This is one person's story.
I do what I love. I'm a therapist, and its my privilege and honor to witness stories, hold the bottle for tears, and be present in the deepest pain and greatest breakthroughs. What a calling! and for us, this unique modern priesthood, each day we occupy the confessional and carry forth a box of secrets.
Therapy wasn't always my dream job, in fact it never occurred. On my first round of college I wanted to be a writer/journalist. But in my mid-twenties I'd become paralyzed by anxiety after moving to the Midwest from Hawaii with a 3 and 5 year old and my husband. We'd driven all the way to Indiana to go to college, making a change in our lives (and that stretch in the car underwater was really long, ha ha). We got where we were going, and the apartment we'd rented sight-unseen turned out to be cheap because it was in a low-income housing project.
I had a recurring and persistent sensation of being invisible. I was terrified to leave the 5th floor apartment, (never having lived above the ground before) especially after some dude running from police tried to break in and was taken down against our “front” door. There were strange things like lightning storms and tornadoes, and Indiana was so flat I never knew where I was–in Hawaii and California there are always geographic clues like mountains and ocean.
I knew no one and no one knew me–a Hawaii girl, in Indiana. In a black housing project. It was a truly foreign culture, and at least initially, a rough adjustment.
The campus therapist, a lovely redheaded woman whose name I can't remember, “normalized” my situation for me and within a few sessions had me feeling better–and it was in her office I had a revelation. This. This was what I wanted to do.
A crystal clear moment of decision–on the couch of someone I imagined I'd look very much like in about twenty years (perhaps that was part of the power of it). She was red-haired, freckly and a bit plump, with the kind of warm brown eyes that invited confidence and promised absolution.
It took another ten years for me to get all the education I needed for my career–but I never looked back.
I minored in Creative Writing during that educational stint, and began my first mystery novel–the story of a beautiful blonde woman with two kids and an uptight husband living a seemingly perfect country club life. A hidden past crashes in upon her in the form of a drunken father she's never acknowledged. He bursts in on her carefully-constructed existence and later turns up dead in a hit-and-run.
And she has a memory blackout from the evening and a dent in her car.
(Dang. It's a good story and I got an A on the opening chapters and the outline…where is that thing?)
But in hindsight, it's all been leading up to now. Now is when I do the work I studied so hard and long to prepare for, and it's my eyes that invite secrets.Now is when I write the stories about what fascinate me about the great human mystery.
Now it's all happening.
Are you doing what you love to do? If not, what's stopping you?
It’s really good that you’ve found your calling. I’m still hesitating 🙂 Writing is something I can’t live without and I love spending time on it but to earn money with it? Doesn’t look achievable. I also looked into a couple of other things and I’m constantly looking for my calling but it hasn’t come yet. Or I was just too lazy to act on it…
Awk, your story has really touched base, see? :))
I know. I have to blog about the day I told an “adult” at a party on my way to my first stint at college that I was going to be a writer. He chuckled, snorted and laughed, and said, “well you’ll always be skinny becuase you can’t make a living at it.” He killed my confidence at 18 years old. I wish I would never have heard that, and let life teach me what it inevitably would, and did. I am thankful now, though, for all the experiences that shaped what has become my life’s work–therapy, and writing.
Came across this via twitter. Really spoke to me.
Sometimes trying to figure out what you really want to do, seems so damn mysterious and allusive, you wonder if you will.
I worked hard for 2 years to pursue what I thought was what I wanted, got to the college part of it and then it all went pear shaped
Now I do something that pays well but novel/script writing is what I want to focus my time on and in many ways I have the type of job that could allow me 4 hours in the morning to write a novel and I am in the process of my first outline
Though I do admit at times that I look back at what I spent so long working hard to do
Anyway, I’m rambling on…
For me the writing was the constant but it took me into my forties to actually have discipline to do it regularly and finish projects. Having a job that allows and supports writing is nothing to sneeze at. Making a living writing is tough, other than journalism which is not a career I wanted in the end.
I’m doing one thing I love to do, but there are so much more! One thing I’d love to do would require some more schooling, but after the doctorate and requisite loans to complete said doctorate, more schooling is impossible. In the meantime, I putter around, doing it as a hobby and building my portfolio, watching YouTube tutorials when I need to know how to do something.
In the past, fear has kept me from doing what I loved (or I would have gone to school for art, instead of psych), and I suspect the same is true for others who do something other than what their passion is.
Yes, I’ve given a long hard look at getting a doctoral degree but I don’t want to do anything but therapy so the expense is just not justifiable. One thing I know from being older than you, is that life is long and if there’s a dream or passion in your heart, keep the little flame alive until opportunity and season bring it into a fire again. (such as your art)
Nice introduction to you, Toby, as well as what sounds like a fascinating story. Not sure I’m exactly in my dream job, but I do know that writing is part of what I was meant to do. I stopped writing for over two decades before I picked up a pen again.
What a culture shock that must have been. I love how you found your calling and can relate to dad who says you’ll never make it. I’ve been overcoming the same type of discouragement all my life too. Since eighteen yes old I’ve read Dale Carnegie and Napolean Hill type books and always looked to role models of courageous women. Loved biographies of gutsy people. I want to read your books. Can tell I like your style, wit and humor already…
Thanks so much for popping in and commenting, Marilyn! And yes the “culture shock” was no small thing. I see it a lot here too, particularly with haole kids integrating into our public schools. We have to really support each other and be kind.
I loved this. I too am doing the job I love. But didn’t start it until I went back to school at 43 and began my career at 46. It was a privilege working alongside you with our students. You are a gifted therapist.
I will be forever thankful I overcame my fears and was determined to get the degrees I needed to be where I am at today. But, so worth it in the end!!!
Debbie! How great to have your comment! I never realized you were such an adult when you followed your dream. Congratulations again and I know how many young lives you touch. Aloha and friendship always. T
<3 This was very touching, and a good reminder to me of both how fortunate I am to have found my passion so young, and that it is okay to feel lost and overwhelmed along the way.
Thanks so much for commenting! I think finding your “calling” is one of life’s great mysteries, and the focus and energy you bring to your work is the indicator you’re on the right track. One step at a time, one project at a time, you build. And even when you get “there” the way is not always clear, something I may not have told you early on but you’ve seen your dad and I experience.
love always and forever
I think you bring up a vital point for life
Probably most people do jobs just to make ends meet but at the end of life will we be pleased that we made ends meet or pleased that we pursued or did the thing we loved
I take my hat off to the dads and moms that get up every day and do some crappy job just to put food on the table for their kids
But I think that there are many ways to do that, to have your cake and eat it too
Toby i would love to hear a bit more about your writing process, how you develop your work, and about your process of discipline for getting it done
Thanks so much for revisiting and commenting further. I did a blog on this recently: http://tobyneal.net/2011/08/06/the-myth-of-more-time-and-getting-sht-done/
I find sprints of heavy activity during vacation or weekends followed by editing/social networking/fine tuning on regular workdays gets it done for me. I set goals and hack my way toward them, like finishing the rewrite on my third book by the end of this month, and outlining next. Because I’m so busy I pace myself. I take an annual “retreat” for a week or two and go somehwere and write every day on a new book. It kick starts the project.
I’ll blog about this sometime. There might be something helpful in there for you. Aloha and friendship, T
Moving to a new location is considered to be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Kudos for turning into a new path with a better outcome than you planned otherwise.
You are one upbeat, gal. A great therapist, indeedy.
Thanks Janie, and a new location can be like a foreign country, even in the US.
It was fascinating to hear about your experiences with that move. It appears that the Midwest was a great birthing place for you and your little family. Kudos on that decision.
I have found, more than anything, that it is really important to hold onto the things we love. To make sure that when important choices are made, and people, places or things need to be dropped, that we hang on for dear life, to the people places and things we love, whatever they are. Otherwise, we quickly become bankrupt, descending into ennui and depression. Sometimes, this is all we can do, never mind, moving ahead on a precious goal.
You have always demonstrated that tenacity!
Thank you for the thoughtful comment! And I think you are very wise and insighful, this is so true about clinging to what we love as a lodestone.
Funny you say priesthood, because I’ve always felt psychology was my vocation.
When I was eighteen life was, uh, rough. I didn’t have any direction. I was traumatized, unmedicated, angry. I was in community college but not for any real reason. I’d been left by my abusive partner, who I couldn’t help but love utterly and completely in that curious way abusers can inspire.
The school counselor said to me, “your heart breaks, but it breaks open.”
I never saw that counselor again, but its been twelve years and I’ve never forgotten that.
The next day, I got a handout in class about the cycle of abuse.
Because of those two things, here I am in graduate school for forensic psychology.
I’ve had to fight for this every step of the way. At one point I wanted nothing more than to be in the FBI as a member of the behavioral sciences unit. I can’t tell you how crushing it was to be told that I’m too blind to pass selection. I found another way to do this, though.
I’m going to keep finding a way, because it’s not just a job. It’s a calling. I’m glad you’ve heard that call, too.
Thank you for sharing this personal and intimate information. I know you’re going to find a way. It will be my pleasure to witness it!
The same to you!
I love the idea of therapists, especially ones as open and passionate about people as you, as a modern priesthood.
Those are great questions you ask: are you doing what you love / what’s stopping you?
I am: I love writing and I’m working on my future as a writer, while doing other things I love. Work wise, there’s still room for improvement, and I’ve made a big step towards that only 2 days ago. To be continued … 😉
I wanted to be a writer since I could read and pick up a book. I freaked out about making a living (in Hawaii) when I was 19 and changed my major from English/Journalism to Accounting. I was right about accounting, there is always jobs and you can make a good living at it. The problem? This nagging feeling that something was missing my whole life. Like you, I could never really finish anything until now (I’m 43). I’m ready…My blog gets me writing every day. It’s time consuming but writing every day has got me in the mindset of when I sit down to write, I can brainstorm, plan and most importantly complete. Well, there’s the edit & edit again after that but you get the jest. I’m so glad I found you, love your blog and your writing.
Thanks so much for introducing yourself and the beautiful comment! I think we really start believing in ourselves in our 40’s as women. I’m checking out your site!
Keep writing and keep me posted on your progress!