Yesterday, I walked at graduation for my Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (with Honors)… and it was kind of big deal– not because I was smart enough, but because I finished it.
Remember how as a kid people were often asking, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Well, I don’t remember ever really wanting to “be” anything. My mom may remember better than I if that’s true. I think my family and close friends have always thought of me as wildfire– so passionate and intense, but then moving on very quickly, leaving ashes behind me– in true Aries fashion. Looking back, I can see why people see me that way, but one positive thing I can say about myself is I always felt like I was living with purpose even if my choices were fleeting or whimsical.
This is not a hyperbole, you guys. Let’s just review a few of my choices:
- In undergrad I changed my major 7 times (all of them in the arts). I had to go to summer school every year just to finish in 5 years and then decided to turn some of those extra classes into 2 minors.
- In college I used to make clothes and purses and sell them in dorms. And once when I was in the mountains, I ran into a D list musician that said he really liked my shirt. When I told him I made it he asked if I’d make him one to wear on stage that night. Somehow I actually made that happen (in a very short amount of time) with help from some friends. We went to his show that night and he really wore it– on stage, in front of thousands of people. I never wanted to be a clothes designer though, so I eventually stopped making them and I don’t think I even noticed that I had quit. I was just busy doing other things.
- During college, at various times I worked as a receptionist, Chick-fil-a employee, nanny, a server at a bar, and more. Just imagine young Bea sitting on a turned-over bucket in the kitchen of a bar writing poems at 2am. That’s how I survived my junior year.
- After graduation I moved to California where I worked doing media/film production for a church plant. I worked as a nanny, a free lance journalist, a server, and a substitute teacher. I flew to San Francisco to take the LSAT so I could go to law school (If you’re thinking, “I didn’t know you went to law school” it’s because I didn’t, I changed my mind. San Francisco was lovely though). I started a MFA program for Creative Writing-Poetry at San Diego State so I could be a professor– I dropped out during the first semester. I was an online private investigator. I worked at a school for kids mostly on the Autism spectrum doing ABA therapy. I started my own baking company…
- 4 years later I moved back to Georgia and worked as a English tutor. I also drew up business plans to open a cafe/coffee shop that I did not open. Then worked with special needs children at a private school.
…All before starting my current Masters program. I’ve had many people from other phases of my life ask me, “Did you always want to be a therapist? I never knew you were interested in that.” The answer is, no, I did not know I wanted to be a therapist. Actually, it never crossed my mind. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a therapist when I started this program– I was just using it as a stepping stone to do something else. If you thought reading this
short history of my life was exhausting, imagine walking through life with me during all of this, choking on the smoke of my dying flames as you’re running to catch up.
Currently, I’m interning at a child advocacy center doing trauma-focused therapy for sexually abused kids. Since I work with kids, I have to use a lot of play therapy. We use this because kids don’t really have the cognitive ability to tell you what is going on with them, so we observe their “play” to get information about how they think and feel since most often kids act out in “play” the things they know. So lately, I’ve been thinking back to my “play” as a child and trying to observe my behaviors. Here are things I remember about little Bea.
- I used to put together very “unique” outfits (photo above is not an example– beach attire is way too mainstream) and I thought it was totally acceptable to wear them anywhere I wanted. I guess this was a frequent argument with my mom. She said eventually she decided to put together 3 outfits for me and let me choose which one I wanted to wear so I still felt as if I had some creative control.
- I used to pretend to be a detective. I would go through people’s things. I carried around a notebook and wrote down clues. I was forever on the hunt for my sister’s diary, trying to figure out what she was up to. Truthfully, I’m still nosey as hell, just less invasive. Now days, I won’t go through your things, but if you leave your text messages open I will absolutely read whatever is right there on the screen– even if you are a complete stranger and I have no invested interest in you. I just wanna know what you are up to and hopefully catch you in a lie. And if you leave your Christmas list on the kitchen table (ahem, Maggie Ginn) I will read it and spoil your gift ideas for me, but I’d never go looking for my present. Boundaries, ya know.
- Along the same lines, I was always a writer. This went hand in hand with being a detective because I was writing stories about the information I
imaginedfound. Sometimes, I just wrote about my strong opinions. Once, when I was about 6 years old and bored in church I wrote an exposé on the relationship between Christmas presents and Jesus Christ and it was published in the local newspaper (Submitted, I think by my mother, whom found it funny a 5-6yr old had very strong opinions on such topics.) And more times than not, if I ever asked my dad a question, especially involving the word “why” he would answer “if you’re writing a book, just leave that chapter out.” He said this because it infuriated me, but I did ask a lot of questions.
- I owned a lot of businesses as a child. I used to pick apples and try to sell them at the end of driveway– the lemonade stand was so overdone, even in the 80s, so I was branching out! Unfortunately, living in a rural area, no one actually drove on my road so I was just waiting for the mailman. However, the set back with the apple business did not stop me and my cousin Becca from baking cakes in our Easy Bake ovens and selling them at the end of the driveway. This buisness venture was also a failure. So naturally we opened up a restaurant on the back porch and sold them all to our pretend dessert-hungry customers.
- I was very domesticated. I loved to cook, clean, and host tea parties. My cousins and I used to act out plays (that we made up) and I always wanted to be the lady that made all the
- I often pretended to be an indian. Maybe because I am part Cherokee and wanted to play out what that life would have been like for me in a tribe setting?
- I was really into justice and hypothetical situations. According to my memories, a lot of the times I got in trouble were for doing the right thing, even if I had to break the rules to do it. When I was in kindergarten my mom was called to the school because I unintentionally initiated a sit-in when the special needs girl in our class wasn’t afforded more time to finish her art project which would make her the only kid in the class that wouldn’t have one. I volunteered to give up my recess to help her, but when my suggestion was denied, it turned into something more like, “you can’t make me leave this classroom and I choose to stay here until she’s finished.” I don’t remember this, but my mom said she was told that because of my stance, the others kids got back out all the art supplies they had just put away– it caused some chaos. My teacher told her I was insubordinate. I don’t know if this is important to mention, but this girl never asked for my help. Then when I was a teenager, freshly licensed, with my parents still paying for my gas; I used to give friends from school a ride home. When my mom found out I was doing this I got in big trouble, because A) it was not legal to have others ride with me. B) she was flipping the bill for this taxi service. In my eyes: weren’t those things arbitrary, was I not being a good Samaritan?
- Lastly, I remember when I was 15, riding in the car with my mom, talking about my boyfriend of 2 weeks, she said she worries about me because she thinks I’m attracted to men that “need help.” She tried to teach me that even if my heart was big enough and patient enough to see past where someone is and see the potential in who they want to be– that does not make for a healthy romantic relationship. I wanted to be the one that didn’t give up on the ones that have been given up on. She encouraged me to find a boy that already was the person he wanted to be– because I deserved to be loved well too. Who knew my mom was such a little fortune teller, narrating the demise to come of all my future romantic interests. And while we’re here, I just have to speak some truth in case someone needs to read it: My mother was so right and It took me 30 years to believe it for myself; but it is not enough that you are strong enough to love someone through the person they are now into the person they want to be– if that person is not capable of returning that much love to you– and most often they cannot offer that to you when they have not made peace with themselves. You deserve to be loved as well as you love.
So the thing I learned from thinking over my childhood “play” and behaviors is that they were very telling of the woman I’d grow up to be. Even though it never crossed my mind to be a therapist, the more in depth I became in this program, the more it became clear to me that I’d really been training for this my entire life. I am extremely curious about people, I want to know everything about you, I want to understand you, and I even want to validate you. I want to know your stories. I care deeply for the well-being of others. I care about equal rights and justice and being a really loud voice for someone who isn’t being heard. I also still want to own my own business (details to come later). And I still really want to write books– leaving no chapters out, Dad. I am, as an adult, living out my childhood dreams, even if I didn’t have a label to put on it.
I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started this Masters program, and I know I took the long way around to get here, but I am truly proud of myself for seeing this through. I’ve learned more about myself, forgiven myself, and accepted myself in these past 2 years than I ever have before. I am so thankful to each of you who were patient with me, who supported me through each wild idea that lead me to this point, and those who were forgiving when I was short on time and had to cancel our plans. I love you all so much and appreciate your support more than you know.