When I graduated with my Master's degree 5 years ago, I had developed a "five year plan" for the first time in my life. That plan was to apply to PhD programs when I turned 44 and starting a Forensic Psychology PhD program the fall semester of 2016, just months after my 45th birthday. Well, let me tell you: Shit happens and five year plans fall by the wayside. Priorities change, career opportunities present themselves (or not), your grandmother becomes a full time nursing home resident, the home where the absolute best of your childhood memories gets sold and you feel as if the planks that make up your life begin to separate and float away so you cling to whatever you find just to prevent yourself from drowning in life on life's terms-not your own terms.
Which brings me to today: four days from my 45th birthday.
Some spectacular things have happened to me professionally this year: I got a promotion to be LSS's School Based Mental Health Coordinator. I spoke at a WAFCA (Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies) training about what it's like to be a licensed professional counselor in recovery. Today I received news that I am going to be a key-note speaker at the state convention for speech therapists and pathologists in February 2017 about trauma informed care-I'll be presenting for 1 1/2 hours to approximately 200 people. I've been interviewed by a local reporter about state government support for school based mental health. A colleague I worked with as an Older Adult Counselor published a book which includes my interview about depression and older adults. I've never felt more satisfied in my career as I do now. This is significant for two reasons:
1) I really thought that working with psychopathology in the state prison system was one of my "dream jobs" and working there would fulfill me intellectually so I tried that for six months in 2013 and discovered that it was not the place for me, for a number of reasons I've outlined in previous blog posts; 2) When I was in grad school, I completed a paper on the population I'd least like to work with, which was teens and adolescents and here I am, five years later absolutely in love with the students I counsel two days a week at a local high school and working to develop and expand school based mental health services at schools across the state.
Personally I've faced challenges this year, as everyone does. The two most significant being the only income provider at home due to my husband's depression and anxiety which has prevented him from working since January 2015. He's in the process of applying for SSDI due to PTSD. The second may sound somewhat trivial, but rocked my world when I checked my Linked In account in early February and discovered that "Paul G, MD from Montana" had recently viewed my profile. Sometimes I view him as a bad penny that won't go away and leave me the fuck alone and other times I long to re-establish any type of contact with him, "knowing" that we'd somehow reconcile, despite the fact that we're both married to other people. In therapy I refer to these thoughts as "Julia Roberts movie moments" which are completely unrealistic, but drag my heart into believing it's possible. These thoughts fuck with my mind in a major way despite the amount of time that's passed since we've spoken, much less were in a romantic relationship with each other. It's the nagging thoughts of "what if" that I'm finally processing in therapy. I've danced around it for decades (I know, it's a crazily long amount of time) but my counselor kicks ass and keeps me on task to finally deal with whatever I need to do to come to terms with this relationship.
So as my 45th birthday approaches, here I am: focusing on all of the achievements I've made this year and acknowledging what I need to work on to live a more balanced life. I know there will be more achievements and more challenges during the 365 days between 45 and 46, but for the first time in a long time, I feel prepared to welcome them both.
My "official" LSS website photo.