When I Grow Up

I don’t often write from a personal point of view on this blog, although it is my hope that my personality seeps through my words.

However, tonight I was reminiscing about my youth, so I pulled out old journals and paged through them. There were two in high school (1978 & 1980) and two post-high school (1982 & 1983). I read the passages and remembered the struggle to create my identity, develop independence from my parents, create a meaningful faith, and deal with depression. My entries vary — one might be highly analytical and critical of myself, and another might state how joyous the day is.

It took me many years to become a therapist. This is due, in part, because during high school, I was directed away from my desire to study psychology, teaching, and writing. I tried to please the authority in my life. I acquiesced to staying home, going to a community college, and studying secretarial/business subjects. I was unhappy, but I continued to wend my way toward this profession. It took 16 years to complete my bachelor and master’s degrees (working full-time most of the time). Looking back, I see that this has been an education in itself — the process of awakening to one’s passion and faithfully pursuing its expression despite obstacles.

I had to chuckle ruefully when I read the following passage in my journal, dated February 16, 1982 (I was 19).

Another fact that I tend to complain about is my lack of obvious talent. I am not gifted musically, artistically, athletically, or academically. I have no talent in acting, dancing, or designing artistic pieces. I am afraid to tap whatever hidden resources I have, and have never sought to try. There are three things I know I do well: 1) writing essays; 2) speaking (my voice has a mellow, well-modulated tone); and 3) listening. What can I do with these talents (if they are talents)?

One thing I know: if anyone had told me that these are talents, and showed me the path I could take, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. This was due, in part, because I didn’t have any money for college, and my family’s funds were limited. This lack of money translated in my thinking into lack of opportunity; I was bewildered and afraid to dream. My father was unsupportive of my getting a degree in liberal arts, because I would not be employable, he feared. I moved out on my own and began working at a university library. My father’s perspective was deeply engraved in me, and I was in my mid-20s when I finally decided that yes, I would be a good therapist. And that I could make it happen. That I wasn’t “too emotional” to handle it.

The path wound many corners before I actually entered graduate school in my mid-30s. Would it be nice if I hadn’t had to struggle so hard to get here? Probably. However, I know that my achievement is all the more personal and real, because I pursued it against many odds. I would be a very different kind of person and therapist, probably, if I had not surmounted the crags and crevasses. Is this just self-consolation, rationalizing why it took so long? Maybe. But there’s no use in wishing it had been otherwise, because it’s past. So I prefer to think some good, some purpose came of it.

I am astonished, sometimes, that I am 40 years old. I feel that my life is just beginning. I wonder if I’ll feel this way at 60 and 80?

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3 Comments on “When I Grow Up”

  1. Anne Says:

    You will. Endless possibilities, you see. Life’s a bit like sitting on the beach: at sixty, you may not be so easily able to reach the distant grains of sand that you could at forty, but considering the sheer numbers and beauty of those that are within reach, does it matter? You can still build one hell of a sandcastle.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    Oh Anne, thank you for such a lovely comment. 🙂 I could feel you understand.

  3. kat Says:

    journals are so fabulous. how great that you could look back to that and see that you already knew what your purpose was, you just had to “remember.” i love it. you’re amazing!