How did I not know this sooner?

I am in grad school for mental health counseling. I am also a non-traditional student, which is a kind way of saying an older adult. It has taken me this long to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I’m not sure why it has taken this long.As an adolescent, some of my favorite T.V. shows had a psychologist or psychiatrist character on them. Bob Newhart,  was a psychologist, Special Agent George Huang, is a forensic psychiatrist on Law and Order SVU, and my all-time favorite was psychiatrist Sydney Friedman from M*A*S*H*. I totally identified with these characters and thought it would be so cool to listen to people all day and assist them with their concerns. I have always been exposed to “helpers”. My mom liked to help people, my brother is in the helping profession, even my birth mother was a nurse.  So what took me so long to get here?

Clearly there have been some detours along the way. I became a parent in my early twenties, and had no real desire to go to college. I also didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a “helper,” but the jobs I have worked in adulthood have all been in some way related to the helping field. I worked for many years in hair salons and developed close friendships with many of the clientele. Individuals that have not worked in hair salons, would be amazed at the secrets that are brought forth in that arena. The clients discussed very personal matters with me, and I kept their confidence. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was practicing basic listening skills and attending that I would learn when I got to grad school.

I currently clean and organize individuals homes. Seems like a stretch from counseling huh? Actually not really. It is in my clients’ homes that confidentiality is of the utmost importance. I often have access to personal documents and information, and I am alone in their homes for extended periods of time. Truly house cleaning is not a glamorous job, but it has allowed me the flexibility to work part time and go to grad school. I feel good that my clients trust me enough to allow me in their homes alone with personal items around, and this has prepared me for keeping confidentiality when I become a counselor.

I am glad that it took me this long to figure this out, as I have had some life experiences that I believe may be helpful in counseling. I was certainly not ready to embark on this extremely personally reflective journey through the counseling program in my twenties. It would not have benefited me then the same way it has now. I am impressed that the young people in my program are focused on their futures in a way that I wasn’t then. They are very different from the way I was when I was younger. So, although it has taken me half my adulthood to get here, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I hope my fictitious role models would approve.

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