The cool thing about being a counselor-in-training is that meetings with my supervisor can sometimes turn into counseling sessions. Working alongside other mental health professionals who let you process life is quite a nice job perk.
Yesterday Molly and I had our last meeting of the semester and near the end she threw this gem at me – “What did you learn about yourself this year?”
I laughed. Such a simple question with such a complex answer.
I sat back for a minute and reflected on the first half of my internship, and what ended up coming out surprised me. I told her how on the way to the university, I pass an elementary school and often see cars lined up, people directing traffic and kids filing into the building. This week as I drove by, I remembered driving up to the middle school where I was a teacher a few years ago…and I immediately felt dread drop like a stone in the pit of my stomach. The memories of an overwhelming desire not to be at school were just as real in that moment as they ever were.
You know, sometimes I enjoyed being a teacher. I enjoyed the subjects I taught and I genuinely liked my students. Yes, even the punks and the ones that cussed at me and the ones that asked me if I was pregnant when I wore a baggy shirt. I loved their quirkiness, their desire to be cool and just complete awkwardness. I appreciated the things they said and did and the gifts they gave me for no reason. I adored who they were and who they were becoming.
But being a school teacher just isn’t for me. I don’t love it enough. Although I am glad it challenged and changed me, I don’t feel the passion for it that I want to feel in order to keep going.
So one thing I learned this year as a counselor is that I like this job. I would even go so far as to say I love it.
I think I spent most of my twenties associating going to work with feelings of dread. I assumed that being an adult meant doing a job you didn’t like because you were supposed to and it was the right thing to do. To me, work and unhappiness seemed to always go together. I wasn’t happy being a teacher, I wasn’t happy on Young Life staff. Basically in all the full time jobs I’ve had, I was unhappy.
I have never once felt dread when driving to my internship site, even in the midst of my hardest semester to date, when I was bleary-eyed and exhausted. I honestly look forward to it. I love working with college students, having my own office, just being a counselor. And love that it makes me come alive. Maybe it was what I was meant to do all along. Some days are better than others and I’m not always sad when students cancel on me so I can take a breather. But I’m always glad when they plop down on my couch and start talking, trusting me with their stories.
And yet I still carry some guilt for not liking teaching and walking away. Like I somehow took the easy way out and cheated the system. It was hard and so I left. I know it’s more complicated than that and it’s okay that it wasn’t a good fit. It led me here, where I’m doing something that I love and that uses my gifts well.
But the insecure voice inside me says, Is it really work if I love it so much? Should I be doing something…harder?
It’s the same with service in the church. I love singing, playing the guitar and leading others in worship, but it doesn’t always feel like work. It’s not always a sacrifice or burden; it’s a pleasure.
Is it true service if I’m doing the thing that just comes naturally?
Even as I write these words, the counselor in my head says, Kate, that’s ridiculous. Be who you are. Do what you love.
I’m trying to listen.
And I want to chew on this some more. I want to think about the balance between doing what we love and doing the thing that gets us out of our comfort zones and makes us sweat and cry.
But for now, I’m going to rest in the peace that comes from knowing that I get to do what I love.
And that’s pretty cool.