Sometimes it’s easy to forget in the general hustle and bustle of our working day why we chose to do a particular job in the first place and what our chosen career path means to us. Often there’s just no time to sit still and reflect for a moment about the fundamental challenges, opportunities and life events which all helped to shape our individual journies and destinies.
In fact our working lives can so easily become consumed with what will happen next, for instance, planning our next project, building new networks, gaining promotion and where to find new clients.
I have recently started up my private counselling practice and the other day, during a moment of self-reflection, I asked myself the question, “why did I become a counsellor”?
It occurs to me that the answer to such a question may not be entirely obvious or easy to put into words but I will attempt to answer it in this article and in three other forthcoming blog posts in which I will discuss some of the major events in my life which I feel put me on course to become a therapist and I will reflect on the work experience which has given me the life skills to do what I do.
Finally I will examine how I believe my disability has given me the ability to make a real difference to people’s lives and to help others work through their own personal issues.
“Such a destination was not even on my radar or within my imagination....”
If you had told me at the age of 14 while I was at school that one day I would be a counsellor, have my own private practice and be working with clients on their personal issues such as their relationships, stress at work, anxiety and depression, I would have been quite surprised. Surprised because back then such a destination was not even on my radar or within my imagination.
As a somewhat quiet, studious, independent teenager I had my mind set on what I thought I wanted to do, still perhaps somewhat naive or unaware of what life could offer me or the personal journey I would subsequently undertake.
Once upon a time, as a young child, I had wanted to be a farmer, train driver or footballer (maybe like every little boy dreams of!).
However throughout my secondary school years my love of reading, aptitude for languages and interest in Drama and taking part in school plays suggested that I had creative talent and communication skills which might justtake me elsewhere.
Indeed I think back to how I could have so easily gone down the career route of journalism. I recall how, when I was at school doing work experience for a local newspaper. I was so proud to write a story for them about fundraising I was doing to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of a friend who died of cancer in my year at school.
Speaking to a blind journalist encouraged and inspired me.
The pathway to becoming a journalist seemed to become even more realistic when I left school and out-of-the-blue I was given an amazing opportunity to take part in a programme for the BBC in which I interviewed a blind journalist, called Sue Arnold, about her life and work. I’ll never forget how Sue told me about everything she’d done, including travelling around the world and working on cruise ships interviewing royalty. She hadn’t allowed her disability to get in the way or stop her from doing exactly what she wanted to do. In speaking to Sue I was encouraged and inspired.
I often wonder what could have happened if I had gone down the journalist route. I think that potentially it would have allowed me to express my creative talents, to satisfy the zest in me to hear about and describe others’ experiences.
Certainly becoming a journalist may have suited me in terms of enabling me to use my interpersonal skills to interact with a wide variety of people from different communities. But would it actually have helped me to fulfil my potential? How would I have handled the interpretative aspects of a reporter’s work, the need to often dig for a story and undoubtedly make judgements from time to time?
Another burning ambition I have always held is to one day write a book, maybe an autobiography about my life and my experiences. Perhaps it is the journalist or the creative writer within me that will enable me to follow and to successfully fulfil this ambition one day.
“What I learnt about myself was far more important than what I did or did not do”
So instead of following the path of journalism, once I had completed my languages degree at university, I opted to train as a teacher in modern foreign languages. Not because I’d ever really given teaching too much thought but it seemed to be a natural progression, a chosen route for me. I had a knack for learning languages so why not pass my knowledge, skills and enjoyment of language learning on to others.
Also several other people from my boarding school had taken a similar direction and had achieved great success in becoming teachers so I probably felt that I could model myself on them.
Looking back I believe I perhaps made the decision to undertake teacher training far too early without considering the implications. Coming straight after finishing my degree and the rollercoaster ride I had experienced at university, I don’t think I really gave myself sufficient time and space I needed to switch off for a while, to step off the treadmill that education can often become and really look around at the different opportunities which were available to me.
However I have no regrets. Even though I did not complete my PGCE year and eventually withdrew from the training, what I learnt about myself was far more important than what I did or did not do. This was the first time in my life where I understood that there is more to life than education and how self-care and self-awareness can be more important than qualifications.
What happened during this year certainly changed the direction of my life.
In Part 2 of “Why did I become a counsellor?” (coming soon) I will share the emotions I experienced during teacher training, how things got on top of me and how I managed them. I will look at how I eventually made the decision to leave the course, what happened next and how this took me in a totally new direction with my life.
For more about me, my work and my life experiences you can read the article published recently in Lancashire Evening Post.Lancashire Evening Post Article