Ask Everyone

Ask everyone

You all know I have a Masters Degree, since that is required for me to get my license. What you may not all know is that I was in my 50s before that degree was conferred. I would be a liar if I said I knew from the age of 5 that I wanted to be a counselor. I started my freshman year of college with only very vague goals, and that is surely part of why it took me so long to complete even my Bachelor’s degree. Any excuse to drop out and I took it, until I didn’t.
I was 32 years old when I got my Bachelor of Arts Degree, and a divorce. Once I found a counselor I really liked (to process the divorce), I started thinking how much I would like to go into that same field. Then I quickly started un-thinking that, because I could not see my way clear to how I would ever pay tuition while I raised my child. I didn’t even tell anyone my goal; I just fumbled along the best I could with the generalized degree I had, working at jobs I didn’t much like but that I was pretty good at. There was also the one job I did like, self-employed, performing personalized singing telegrams. It required my creative side, which was what I loved about it.
Even after my son was fully grown, I would take stabs at figuring out how to finance graduate school, but I kept looking in the wrong places. It is especially curious that I never darkened the door of a college Financial Aid office. Now wouldn’t that seem like a logical place to go?
My mistake was simple: I thought I should be able to figure it out for myself, so I did very little asking for advice, even from experts. Blaming myself for not knowing what I had not been told, I just kept fumbling along without that degree. After enough years passed, I decided it just wasn’t in the stars. One favorite excuse? I won’t have enough working years left to justify the investment.
Then an opportunity pretty much smacked me in the face. I took it, started classes, and learned by Week 2 how most of my fellow students were funded: They had jobs in social service fields, with companies that paid for graduate school as an inducement. These were all companies I had been perfectly well qualified to work for; it just had never occurred to me to even try.
The point of this vignette is simple: Don’t follow my example. Had I swallowed my pride just the teensy amount it would take to ask questions, I would have either gotten into graduate school sooner or made an informed and rational decision to be content with the formal education I already had.
I doubt I would have started graduate school the minute the ink on my divorce papers was dry. Working full time while attending classes part time would mean I would miss out on too much of my child’s growing up. The years running the singing telegram company gave me plenty of latitude to be a more involved parent, for which I will always be grateful. But it would have been nice to have a plan for following a new career path when the time was right.
The short version of all this? Ask around. A lot. And read. And brainstorm, accepting even the worst ideas as ideas that may lead to better ones. There is no shame in not knowing, only in not bothering to learn. Whatever your age, you still have all the years ahead of you to change your path or just tweak the one you are on, to evaluate and re-evaluate your direction in life. The embarrassment of asking for advice and information pales next to the frustration of continuously thinking “If only.”

One Additional Letter

smiling lemon

What a smile

I have one more letter behind my name now. Just one, not a set. I am now an LPCC, or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, when I was formerly an LPC, or Licensed Professional Counselor. That extra “C” does make my life easier. As of this past October 7, I no longer need to have a supervisor sign off on diagnoses and correspondence. And I clients write their checks directly to me. Yup, counseling law required that as an LPCC I not collect my own money. The extra “C” did mean I jumped through enough hoops to satisfy the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. (I know, it’s a mouthful.) I got a criminal records check–which was a real accomplishment because it is hard to get my fingerprints. I completed and documented 3,000 hours. And of course additional hours were missed due to my sometimes forgetting to post them, so I’m sure I did way more than was necessary there. This included a huge amount of supervision–though I got lucky on that score. Running a private practice, I chose and paid my own supervisor. Where else do you get to choose your own boss? And my supervisor, plus a former supervisor who covered a very few hours back in the very beginning, filled out their own double-secret documentation for the Board. (Double-secret as in, I was not permitted to read it.) And I filled out a form. And I sent them a cashier’s check! That was the magic action, I’m thinking. I am happy, my clients are happy, and I’m guessing even the Board is happy. You’ve all experienced this at some point, though: You go through a major life change: getting married, getting that degree, getting the promotion you had your eye on…and then you wake up the next morning and the change matters, but you are still the same person you were before. Luckily, I liked the person I was before. And now the difference is I am a few days older and I have one more letter behind my name.