Birth of a Counselor
(Think of this as the afterword to Death of a Programmer)
On Friday, I turned in my ID badge and left my tech writing job at Equifax. On Monday, I’ll begin an internship that will allow me to become licensed to practice as a professional counselor (a psychotherapist) in Georgia. To an outsider, this seems like a sudden, radical change, but actually it has been many years in the making.
When I went off to college in 1990, my plan was to become a clinical psychologist and a therapist. Due to youthful foolishness, I followed others’ advice instead of my heart’s desire and allowed myself to be diverted onto another path. Two years ago the desire reemerged in me to become a therapist and it wouldn’t go away. The sense that I would regret not going down this road was so overwhelming that I was driven to begin the process. I’ve been taking classes towards my Masters in Counseling and this Winter I was able to land an internship which will complete my education. Blogging all my preparations for this move would have been delightful, but I kept my dream under wraps lest my employer cut me loose ahead of schedule. Perhaps I’ll do some retroactive blogging about my semi-secret life.
Making big life changes is scary. It churns up a lot of doubt and negativity both from within and from those around me. Questions like “Will I enjoy this?”, “Am I going to be any good at this?”, “Can I make a living at this?” and “What am I doing changing careers AGAIN?” come up over and over. They’re all valid questions. I’ve answered them to my satisfaction, if not everyone else’s.
At the same time, I’ve had an incredible surge of support from those around me. Of course my classmates were terrific. My friends were too. I felt like a traitor putting in my resignation at work, but everyone there was 100% positive, including my manager who will probably have to do my work on top of his until they find a replacement. Thanks, Rob.
My friend Marlena told me about a coworker who worked at the same job for 20 years. The office threw a party for her and in the midst of the celebration she admitted she was still there because she didn’t make good on the other plans she had for her life. Thoreau wrote that men lead lives of quiet desperation and I’ve felt that desperation myself. Taking up arms against it comes as a huge relief.
I feel both very proud and very privileged to be taking a big step towards doing exactly the kind of work I want to do. Whatever risks and hardships there are ahead, I choose this path because I believe it fulfills me and allows me to make a tangible, positive change in the world.
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