I realize last week’s post sounded pretty down, and in truth, that’s absolutely how I felt. Sometimes, life feels like one step forward and one step back. If you read my post anyway, thank you--maybe you’ve been there before or are going through something similar. But there’s a much, much happier ending to this week!
When my husband and I moved to Baton Rouge last month, I had three goals: 1) find an interesting and fulfilling job, 2) finish my internship and degree, and 3) make friends and explore this interesting new part of the country. Last week, it seemed like everything possible was getting in the way of achieving these goals. No calls back despite numerous résumés submitted, not enough hours at my internship site, very little social time with people other than my husband. And then someone I admire and respect very much reminded me that I’d better keep advocating for myself or nothing will ever improve. I promised myself I would.
And it did get better! All of a sudden, all at once, things started happening. My internship supervisor and I talked out the issues and I’ll be on track to graduate. Yesterday, I accepted a job that’s better than I even imagined. On Saturday, I get to explore New Orleans for the very first time.
I always think of self-advocacy as planting little tiny seeds. Some might not grow, but others will sprout into amazing plants. Those little actions we do to make life better for ourselves--making a new connection, sending out a résumé, asking a question, even calling the landlord to get something fixed--can lead to something great. Unfortunately, it takes some patience for those seeds to grow, and I had forgotten that part. The upside to being patient is that at some point, you’ll reach a tipping point and a few good things will happen all at once.
Maybe that’s an overly optimistic philosophy informed by only 28 years of life and 2 years of learning to be a counselor, but I’m sticking to it for now. Some of residents at my internship site are going through the same things I have been facing, such as lack of a job or lack of a local support system. The residents also set life goals as required to stay in the program, usually similar to mine: Find a place to live, find a job, build a support system in Baton Rouge, or finish their GEDs.
So far, I have helped many of the newer residents start reaching their goals by creating résumés together and brainstorming appropriate and fun places to volunteer or look for jobs. I feel like it’s my job to help them start to plant those little seeds for themselves--they’ll be on their own soon enough and will need to self-advocate in order to live independently. I hope the positive changes we can effect together are enough to propel them forward to create more positive change in their own lives. I hope I can somehow be patient with them (by learning to be more patient myself first!) as we wait for those seeds to take root, and I hope I can be there to celebrate these successes with them. I can’t wait to see what grows for all of us in the next few months!
Kristen Eckhardt is a counselor-in-training at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, completing her internship this year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more about her experiences and her takes on counseling issues at www.feetintwoworlds.wordpress.com.