Although I’d written in some format for at least 18 years, I never thought about making it a full time venture until recently. I knew I was always very well-rounded in many aspects of writing – whether it was academic-based, poetry, creative writing – you name it, I could draft a writing piece quite quickly and quite proficiently. I was also very good at working with people. I remember getting the “Dear Abby” award at camp one year for my advice-giving skills and the fact that I had an approachable personality. You can have all the great advice in the world, but if you can’t get the person to talk, it’s really quite useless.
So, I guess you could say I had two talents, writing and helping people, and I chose to expend my time and energy (and let’s not forget money) getting a degree in the latter. It was still money well spent, as I really enjoyed, and still do, helping others figure out how to solve problems.
The last several years of my life have been working at a residential facility with female adolescents. Not the easiest job, I must say, for several reasons. First, adolescents aren’t always the most insightful individuals, as life usually revolves around them in their minds and connecting actions to consequences is often a foreign concept. In addition, you take a teenager who did not make a conscious choice to be sitting in my office (some were escorted to the facility via strangers in the middle of the night) and you definitely have your work cut out for you.
I will take a moment to pat myself on the back, however, at the success that I had with these kids. First and foremost, a relationship had to be built. I could not come at them telling them what their problems were. There would be no way to break through the anger and hurt they felt from being ripped away from family and friends. So, I honed my skills even more in the relationship-building department.
But in the last six months or so when “life” got in the way and working as a therapist no longer fit into my plans, I put full-time effort into my other talent – writing. I say full-time because I had never put it on the back burner necessarily. It was more on that smaller burner right next to the big one up front.
Although, as a writer, my office is at home and I don’t sit trying to help solve life problems for teenage girls all day (just my 11 year old daughter), one connection I have made between the two occupations is the #1 need to build relationships. Albeit, it’s sometimes more difficult over a computer, and I have to hone these skills in different ways, I wouldn’t have the client base that I do had I not had this foundation in place.
I feel I have made a successful transition from one career choice to another, and I look back with no regrets. I’ve been asked if I regret going to school to become a therapist, as to the onlooker the large student loans I accumulated would probably make many question the same thing. The answer is no. Each skill I learned, each paper I wrote, all added to my repertoire of aspects I put into my everyday writing. I have not lost the therapist in me as a writer no more than I lost the writer in me as a therapist. They are both what makes me, well, me.