(emily freaks out about grad school, part one can be found here)
"The goal is to know God,
not to know more..."
...At the beginning of January, a few hours before leaving to go curl up by the sea for a few days, I stopped by school for a quick meeting with our program's clinical training director. That conversation turned out to be pivotal. He asked me where I was thinking about applying for practicum next year, and, to my surprise, he suggested I apply for a placement I hadn't even considered. One I'd heard about but quickly dismissed as way too "hard-core" for me.
If I got it, I'd be working with kids, giving them assessments for various learning disabilities. I'd be at a university, in the city, getting excellent training from some of the most skilled and well-known psychologists in Oregon. And (he pointed out with a knowing look) the name of the placement would really open doors in a few years when it came time to apply to internship sites.
I thanked him for the suggestion. I was flattered he thought I should apply, and I was interested. It made sense, right? Think how many options I would have later if I was at a top site now. I'd be working with kids, technically, and that was what I wanted, right? It would be intense... I would definitely learn a ton... I'd grow as a clinician!
I left for my retreat thinking I'd probably apply for it. Why not?
And then I spent three and a half days with God.
I had even more time than I'd had all break to notice just how weary I was. No matter how long I slept, it felt not long enough. When I sat and tried to read, my mind raced, and when I tried to write down my prayers I felt too anxious to follow a thought.
I prayed through a list of spiritual disciplines, wanting to pick a few to concentrate on in 2013. The ones that consistently jumped out at me had a theme: Simplicity. Slowing. Rule for Life.
I pictured spending the next few months writing and re-writing a cover letter. Skipping spring break so I could be available for interviews. Buying a new pair of pumps and trying to convince people who don't know me how professional and together I am.
And if I did get it? I'd be working with kids... who I'd meet once and have to remain blank-faced for. I imagined a year of trying to prove myself in an ultra-competitive environment. Of getting home late every day, exhausted from over an hour commute. Of even more pressure, more "professional development". More feeling like I have to hide my personality to succeed in a field I chose to enter because I felt formed and gifted for it.
And then, unexpectedly, a different picture kept coming into my mind more and more.
A favorite professor, one who knows me well and hugs me when she sees me in the hallways and invited me to a Christmas party at her house, had told me a year ago that she'd take me at her site if I needed a placement this year.
She'd said it almost apologetically: it's in the rural schools, not like a fancy university site.
And she wants me to get whatever I think is the best training for me, so I shouldn't feel obligated.
But she would love to have me. And it's such a special site (her voice got all earnest and excited), working with, for, these kids.
It's right here in the county where I make my home.
I'd be working at an elementary school, my favorite age-
but instead of being blank-faced, the focus could be on building relationships
in the "feelings groups" and therapy-through-play we'd be doing together.
I would still need to be professional and on top of things-
with the shared goal with the other staff of getting the best care available
to kids whose parents are farmers, migrant workers, don't speak English at home,
have never seen a psychologist before.
I'd still be getting careful supervision-
from someone who's known me since my first week here and who gets what I'm about.
Instead of spending all semester with my stomach in knots, hoping for a chance to be on the bottom of the totem pole,
I could have everything decided next week. I could spend the next months putting my heart into preparing and planning.
Instead of spending over two hours of my days in city traffic,
I'd be driving just a few miles past farms and fields and mountains.
And this is the part that makes me cry, and that is a whole other topic on its own:
it's a direct answer to another conversation God and I had been having.
About how I could get to know the needs of the people in my little corner of the world.
How I could better know and love those who are marginalized right here,
where I walk and work and play out my days.
It hadn't even occurred to me to pray that that might happen through school.
I got home from the sea, and I scheduled another meeting with the clinical training director.
And I told him thank you so much for this opportunity, but I think what makes the most sense for me right now is to work in the school district. If they'll take me.
He stared at me.
And as I explained my reasoning (I didn't even try to be cool or professional or what not and leave out prayer), he slowly nodded. He assured me my training would be excellent, saying (still blinking in surprise) that maybe the name recognition wouldn't be the same but my experience would certainly be built working with those kids, under this fantastic professor who has such a heart for them. In fact, he said, it sounded like it might... actually... be a really great fit for me.
And then I met with that professor and told her I wanted to do it. After convincing her I was serious, which took some doing, she started to spill over with plans. For groups, for assessments, for me being able to interpret directly for the Mexican parents...
Last week it was confirmed.
I will be a practicum counselor right here in the rural schools, starting Fall 2013...
(...to be continued...)