then grab the door to go in. Super inconvenient but hey, security is important. So I waited in the waiting from until I got called into the my new therapist’s office. She seemed nice but a little flat. I could tell that she was tired and that I was her last patient of the day but she made an effort to remain present. I’m not great with opening up to new people especially when prompted so it was challenging. The session ended pretty quickly but I thought that it went ok. We scheduled for the next session in a few weeks. So the next therapy session rolled around and I was actually ready to open up and to share about what had transpired in my life and some new stressors that had emerged. I got to the office, waited for someone to come out and went in to the interior office. I waited, and waited. Finally about 20 minutes past our schedule time with no sign of the therapist I emailed her. She responded to tell me that she was out the office unexpectedly and that I should’ve been notified by the administrative assistant. I had received no such message. Needless to say, I understood but wasn’t necessarily happy about it. A few weeks later (yes, weeks) I received an email from her saying that she was accepting appointments for patient’s to be seen remotely. I replied requesting an in-office appointment when she started back seeing patients in her office. No reply. A few weeks later I got another email from her saying that she was seeing clients in her office again. Only this time she included all the email addresses of her clients in the email. HUGE privacy violation and I really wasn’t pleased. I did however want to give a last ditch effort and I asked her about coming in to the office on a specific date and she never replied. Time for a new therapist? I think so.
I’ve never been a fan of those “get to know you” type of conversations. They tend to seem very rehearsed and canned. The typical, “have you been married?” “do you have kids?” questions get old after a while. Then inevitably a question that is a part of the impromptu compatibility interview is, “what are some of your pet peeves?” Like a traditional interview, I typically have my answer already ready and I know what I want to say. I say something about the fact that my pet peeves are long dirty fingernails and bad grammar/writing skills. But, curtesy of my most recent romantic relationship debacle I’ve discovered that my absolute number one pet peeve is being ignored. Previously I knew that it bothered me but it was lower on the hierarchy. But nope, that’s not true. I don’t think there’s anything as frustrating and annoying for me. I’m not the kind of person who wants constant communication (although it would be nice) but I do want my text messages and phone calls returned in a timely manner. It’s not rocket science, it’s common curtesy. Looking back, there’s been some friendships I’ve actually ended because of this. I’m someone who likes to talk things out and process. I know how to work through conflict but you have to give me something to work with and not ignore me. I know that I can’t make someone change their ways and I understand that everyone has something going on in their lives. Stuff happens. However, it’s an indication to me that the relationship/friendship/whatever is not important to you and thus I have to act accordingly. So yeah, new number one pet peeve.
Religion is one of those things that you aren’t supposed to mention in small talk. You don’t ask someone about their religious affiliation after you’ve introduced yourself because it is a hot topic. In the last few years the gap between myself and religious affiliation has widened significantly. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at an international conference the focused on cultic organizations. Very interesting stuff. As one of the few people of color in attendance, I shared a bit of my personal experience with a branch of a religion that had a leader who dictated what to wear, what to eat, and where to go and expected to be obeyed. While the peacefulness of country living was present, it was overshadowed by oppressive rules that kept the leader in charge. During the duration of the conference I had the chance to attend seminars and meet other attendees who had once been in cults but left at some point. Many were born into various organizations that their parents had joined years ago. After the conference I wanted to read more about the experiences of individuals who had become caught up in cults and religiously abusive organizations. After meeting a few of the contributor’s at the conference, I read a book called Whispering in the Daylight and the author wrote about the cult led by Tony Alamo. It was fascinating and bone numbingly sad at the same time. One thing that was particularly sad was the fact that parents surrendered their children to be beat mercilessly and starved. They also allowed their girls as young as age 9 to be the “brides” of the leader. All in the name of religion and doing what they felt to be right. The question that always seems to be asked is how do people end up in these type of situations? The truth is that people tend to want a sense of purpose. Having a charismatic leader who seems to have found the meaning of life or claims to have some exclusive relationship to a deity can appear to be a good thing. It’s fairly easy to forsake all when one believes that not doing so would lead to eternal condemnation. By the same token, believing that your actions can earn you eternal bliss is an attractive idea. I think that it’s even different for children who grow up in that type of environment and have never known anything different. Reading the book about some of their experiences and how hard it has been and continues to be to adjust to “regular” life was eye opening. One thing that I believe is important to remember is that wanting to believe in something or someone isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But it can become problematic when one consciously decides to yield their free will without reservation to another individual. It’s a strange dynamic that I find intriguing.