a little life update

I feel like I’ve changed a lot over the last few weeks.  I started walking in some new directions, and I was finally able to grasp certain truths about myself in a powerful way that allows me to make bigger changes.

I’ve struggled for a very long time with striking a balance in my life.  This is particularly true when it comes to relationships.  The brave, new world of social networking and blogging makes it all the more difficult for me.

I’m a naturally introverted person who tends to be pretty private.  Some of my best friends don’t know what’s going on with me.  I can be amazingly difficult to read.  Half the time, I have no idea what I think or feel.  Writing has always been my way of figuring that out–which is not ideal because, when things got rough for me, I used blogging to figure it out–and connect–in public.  I’m grateful for the lessons and people these things brought into my life.  But I’ve realized these outlets are poor substitutes for people who matter in my life.  It’s brought a lot of hurt and a lot of frustration over the years.

And yet, I’m a writer.  I’m a writer trying to be herself and trying to use what life has given her.  I want to help people, and I know sharing who I am does that.  So, I’ve struggled with the idea of oversharing.  What’s appropriate?  What hurts too much?  How do I remain honest and open while still keeping some things sacred and just mine?

Recently, I figured that out.  It was a thunderbolt to the head.  So, this blog will be changing.  It may be noticeable.  I have no idea.  I will probably post a lot less–because not everything I’d normally post is getting through my new standards.  I had planned a very different post for today, but I realize–that post shouldn’t be for public consumption.  Posting it would recreate old patterns and keep me in places I don’t need to be. I may post it, eventually–when I’m different.

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The process of getting to this realization also came with a lot of other good things.

If you’ve read my blog much, you probably know that I tend to wring my hands over career stuff.  It’s been a big thing for me for most of my life.  It’s caused me to accumulate degrees like salt shakers.  Only I haven’t done much with those degrees.  I’m still doing what I did out of college–more on my own terms now and in a more professional way–but still, essentially, the same.  I’ve made some degree of peace with it, but I know I need to change…both so I can do bigger things and also because I just can’t see myself doing it for that much longer.

Earlier this year, I came up with a plan b.  I’m in the process of learning all I need to know to really get plan b rolling.  Plan b combines all my interests and even some of my past jobs.  It feels like a good fit.  I’ve had some worries along the way, and the pressure to know everything…yesterday…is high.  Self-pressure.  I just want to get on with it.  I’m 35.  It’s time to be a grown-up.

I am a grown-up, though–always have been.  But maybe that’s the problem.  It’s time to do what I want to do.  To me, that’s being a grown-up.  It’s not duty and drudgery.  It’s being the person at the wheel.  If something doesn’t work, you do a u-turn.

Teaching myself everything I need to know about design is hard.  There’s so much stuff, and while I did this stuff in college, the world is so different now.  I want to know everything, so I have to reign myself in.  I’ve been contemplating shifting gears and just learning to code–specifically Ruby.  I feel like doing that would be simpler and would allow me to make meaningful change faster–which would easily support transitioning into what really, really interests me.  So, that’s probably my short-term plan.

This week–today, in fact–I made another big decision.  One that’s sorta been in my mind for a while, but the new things I’ve learned about myself have pushed me in a different direction.

I’ve wanted to be a therapist since about 2009.  It was not something I EVER thought I’d do.  I only made the decision after giving up my dream of devoting my life to teaching children.  I had a rough experience that pretty much gutted me…made me question who I was.  And then, the Universe handed me a random job that wasn’t quite right, but exposed me to my heart.  I was already in a Master’s program for another wrong thing.  But I finished and then transitioned to a different path.  By then, I’d decided: I’ll be an art therapist.  I’ll start a nonprofit.  Like teaching, it felt right.  I studied to do those things.  And it was worthwhile, but I slowly realized I’d lost something along the way.

It was my ability to sacrifice myself for others.

I LOVE helping people.  It brings me insurmountable crazy amazing heaps of joy.  Helping people is my heroin.  But I’m learning that I’m not a healthy helper–because I help people to punish myself and to numb out.  It doesn’t fill my cup.  I think I have a LOT of issues with giving.  I think I need to be super healthy to give appropriately and in ways that are self-loving.

I have to work on that.  A lot.

I have to learn how to be Alma–the person my heart wants and needs to be…and the person my life didn’t support me in being.

Which is why I simply cannot be tasked with healing other people’s broken hearts and lives.

I cannot put anything back together when I’m still breaking apart and trying to glue myself back together.

I realized this a little while ago when I started trying to be there for people in my life.  I realized that it took a whole lot out of me…that it actually hurt.  I started postponing plans and putting conditions on things–which is my way of giving up without actually giving up.  Because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling how I was feeling.  But the reality was simply that I had changed…that life had forced me to take care of myself.  That now self-abuse felt bad–even when I thought I was being kind.

So, I’ve been living my life.  Thinking about things.  Getting advice.  Learning.

And today, it just sort of fell into place.

I don’t want to heal individuals, necessarily.  Doing that means hurting myself.  It means recreating all the things I just can’t keep exposing myself to.

I’ve always–even when I thought I wanted to be a teacher–wanted to empower people.  I’m a big ideas person.  Sure–I can get in the trenches and get dirty–but I’m learning I no longer want to.  I want to do more than heal 1 person.  I want to change my world.  I’ve always seen myself as an activist.  I’ve always seen the problems with systems and institutions.  I have a lot of interest in the intersection between those institutions and people.  It’s been part of every piece of my education since I had a choice of what to study.  I’ve always wanted to write about social issues.  When I decided to do therapy, I had grand hopes of leaving my nonprofit and my practice at some point to write books and do workshops with people.  That was the stuff that excited me.  The other stuff was just a stepping stone.

Two years ago, I looked at various PhD programs.  I considered my focus and thought clinical practice was my fit–even though it seemed to bring a lot of obstacles with it for me.

I want to study people.  I want to use the gifts I have already and use it to empower people–to change systems and the people within them by shedding light on what’s really happening.  To help make the world kinder and better.  To change the reality of people who can’t afford to see a therapist, but still deserve better lives.  To tell their stories and my own–in ways that matter and are heard.

I think that’s what I want to do.  So, a PhD in Macro Social Work–which means I’ll probably end up teaching and doing research.  Which means I’ll be writing and talking about my research.  Which means I’ll basically be doing everything I ever set out to do.

It feels right, right now.  I’m a ways off from seeing it through, and it means starting over in a sense.  But I think my plan B is a decent option for me if I change my mind.

I just need to get going on it.

Anyone have any advice?  Recommend programs?  I’m gonna need help with this.

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3 thoughts on “a little life update

  1. Congrats on your decision to get a Ph.D. It’s one of the most difficult things a person can do. Just a word of warning, though, based on my own experience in my own Ph.D. program, which you’re probably already aware of since you’ve been in a master’s program: It’s nearly impossible to grow both personally and academically in grad school. Graduate school consumes your life. You will spend every waking moment working, teaching or feeling guilty for not having worked at a time when you decided to do something enjoyable instead. Personal growth requires one to spend a significant amount of time ruminating on his or her life and to put a good deal of energy into things that enrich yourself personally -time and energy that you will not have after school has taken its share.

    I really do wish you the best, though, and I’d love to come back to this blog someday having found that you proved my warning unfounded.

    • Thanks. Some of my friends have given me the rundown of warnings about the PhD life. I think I’m prepared for it. I’ve always worked multiple jobs while going to school and managing everything else. Definitely a juggling act, but I think I can deal.

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