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May 17, 2010

Live Well and Toast Often

I had a free week between the end of my semester and the start of summer school, so I decided to visit my parents in Memphis for a few days. Unfortunately, while in town, my poor 2000 Chevy Impala had to undergo $1,100 worth of surgery. It turns out my car suffered from a water leak and needed a new water tank, an intake valve, and several other random things with functions I honestly don't know. Before my car was repaired, I always said, "As long as the thing turns on and runs, then I'm fine." It's an older car that I've driven for the past eight years and has always safely taken me where I needed to go. However, I realized after paying that lovely bill that it is not only important that my car turns on and runs. It is crucially important that my car turns on and runs well. I realized this same principle can be applied to people – particularly ourselves and our clients. How often do we wake up in the morning and think, "As long as I can get up and going, then I'm fine." I'm learning that as counselors, life is more than getting up and going. Life is about getting up and living well. Every client's definition of living well will differ, but isn't that part of the inherent satisfaction in our work? To help others learn how to live well? I work as a graduate assistant in my university's Career Center, so I counsel a lot of students who are just getting up and living instead of getting up and living well. I remember one student shared with me, "I hate waking up and going to class. I go because I have to, but I so miss loving school." For this particular student, living well meant finding a college major that would bring satisfaction and fulfillment. We (that's you, fellow graduate students and counselors) need to learn to live well, too. As my therapist asked me the other week, "What are you doing this summer besides school?" That question made me realize that I need to embrace all of my life roles in order to live well. So, for me, living well means staying involved with my church, spending quality time with my husband, visiting my family, attending friends' weddings, and lounging by the pool. What does living well look like for you? What else are you doing this summer besides taking graduate classes, writing dissertations, preparing presentations, grading papers, counseling clients, or running a private practice? Living well was not my only minor epiphany this week. I also realized the importance of toasting often. My husband and I attended an old friend's wedding on Saturday, and after the ceremony we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Olive Garden. Before we began our drinks, we raised our glasses and toasted the newly married couple. After the toast, I looked at my husband and said, "We toast all the time." He smiled and replied, "Yes, we do. Even when there really isn't anything to toast about." His statement could not have been more true. I recalled several toasts we've had where the toasts sound like the following: "To this exhausting day being over." "To the new light bulb on our front porch." "To sharing dinner with you." "To a lazy Sunday afternoon." All of these toasts celebrate minor situations in life that would not receive recognition if not for the toast. I live in a world of schedules, goal-setting, assignments, meetings, appointments, and instant gratification. Toasts slow me down and help me to appreciate the small things in life, and usually, those small things that slip under the radar are the most important things. To what or whom will you toast this week?

Courtnay Veazey is a graduate student at Mississippi State University pursuing a Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling and working as a graduate assistant at MSU's Career Center

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