My journey with counselling began 14 years ago, in 2003, when I had come to the idea that counselling was what I wanted my life's work to be about. I was 22 years old, a mother of 2 and had been married for 2 years. At that time, I was living in Osoyoos, BC for the summer with my husband and our children. We planned to return to Kamloops, BC where I would attend university as I was a declared psychology major with a minor in sociology. Prior to this point I had no firm plans on what I wanted to do. Until, one day, during a warm summer evening in Osoyoos, I took my children for an evening stroll with my mom and I told her I was certain I wanted to be a counsellor.
Fast forward 9 years. I had graduated from university with an honours degree in psychology and a minor in sociology. I was living in Kamloops, BC and had added two more children to the family. Tragically, our fourth child had died earlier that year and I was jobless, directionless and near hopelessness. When out of the blue I received a phone call from my brother mentioning that the university in my home city (where he worked) was offering a Master in Education program with a stream for counsellors. He thought it might be a good idea for me to apply. There was a catch though, the application needed to be in by Friday. It was Wednesday. I quickly contacted my mom and she encouraged me to go for it. I filled out all the application forms and the letter of intent. I secured the finances and rushed my transcripts to the education department. I barely snuck in under the application deadline. I was determined to give this opportunity a try because I wanted to do something in honour of my son. I had this inner drive to never use my son's death as an excuse for trying something. I didn't want his legacy to be one of a barrier.
Later in 2012 I was interviewed and accepted into the Masters program. It had been quite a few years since I was last a student and now I joined a cohort, of mostly teachers, on a path to become a professional counsellor. I remember the first course I took was Introduction to Counselling Skills. The professor was different to anyone I had ever met. She taught us mindfulness. This alone was so far out of my comfort zone that it might as well have been on another planet. As I think back to those days, I remember how resistant I was. To everything. There were a lot of things I fought back about. I wanted academic rigor and she offered reflection journals. I wanted knowledge and she provided exercises on sitting in silence, eye-to-eye with a classmate for 5 minutes straight. That, by the way, is way harder than you might think. Way harder. The point is, I was in a different headspace. I thought it was a waste of my time. So at the end of the year when we gathered around in a talking circle to say our goodbyes to one another, I was less than enthused. The professor handed out a rock to each of us. Each had a unique word written on it as a takeaway from the course. I remember thinking, "Seriously?" I shoved the rock in my laptop bag, said my goodbyes and ventured onward.
As I look back, I learned a lot from that class and from that professor. I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that my heart hardened following our family tragedy. Maybe I had taken counselling on too soon after the death of my son. How could I help others when I couldn't help myself? I also learned the benefits of reflection, presence and mindfulness. It was a challenge to open up and try new things and be more amiable to the teaching styles of others. It worked too. I got an A- in that Intro class. It was the worst grade of my Masters program. It was all an upward trajectory from there.
Fast forward 3 years. I had completed all of my coursework, finalized my practicum hours and graduated from the Masters of Education in Counselling. I had a job I loved, working with amazing people and there was some promise that a counselling position would open up. I plugged along at my job and with life in general. It felt like things were coming together.
They weren't. I continued with the job I had and I was, in fact, offered a counselling position. However, that never materialized into anything substantial and I felt this internal tug to do something different. This gnawing persisted but I made no changes. I tried to make my job into something I wanted but I finally came to the conclusion, I needed to move on.
Rewind to November of 2011. I was in the neonatal intensive care unit in Vancouver, BC with my critically ill premature son. I was hours away from my husband and 3 children, and spending a lot of time alone. One of the other mothers mentioned journaling helped her through an nearly identical situation. As a result, I began journaling and quickly decided to make a blog with daily entries for others to follow along with my story. It was both cathartic and informative. It developed a little following and through its raw and transparent nature it connected with people, many of which I had never met.
Back to November of 2016. I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to make something out of my blog and out of my career in general. I wanted to be passionate about something and I thought it should be about my work. There was also this calling to tell my son's story in a way that could help others. This desire for change lived inside of me, never waning. I'd get a feeling while watching TV. Ideas would come to me while I was dreaming. I'm a religious person and I would have this nudging every time I attended church. Everything was telling me, "Time for a change!" After months of continued internal urging, nudging and gnawing, I was going to quit my job and take a leap of faith.
I finally went into my office deadset on emailing my letter of resignation. I opened up my laptop bag and pulled out my laptop. I had summoned the courage. It was happening! I powered the laptop up and drafted my letter. I was doing it! As I was about to hit send, I received an email from my boss. It was an internal job posting that would give me more hours and responsibillity. My thoughts of resignation disappeared at that moment. When, "BANG!" In the utter silence of the room was a raucous bang that sent my heart racing and me lurching out of my chair. I was the only person in the office and something had crashed onto the laminate flooring. I looked around nervously to see what it was. There on the ground was a rock. Just a plain, smooth, dark gray rock. I was confused. Where did this come from? Why was there a rock on the office desk to begin with? What the heck? So as I walked over to pick it up, I realized my laptop bag had fallen over. The rock had fallen from my bag. It was that Intro to Counselling Skills rock from 5 years previous. The one that I had discarded in the bottom of my laptop bag. I reached down, picked it up and turned it over. On the other side, in white capital letters read, "LISTEN."
It was immediate goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I picked up my phone and called my boss where we had a discussion and an end date to my employment was finalized. All those who knew me best were happy I was heading in a different direction. I was finally taking a step toward my passion and entering the genius zone. You know that place where you use your passion and skills together to land in a place where you are doing what you are meant to?
I contemplated writing a book and even wrote the first 180 pages but scrapped that and decided to create my own counselling business. I thought it was more authentically me. I have an immense desire to help. Since I can remember, I've loved being of service to others. As a result, I created my business, Stride Wellness, and melded doing what I love and helping those who need it. That wasn't enough for me though, I wanted more from my writing and knew it needed to be a part of my journey. That landed me here, with another blog. This blog is different from the first I wrote in that the intention of this one is to provide ideas, information, stories, and resources from the lens of a counsellor. I have salvaged my 2011 blog/journal and reworked into a podcast called Weary & Burdened.
Today, as I wrap up the loose ends of my website, blog and podcast, before finally taking that leap toward my passion and go live, I'm implementing a skill I learned all those years ago in my Intro class: reflection. My business may not ever be what I envision. I may never do more than record a few podcasts and publish a handful of blog posts. I might not be an author or a public speaker. But that's okay because I'm taking a risk. I'm taking a chance on myself. Thanks to that rock, I'm listening to my gut and giving it a go. I'm seeking my passion, preparing to live it, all while telling a story that's important to me in hopes that I will help those who need it too.
Thanks for joining me on my journey. Thanks to all those who have taken a chance on me. I appreciate everyone who has walked beside me and held me up. I hope to return the favor. If I can't, I will pay it forward with patience, presence, transparency, fairness and kindness to those who cross my path; In honour of you and my son, David.