As I’ve mentioned before, May is one of those months that makes me really nostalgic. I’ve had the opportunity to take some great trips this month and see some familiar (and new) places. I was reminded today of the fact that I graduated from college exactly 8 years ago today. I remember being ready for the next part of my life but also being terrified of what the future would hold. School was familiar to me and it had become comfortable. I had spent so much time in the library and I knew a good portion of my fellow students so it felt like a home away from home. For most of my senior year I put the finishing touches on my plan to relocate across the country to Colorado and graduating from college meant that the move was about to happen. I had taken the time to collect some medals that I had received throughout my college experience so I had the opportunity to wear them all at graduation and hear the medals clank together as I walked. It was an extremely satisfying feeling. It was great to experience the festivities of the weekend and to reflect back on the years I spent on campus. I remember feeling so happy to finally be done with that chapter of my life. I knew that my goal was to be a therapist and that I also wanted to complete a doctorate. Eight years later I have done both. Here’s to eight more years of progress (or something like that).
I ran across an article recently and it described many of my thoughts and feelings as I reflect on my life and the past few years specifically. Life can be challenging for empaths and feeling your own emotions plus the emotions of others can be taxing and difficult. On the professional front it took me years to be able to sleep without staying up and worrying about the problems that my clients had. There aren’t many things I read where I find myself agreeing with almost everything the author states and I have to admit that this author shared a fear that I have as well. And maybe fear is the wrong word because it’s not a perception and there is a good chance that it might happen. You can read the article here. There’s a huge opportunity for growth when we are willing to be honest with ourselves and face our fears head on despite not always feeling adequate to do so. It’s not a quick thing but I think that the results are worth the self-work and intentionality that are required.
Lately I’ve been more consistent with limiting some of my time on social media. It tends to be a highlight reel of sorts and it can make you feel as if you don’t measure up. While I’ve accomplished a few things it’s easy to feel like I’ve done nothing and that I’m well below the curve as far as life goals. But the truth is that each person has their path and there isn’t a set time frame to get things done. There are people who accomplish great things later in life and there are those who have an earlier start. I’m starting to learn that it’s ok to do things on your own timeline. Accomplishments don’t mean less because they happen at a certain stage in life. There isn’t one way to do things because we are all different and our purpose differs as well. So I’m learning that is ok to cut yourself a bit of slack. Although I really do need to write a book and publish it I can recognize that it will happen but that it’s fine that I have not gotten around to it quite yet.
One thing that I enjoy doing (at least most of the time) is working with couples. It’s a different dynamic than individual counseling and there are a lot of moving pieces. I was reflecting on how long I have been doing therapy and I realized that it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve started. Over the years I have started to notice patterns and the process has become more intuitive as opposed to theory. I like encouraging couples to build a new relationship and helping them to negotiate new rules and guidelines. They have the opportunity to ask questions and to be intentional about building something that provides each partner with a sense of security. It’s rarely straightforward but there’s nothing like witnessing an “aha” moment when things start to come together. It’s stressful to hold all the emotions in one place but I have learned that it is important to compartmentalize and to take breaks when needed. Many times couples get together without truly knowing what role they want the relationship to play in their individual lives. It’s up to each couples to establish a new normal and to find something that works for each partner.
I’ve come to appreciate those lightbulb moments that make you pause and contemplate your life. Recently, after two weekends of work I decided that I needed to get away for a bit and go on a road trip. It wasn’t really planned but I knew that I wanted a change of scenery and that I didn’t want to drive too far away. I drove to the next state over and found myself at my alma mater. I guess I should give the background story. My college experience was the first time that I had ever lived away from home. Outside of staying with my grandmother for a few nights, I had not been allowed to spend the night anywhere else. I packed way too much stuff and had to send most of it home. I was incredibly studious and was hyper-focused on making sure that the balance of my school bill was paid. I took a lot of classes and worked several jobs so that I would finish my degree as soon as possible. I lived in the library and sang in the choir. I knew a lot of people but was never invited to a party or asked out on a date. It was so nostalgic to walk back on campus eight years later with three additional degrees and years of professional practice. I had the opportunity to speak to students in the same classroom that I was taught in and it felt incredibly weird but full circle to be introduced by the title of “Doctor.” I was reminded of the fact that I’ve learned so much over the years and as a result my worldview has shifted a bit. There’s nothing like being reminded of where you came from and I think that acknowledging the past can be a way to give ourselves permission to create a future that we want.
I started to read some of my older blog posts around Valentine’s Day and honestly really nothing has changed. This year it came and went and I didn’t mind at all. There wasn’t any sense of loss or mind numbing loneliness that once permeated the day. It was lovely. While I can’t say that I don’t care anymore I can say that it matters much less to me than it used to. I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish many of the goals that I set for myself. I’ve traveled internationally twice already this year and I still have a few more places that I plan to visit. One thing I’ve learned is the importance of creating a life that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it should meet your standards. So many times we define our lives by the presence or the absence of a person and that isn’t always the best thing to do. At the end of the day you have to live with yourself and the choices that you made. You owe it to yourself to make good ones.
This morning I was reminded of the fact that today marks a year since I defended my dissertation. It was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life and it was one that I didn’t really prepare for. You heard that right. I started practicing what I would say about two hours before it happened. I did horrible on the practice tries and my voice was shaking because I was so nervous. Afterwards, I just sat with a glass of my favorite wine and waited until I saw the email that confirmed I had passed. It was an incredible feeling. I wrote around a year ago that what I wanted to have a more permanent home base and that I wanted to seriously consider settling down. I moved several times and finally settled down and started working in my field. I started three new jobs and had an entire life overhaul. I’m a bit closer to believing that finishing the degree was worth it in the long run. I would still be paying back the loans regardless of whether I finished or not. I’ve traveled to several countries and decided to work a more flexible schedule. It’s been a roller coaster with a lot of changes. I’m still writing a lot but most of it is in response to my students and the traveling bug continues to bite me. I’m curious to know what the next year will bring.