I am interning as a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor. The work is challenging and difficult, but rewarding. I’ve noticed one thing, however – Ever want to stop the conversation on a dime at a cocktail party? - just mention that you are a domestic violence and sexual assault counselor. While out trying to relax and have fun at a party I have tried to give the pat answer of “I am a counselor” in response to the inevitable question, “What do you do?” – but I can’t keep my passion down and I need to share what I am actually doing for a living and what I am so passionate about it. I am often faced with a blank stare or a “I could never do that kind of work,” and this is often the end of the conversation. Don’t get me wrong! Occasionally I do get an interested conversation partner and we have a great exchange and we both learn something from each other (don’t you just love when that happens?) But usually after I say what I do all that fills the air is the sound of crickets.
I’m sure many counselors, and other mental health professionals, face this kind of reaction in social situations. After all, people are trying to enjoy themselves, but I know fun can be had while sharing what I am doing with my time, my life, my being. I know this is true, because it has happened and I invite it from others.
Some big surprises can grab you at social gatherings as well. At a certain luncheon recently I ran into a woman who is a funeral director. For many reasons, not worth going into here, I have a terrible problem with funerals and wakes, but I made a choice to show interest and ask her about what she does. It was amazing. I found out many things about that particular trade I didn’t know and the woman was passionate about her work and helping her clients to grieve. Talking to her gave me a little courage – courage to make a declaration to myself: when someone asks me “what have you been up to?” or “what do you do for a living?” at holiday parties and get-togethers this season I will tell the truth and share my experience with reckless abandon.
I invite you all to share your passion, because it is contagious. When what we believe in fuels our ambition it creates a wonderful energy that grows and grows. Don’t shy away from mixing it up a little. In fact, I have a holiday party coming up this Friday night and I am going to be flat-out honest about what I do and why, all the while inviting questions and sharing some knowledge. Happy Holidays, Counselors. We make a difference.
Susan Jennifer Polese is a counselor in training, a personal coach and a freelance writer. Her areas of interest are mindfulness, divergent thinking, and creativity in counseling.