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You are allowed to change your mind and still be a good person.
Sometimes, we have to walk the “wrong” way so that we can feel how different it feels to walk the way that is right for us.
For me, finding my way has always been a delicate balance of listening and looking outward at what others are doing, and then of listening and looking inward at how much (or little) those ideas actually resonated with me.
To move forward in life in this way can feel slow and tedious. Like being blindfolded and banging around in the dark for the light switch. This is how my early years finding my way as a coach and advocate for destigmatizing mental health, with a desire to support those who wanted and needed it, felt. I constantly wanted to figure out that one way that I could package and use my skills and interests; and when I discovered therapist school, it felt like a wide-open highway directly to career fulfillment and retirement dreams.
The $40K investment and years of balancing school and family and work and life and interning would all pay off—because I would be a certified professional and therefore, worthy of working in the field of helping people. And therefore, it would be easy to find that work and do what my heart wanted to do, and 1 + 1 = 2, right?
Or so my limiting beliefs had me thinking, but that’s not actually how it worked out.
School had been my comfort zone for as long as I could remember. So has taking on student loans and being in debt (that’s one of those weird comfortable uncomfortable zones where you don’t really like it but at least it’s the devil, you know). So has finishing everything that I start in order to get my own self-approval. And so has doing work that is close to what I love, but not totally my full expression and ownership of what I love and am good at.
What patterns had I followed my whole life that were written all over this seemingly new life experience? Doing something I was good at, and got recognition for, at the expense of doing what I really wanted to do.
So, loans secured, overpriced textbooks purchased, workload (and paycheck) cut in half to make time for school, the first semester begins.
With every reading, assignment, class, and tuition payment, I could feel my inner nudges telling me, “This stuff is cool to learn, but is it what you really want to be doing or is it only what you are doing because you are good at it and settling, just like you have always done with school and your career?” (See, lifelong pattern inserting itself into a new but really not-so-new experience).
I had made the decision to go to therapist school from an ungrounded, uncentered, disempowered (yet comfy, so I didn’t know I was ungrounded and uncentered) place. And it was nice—for a minute. On the surface, I had a clear path. I fit in, I towed the party line, and I met people who I adored and respected who were on the same path. I saw that it worked for them, and since I was used to square-peg-round-holing myself, I put blinders on to the part of me that nudged and whispered, this is not the only way to get to do your work in the world.
Here’s where I stumbled: thinking that because people I adored and respected had found their paths, that the same path would resonate with me.
I also had a limiting belief about how capable I was of carving out a career that didn’t follow a traditional trajectory. I had expectations that if I followed that trajectory, the success and fulfillment I wanted would be easier than forging my own way. I had bought into the belief that there is a “right way,” and I had forgotten that no one way has it all.
There are easy and hard things about every way. It will always be harder (on the deep, deep soul level) to abandon your true desires in exchange for a reliable, predictable path.
Right away, at this deep, soul level, I started to feel squashed by the cogs of higher education. So, I gave myself some balance down a side path, where I connected to my writing voice and worked with coaches and coaching clients who were blowing my mind to what was possible to learn about myself and my own path.
I also started listening to my intuition about where to live and what next steps to take in my relationship. I started to access and build the mental muscle of trusting myself and experiencing the joy and abundance and creativity that come with dancing to the rhythm of my own heart and owning what I want.
I started giving myself permission to see and do things in a different way. On this side path, I really started to feel how it felt to trust myself and my voice and my ability to be creative in the way I express my work and worth in the world.
The main road started to disappear behind me.
I went further away by taking a lighter course load. (Maybe I just needed to give myself more time to complete my degree and more balance so I could fully appreciate the material.)
I got a big “yes” from my soul; less felt like more.
“But I really love my classmates and I don’t want to lose them or get too far behind,” I told myself. This is a paper-thin argument. In what universe does it make sense to go four years and thousands of dollars down an education path just because you like the people you met there?
So, I tested the path a little more and took a semester break. Maybe I just needed more time to pay off my loan in between. Was it the debt that was stressing me out?
And this felt so good.
As I started to move further and further away from the therapist school path, I felt a whole new level of empowerment and alignment that made the comfort I had felt before on that path pale in comparison.
Even still, when it came time to register again, I did. I signed up, ordered the books, paid all the money, and got so far as reading the course syllabus and assignment outlines. Each of these steps felt like a big no in my heart. “Am I just lazy?” I asked. No—I can do mega hard academic things when I want to. And there it was, it was finally time to face the music.
I just didn’t want to anymore. No further explanation or excuse required. And I hadn’t been okay with that for a long time. But now, I decided I had to be. Yes, I’d already spent a boatload of money and I was stubborn and had an ego about quitting and admitting that something that was so right for so many people was not so right for me at that particular time.
The first, and last, and most important thing I have learned is this:
Getting that piece of paper was not the only way I would be able to do my work in the world.
Getting that piece of paper wouldn’t actually mean I was good at my work in the world.
Getting that piece of paper wouldn’t mean I was more capable of serving and helping others than those who do not have said piece of paper. And not getting that piece of paper sure as hell doesn’t mean I am less worthy or capable of doing my work in this world.
Getting that piece of paper was the outward expression of a tangled web of desires and limiting beliefs and lifelong motivations that didn’t really hold up anymore but that I only became aware of because I went down the path that tested them.
Most importantly though, the fear of staying the same edged out the fear of forging a new path. The separation between how my heart really wanted to beat and how I’d tried to force it to beat became too large, and the energy to sustain that dance became too great.
I learned what felt like a “yes” for me and what felt like a “no” for me. Keywords: for me. Because the truth was, my classmates were all making decisions that were yeses for them—they were learning things that lit them up six ways from Sunday and were so excited for the next steps in their careers that this educational experience would give them access to.
So, I broke it off and walked my whole self down the still fuzzy path of honouring my desires to connect and serve and create.
Here’s the best part: I’ve not found my “one thing” yet, but I’m the happiest and most aligned I’ve ever been in my expression of my work in the world. I’m beyond excited for the next challenges and steps, I’m open to new paths that show themselves, and I am committed to continuing to bang around in the dark, content with only seeing one or two lit up steps at a time. I don’t need to see the whole damn road anymore. My inner guidance system will always steer me to where I need to go.
If you are doing something, and deep, deep, deep down the real reason you are doing it is because you think you should and because you don’t know how to accept your inner truth and love yourself at the same time—that is a big flashing arrow guiding you to step back to yourself.
You are who you have the highest responsibility toward. Everything else will follow.
It takes trial and error to get here. It takes accepting the new versions of ourselves that unwrap and unravel as we take each next new step. It takes humility, a great support system, courage, and most of all, giving ourselves permission to change our minds.
Being able to contradict ourselves and our past opinions and decisions is a radical, rebellious, revolutionary act of self-love that makes growth and healing possible in leaps and bounds.
do not be afraid to change your mind
do not be afraid to step into the shoes
of another version of yourself
and tow that party line
what freedom there is
in standing in your own contradiction
in having the grace
and giving the space
for new layers of you to emerge