I am back from an awesome time at the ACA conference in San Francisco. It was a great time for this small town guy as I experienced both the West Coast but also city life for the first time. Though I can do without the pan handlers, sky scrapers and tons of people but minimal trees, I have a new appreciation for those who prefer the bright lights and big city life. I found myself really getting into the concept of public transportation, small shops and maid service; all of which are not found on a farm or my town. I was also humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement not only by the ACA staff but from my fellow members. So many treated me as if I were part of the family; hugs were plentiful and enjoyed. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be treated so warmly. As this was my first ACA conference I had imagined a lonely trip with me being lost in the shuffle. Back at home and back in session, life has returned to as close to normal as ever. Trees are budding, allergies are in bloom and there is an air of anticipation of what is hoped to be the first of many years of community gardening projects here at the WIP. My first Saturday back will find our first lecture by Fred Weik, our very own “Farmer Fred” who will help educate us on farming techniques in general as well as what seems to work best with the farm land in particular. He, like most everyone at the farm, donates his time to help make the farm a success. Monday brought a delivery of a rebuilt carburetor for the 601 workmaster ford tractor that I donated to the farm. With this part, it is hoped that it will be up and running again, just in time to prepare the fields for planting (I have it installed now and awaiting final fine tuning). It also comes just at the time when I find myself needing tractor therapy very badly. The chugging sound of the motor, the bump, bump, bump ride as you make your way around the farm doing chores really reinvigorates you. Though there are newer and fancier tractors, I personally prefer the oldies, 1940 to 1960 or so tractors. They are rougher, battle scared and possibly temperamental but there is just something about them that makes it all the more of an adventure. As clinicians we all have dreams about how our professional life will go. It differs from person to person but all in all it has some universal themes. We all want to be successful in what we do, though we define it differently at times. Some look at success as earning six figures, though I have earned those figures, it never made me feel successful. Some define success as being “the boss” of a large agency with many responsibilities and many many people who report to them. Some define success by the impact that they make and have made on the lives of those they serve, regardless of income. You may fall somewhere in between. Whatever your dream is the most definitive thing you can do is to try to make it happen. I have seen very talented people never achieve their dreams because they were too afraid to take the leap of faith to launch it. You need not be rich, connected or a genius to launch your dream, you need planning, determination, persistence and desire. Practices can be launched on very little money (you can find related information on practices on the ACA website, my fellow bloggers and on my website under counseling review which has an excerpt from Counseling With Confidence a book in which I contributed a chapter on this subject) and can be quite successful. My not for profit was launched with a seven thousand dollar loan: seven years later we have outgrown our space and our in the process of buying the first of 4 properties that will give us a fifty acre therapeutic farm. Believe me, I am not anything special, so if you desire it or something bigger you can make it happen. That is, if you try. Success, as I mentioned is defined by the story teller. In my case I dreamt of a therapeutic program that provided nurture in nature. We currently have hiking trails, an art studio; we are opening community gardens and are designing the first of many classrooms that will double as group therapy rooms. Our public lecture series has been implemented and we are looking forward to our first season of offering an on your honor vegetable stand that will be unmanned, have a selection of farm grown products, a sign that reads “take what you need and leave what you can” and a small wooden money box. Our goal is to move the whole practice to this location in the next 3 to 5 years. Though money is tight and will remain so indefinitely, I, my clients, volunteers and staff feel like we have started something very powerful. We all know we are making a difference. Now a therapeutic farm is awesome for us, but it is very likely that it is far from your dream. My humble suggestion is to start fleshing out your dream if you have not already. Explore your options; explore ways to implement this dream in stages. Start as small as you have to and build from there. If you cannot find partners, investors or loans, explore ways to do it on a scale where you do not need them. At the WIP (Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm) we currently lack a well or septic but we are managing on starting programming that does not require either. For the gardens, we are pumping water directly from the brook. We will expand as we can. Do not be afraid of failure and do not listen to the doubters who tell you to abandon your dream. I was told by the city development person that they not only had nothing to offer me but that they thought there was no way my dream would ever work. Do listen to the constructive feedback offered, explore issues and obstacles but keep your eyes on the dream. A year and a half ago the farm was simply a pipe dream without even a site in mind. Today the trees are budding, plants are sprouting and it is teaming with volunteers and gardeners. One of the first steps to making your dream a reality is to verbalize it. Doing just that lead someone who had a farm to hear about my dream; he fell in love with the concept and it has lead us to this point. I hope you will start exploring your professional dream and to begin to verbalize it. I would love to hear about it on this page, or if you are not ready to post it here, then via email. What better time to grow a dream than in the spring? Be safe and make it happen.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).