Monday, October 01, 2012

Path, 1

It used to depress me to read my Alumnae magazine.  It was like attending college reunion--four times a year, no less--where you can't help but wonder:  how do I measure up?  Marriages, world travels, exceptional contributions, discoveries, achievements:  my Wellesley Sisters were conquering the world, and it made me feel small.  What did I have to show for my years at this esteemed place of learning and beyond it?  I had married, but that was well before I'd even found my way to a college campus.  And for the duration of my time at Wellesley, I was actually in the emotional thick of undoing that.  Two steps forward, one back.  I was making no great strides, or so it seemed.

Professionally, I was on the road to Psychologist:  a PhD or PsyD.  I thought it would be a good idea to work in the field before continuing that schooling.  So I took a job in a psychiatric halfway house for women, with a one-year commitment. I had all I could do to drag my 20-something self up the stairs to my apartment after a shift--sometimes the morning after a non-paid "sleep"-over.  Work, eat, sleep:  that's all I did for months.  I was too young to be this exhausted!

A helper since childhood, I was well loved by the residents--of course!  I was giving 110%--mainly because I didn't know how to give less.  Those in dire need--of care, attention, love--will take... well, as much as you let them.  Can you blame them?  I could not. My boundaries were pliable.  So there I was.  Slowly (or not so slowly) working my way around to the other side of the desk, if I didn't watch out.

Our working conditions were exploitative.  This residence had been around long enough to have been grandfathered out of having to abide the then present-day requirements and restrictions for mental health workers.  It was a guaranteed burn-out situation.  I lobbied for change.  When my motions for change went nowhere, I quit--without another job in place, even.  Another step back.  I had only made it to 10 months.

I wandered around like an orphan, but only briefly, because that wandering had taken me into a Wordsmith bookstore where a few books all but fell off the shelves and into my hands.  One of those books led me to a writing retreat in the mountains of upstate New York.  I had been writing--poems and journals, mostly--long before college, but Wellesley put some legs under that.  This retreat felt right--as right as right could feel at the time.  So I signed up.

I had no job, but I had this workshop on my horizon.  Somehow it felt like enough.  As if I knew it would prove to completely alter the course of my life.

to be continued...


Anonymous yok said...

ePsychologist was also my original career choice. It was the best career I never had.

Strange how instead of looking for careers,they find you.

My childhood friend and I went to a prestigious school. It doesn't matter if we're doctors or housewives as long as we follow our own paths.

Looking forward to your next installment,don't leave us hanging :)

10:38 AM  
Blogger Amber Norgaard said...

Anticipating the continuation of the "Path" series :). Blessings to you, my friend.

1:26 AM  

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