When I graduated high school, I was utterly convinced I had the rest of my life planned out - unlike most graduates, however, college was not in my future. In my graduation speech, I said that I would continue volunteering and being involved at church, learn how to do more things around the house (such as cooking), and begin a study-at-home medical transcription program. Earlier that week I had landed a job at a fast food restaurant, and my best friend had asked me to be his girlfriend. There were a lot of life changes happening all at once, but like your typical, optimistic, naive young person, I was convinced that I would be able to face everything.
The next two-and-a-half years haven't exactly go as planned. Looking back at the smiling eighteen-year-old in a bright purple robe standing on a dictionary in order to see over the top of the podium, I honestly feel a bit cynical at times. I ended up working on average of 30-40 hours weekly at my job, which was a huge financial blessing, but also prevented me from starting my vocational schooling until earlier this year. I still haven't been able to learn much about housework and cooking even though in less than nine months, I'll be going to moving into an apartment with J - who is currently by fiancé, but will of course be my husband when we move in together - in a city over 400 miles away from home. While I completely adore my coworkers and they truly are my second family, the job itself has become emotionally draining. Being in a primarily long distance relationship for two-and-a-half years has also affected me emotionally. Rethinking many of my long-held beliefs and forming new, more Biblical convictions has also been exciting and also challenging. And of course, finally admitting to myself and others that I struggled with mental illness has been a journey that I am still partaking in.
Over the past couple of years, I realized that I didn't know who I was. I know that's very clique-ish of me to say, and I don't mean it in a worldly sense - living a life of sin and no rules in order to discover the "real you" or searching deep inside yourself to find your supposed inner goodness. I know that I am a forgiven sinner in need of daily grace, and that my identity is that of a daughter of God. But I realized I didn't know what I wanted in my future, and that frightened and frustrated me. It was particularly challenging since J knew that he was supposed to be a pastor. I knew that I wanted to be a wife and mother, but I didn't know if I had a ministry or a special gifts to use.
When I graduated in 2014, I thought I had everything figured out. Of course, I didn't. And I don't have everything figured out now, either - far from it. But over this past year, I think I have finally realized what I am meant to do. I could be wrong - God may have a completely different plan for me. But at the moment the people, situations, conversations, and events that God has allowed and placed in my life have led me to pursue counseling.
Ironically, in my junior year of high school, I had actually considered counseling, but I couldn't figure out the logistics. I wanted to be a Christian counselor, but I didn't particularly want to be employed by a church because I figured that any church that would be able to hire a counselor would have to be a very large church, which I didn't feel comfortable with. The other was to set up my own practice, which I felt would interfere with my primary role as wife and mother. Since I couldn't figure out a way to practically use that degree, so I decided it wasn't for me.
It wasn't until earlier this year that I came to the realization that I wanted to be a counselor. When I told J over Skype, I couldn't stop smiling - I felt so peaceful about my decision. After a tumultuous couple of years, I finally knew what I was meant to do - be a wife and mother and a counselor. I finally had my avenue - being a pastor's wife, I would be able to help people in the church, but I wouldn't have to necessarily be employed by the church.
I also decided that despite my original interest in "Christian counseling", I would like to pursue cognitive behavioral therapy. I want to be able to use my degree to help those in our church and also as an outreach to individuals who aren't saved. J and I also hope to adopt older children, and I thought that a degree in CBT might be helpful in those situations.
I won't be going to school until J finishes his degree, which will be several years from now. Of course when we are at that point in time we will also have to consider the financial side of things, so I might not be going to school for a long time, but I am so very excited about the future. I have been thrilled about this decision for a while, but I have just begun telling people. I wanted to explain my thoughts and the journey of how I came to his realization.
I know that someday I will look back at this post and see it as the writings of a typical, optimistic, naive young person, who thinks she can take on the world. I might even feel a bit cynical reading through it. But I hope that I will read it as someone who is a wife and mother and a cognitive behavioral therapist. I hope I will read it and remember why I decided to travel this road. I hope that when I read it, I will be a stronger and wiser person and that I will be a better person. And that I will know myself better than I do now.