The end of one journey is just the beginning of another.
Today was my last day at CRC and as I’m finishing case notes and discharge summaries, I’m pausing to reflect on all that has happened. After being accused of job-hopping, and taking a chance on applying for an outpatient clinic that I had wanted to work at since my undergrad days, I can say that I am glad that I listened to that still small voice. Over the past three years I have experienced more changes and ups and downs than I could have ever imagined. I have enjoyed the process, and I have been challenged to become someone I didn’t know even existed within this body. I have found my feet and identity as a therapist while building relationships with individuals that I hope to stay in contact with for years.
When I was pursing my undergraduate degree, it wasn’t in psychology or social services, it was in music. I was a music performance major on clarinet; right up until I finish my junior year at Northwestern. Music was my identity. My life. My soul. My lifeline. Looking back now, music was the one thing that kept me from turning to drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors during high school and my early college years. I was able to express myself and tell my story through music. Except, one night in early 2003, I was in the commons area in my dorm room and I remember watching the bombing of Baghdad. There was this distinct impression on me that someone was going to have to help those soldiers. That those soldiers (and other service members of course) could not battle like that in the 21st century unscathed. In what I call my Jonah moment, I remember thinking that there was nothing I could do. I was in the Army band – not anything that could provide direct service or to be part of the bigger story of those soldiers’ lives. What in the world could I do to help them? I brushed the thought off, and ended up switching my Bachelor’s degree to psychology. There have been several times, and more so since I became the training NCOIC in the Army Band that I knew I was meant to work with soldiers, but didn’t think that was possible since the VA isn’t hiring clinical counselors and I didn’t want to become an officer in the Army. I thought the doors had been closed. Then, a recruiter called me at the end of August and told me about a position at the armory just down the road from me. I was intrigued – and as I texted my 1SG to be a reference, I mentioned that it was a long-shot that I would get the job. After some very fun and unique interviews (all by phone) I was asked to be part of the team.
On Monday, I begin working for the Minnesota National Guard on their psychological health team. I’ve been assigned to work with 1/3 of the National Guard soldiers here. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in my life that started in my heart 14 years ago. And I can only hope that through my compassion, loyalty, and service that I will be able to connect with the citizen soldiers in a way that is honoring to them and their families.