More Than Ships Passing In the Night

Month: January, 2015

“First day of school!” (recap)

In the final days leading up to my first class, I was increasingly nervous about what I had gotten myself into. Coming back to work was even harder than I had anticipated and I was struggling to get back into the routine of Not Break. The thought of trying to balance work and school again gave me rather unpleasant flashbacks to last spring, compounded by the realization that I was committing to being a student for a very long time. All kinds of doubts about my ability to handle this undertaking started cropping up, to the point where people would ask me if I was excited about starting classes, and my response would be “…….yeeeeeah…….” which is Kattiewampus for “I know I’m supposed to be excited and I’ve been talking about how awesome this program is going to be so I feel obligated to be excited about this, but I do not in fact actually feel any sense of excitement right now and the truth is I’m quite nervous about this and am pretty sure that I’m going to royally fall on my face, but I feel compelled to answer in the affirmative, because I know that’s what everyone is expecting and if I try to explain how I’m actually feeling, they’ll just dismiss it with a cheerful ‘You’ll be fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!!!’ which admittedly is what I want to hear but also kind of what I don’t want to hear at the same time because I’m very conflicted about giving up the freedom of not having additional stress and time constraints and, well, homework for the next. five. years.”

Sometimes a succinct response is easier.

SO. That was my state of mind going into Wednesday’s class.

And then I got to class and it was love at first handout.

Not even joking. I’m familiar with and have experienced the phenomenon of syllabus shock many a time throughout my collegiate days. Therefore, it is a rare and beautiful moment when going over the syllabus fills me with excitement and wonder at this amazing journey upon which I have embarked.

All I can say is that, after reading through the syllabus, my internal reaction was something along the lines of “OKAY. LET’S DO THIS.”

But wait, there’s more!

The last part of the class consisted of a role-playing session. The professor had told us earlier in the evening that there would be a role-playing session every week. My first thought was “Ugh.” Because I hate role-playing. I’ve had to do it in a number of classes before and I find it largely contrived and unhelpful. I had already mentally prepared myself for the reality that a counseling psychology program would necessarily entail a lot of in-class role-playing. And this particular class is about developing communication skills for conducting effective counseling sessions. I mean, they basically could have called the class “Role-Playing 101” instead.

But then as she described the nature of the role-playing session, my curiosity got the better of me. It was re-creating a client-counselor situation (with a student as the client and the professor as the counselor). The ‘client’ could talk about whatever they wanted. No scripts. No prompts. The class was bound by the code of ethics to maintain the confidentiality of whatever was discussed during the role-playing session.

And the realization hit me: this really wasn’t role-playing. This was free therapy!

And suddenly, I really wanted to participate in the role-playing. So when we got to that section of the class and the professor asked for a volunteer, I waited a beat – because I didn’t want to be That Student – and then said, “…Sure!”

Hermione

And that was how I found myself in an actual therapy session in front of an entire class. It was weird and not weird all at once. I’ve been in therapy for almost two years now – I know the drill. And I, somewhat alarmingly, have very little reservation when it comes to talking about personal things in front of perfect strangers (a fact to which this blog testifies on an ongoing basis). My professor and I sat in front of the class, facing each other. We went through introductions, informed consent, etc., and then she asked me what I wanted to talk about. I just went with the first topic that came into my mind.

Then, in front of a class of complete strangers, I embarked on a candid no-holds-barred discussion with my professor, as if it was just the two of us in her office. I answered her questions and shared my story with complete honesty, recognizing that the only way for this role-playing demonstration to be effective for the rest of the class was by treating it with a corresponding level of value and seriousness. My professor treated it with the same approach, which in turn made it easier for me to take it seriously. We were building off of each other’s commitment to respecting the process.

Because of that mutual commitment, we progressed through several stages of therapy. We didn’t arrive at a solution to the issue, but my perspective about the issue slowly changed over the course of the session, as I gained new insight and perspective by talking through it with my professor-therapist. It was thought-provoking. At the conclusion, the professor observed that even though I had not come to a conclusion about what my next step would be, I had gained the ability to wonder about what my next step could be, and that was progress in itself.

Afterward, the professor opened up the floor for questions from the class. They asked her questions, they asked me questions. They asked a lot of questions. And their questions were real, thoughtful, and insightful. They examined the session as if they had just witnessed an actual therapy session (which they had). They were given permission to ask me questions that had occurred to them as questions they would have asked, had they been in the counselor role. It was this bizarre-yet-glorious moment where my learning environment and my personal life completely merged and I knew I had made the right decision about doing this program.

Since Wednesday, people have been asking me about how my first class went. I don’t have to force or fake my excitement now. Instead, I have to reign it in, otherwise I get sort of giddy and euphoric and start babbling incoherently. I suppose that’s a good sign.

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Two Zero One Five

I started writing this beautifully self-indulgent retrospective about 2014 a few days ago. And then I was like, “I’m kind of over 2014.”

I’m not a big New Year’s resolutions person. For a while, I was into doing New Year’s “goals” because that made more sense to me. A goal is something you are always working toward. A resolution is something you break or fail at.

But since I’m constantly setting goals for myself throughout the year (not because I’m actually accomplishing them, but because I’m impatient and can’t stay focused on one thing), the practice of setting them at the beginning of the year became somewhat insignificant.

Maybe I’m being noncommittal, or maybe just realistic. But I think I’d rather just approach 2015 by reflecting on where I’m at, what I’d like to do, and what I’d like to not do this year.

Where I’m At:

Guys, I start grad school next week. NEXT WEEK. By this time next week, I will have attended my first grad school class. My text book came in the mail a couple of days ago and I am geeking out over the table of contents. I’m taking “Psychology of Interpersonal Communication.” I get butterflies just writing out that title.

That’s really the only hard and fast thing I can point to about where I’m at right now. Everything else is “in process,” and I’m quite okay with that.

What I’d Like to Do:

Um, finish “Crime and Punishment” for starters? Seriously. I’ve been stuck in the blasted epilogue since May 2013.

TRAVEL (?). I’ve got the itch to go places. Anywhere and everywhere, really. The parenthetical question mark is because I’m really not sure how feasible traveling will actually be this year, because grad school. On the other hand, I do get breaks and I have a bunch of vacation hours stored up, so… this could work out really well.

Move. I was recently reminded that I like to be active. “An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by another force.” In this case, that other force took me hiking, and then dancing, and it was wonderful, and I realized I haven’t felt that alive for a long time. It made me want to keep moving.

What I’d Like to Not Do:

Get sick. Since 2009, every odd year, in February, I get horribly sick. Like, bedridden with the flu for days. Historically-speaking, I’m due for my February plague this year. I’d be pretty okay with bucking this trend. No, I’m not getting a flu vaccination.

Phone it in. I’ve seen this cycle over and over in my academic life. I psych myself out over what I’m trying to do, fixate on getting good grades, go into autopilot/rote memorization mode, and mechanically ace my classes only to forget everything I learned within a month. What scares me about this grad program is that what I’m learning, while incredibly fascinating to me, is not just for “personal enrichment” (read: kicks and giggles). These classes are preparing me for my career. What I get out of them will directly impact the people that I work with later on down the road. I need to keep that big picture perspective and not lose sight of the long-term purpose. I want to invest into this learning process and extract from it as much as I can – not for the sake of getting a good grade, but so that I can internalize what I’m learning and retain it down the road.

Have a nervous or emotional breakdown. So, I don’t handle stress well. Yet, I also tend to catapult myself into stressful situations. Such as this scenario for instance: starting grad school while working full-time and still covering my former co-worker’s position until we hire a replacement (A, if you’re reading this: come back. That is all) and apartment-hunting with the hope of actually finding a place, which will then necessitate the stress of moving.

Yay!

But I’ve just decided that this time around, I’m not gonna lose it. I am so chill, so zen right now. Through a magical combination of self-talk, loose-leaf tea, and my MassageEnvy membership, all under the umbrella of a LOT of prayer, I plan to take on (or over) the world.

~

I love January. I always forget about it until it comes around again, but I really do love January. I love the way it is so crisp and cold and clear, so fresh and full of new life. I love the pale, slanted light and the sense of beginning, the feeling of a whole, blank canvas year ahead of me. I think it is absolutely glorious.

New Year’s resolutions may have an element of trite silliness or inevitable failure to them, but I like marking the new year. I like pausing and appreciating the significance of the expanse that is ahead of me. I like feeling excited and empowered to face the next adventure, to seize the day, and to make the most of what has been given me.