It wasn’t that big of a deal. It involved two minutes of my time, most of which was spent trying to figure out my projected graduation date, and a quick email to my academic adviser. But it felt like a big deal, maybe because I’ve gotten so much fulfillment from clinical mental health counseling. Updating my LinkedIn profile in January 2018 to reflect my new program of study was a milestone, something I’d been working toward my entire undergraduate career. Every time I type it out—clinical mental health counseling — a thrill goes through me.
Community care isn’t nearly as exciting. But it’s what I’ve decided to do. After weeks of indecision, back-and-forth, and anxious messages to my best friends at 4 in the afternoon, I’ve finally come to a decision. As much as part of me wanted to drop out of my program, I knew in my heart that I couldn’t. Dropping out would make the last five years of my life, not to mention my B.A. in psychology and certificate in peace studies and conflict resolution, pretty much worthless. And I love the mental health profession. The awe I experienced upon opening my first textbook has never really faded.
A major in community care is the perfect compromise. I love clinical mental health counseling, but I can’t be the one who provides direct services to clients — it would be too taxing, both physically and emotionally. Continuing with the clinical mental health counseling program didn’t make sense, because I’d have to go through several semesters of field placements just to graduate with a license I would never use because I’m not planning to take on clients. But I want to do something in the mental health field, and a major in community care gives me the education and credentials to do anything from advocacy work to nonclinical counseling-related services.
Ideally, I’ll find a job that lets me combine my education with my love for mental health advocacy, disability rights, and storytelling. But that’s the dreamer in me. Right now, I’m focusing on getting through the semester. I have 12 credits to go, which means by April 2020, I’ll have my master’s degree.
It’s a relief to have it all figured it out. From the outside, it probably looks like I went through a whirlwind of doubt and uncertainty with a quick turnaround of a few weeks. But in truth, this change has been a long time coming. It just took me a while to get into the right headspace. I had to go through months — and months and months — of quiet anxiety before surfacing. (Just like last week, I’m listening to the ocean.)
I have four specific classes left, and none are offered during the summer, which means I have a five-month break coming up — the longest I’ve had since starting preschool as a tiny kiddo with speech difficulties and a penchant for catching pneumonia. I’m not looking forward to the summer depression that’ll inevitably get me down, but I’ve decided to finish the first draft of my book this year, and this unexpected reason to take it easy has made that goal approximately a thousand time more likely.
No promises. But I’m feeling hopeful.
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