Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

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Anti-Climax

I am nearing the home stretch of my time as a social work student and it is not quite what I expected. I thought I would be filled with an excited bursting energy and end my time in school with some sort of fanfare, but the truth is it all kind of feels like a non-event.

I think a few things contribute to my lackluster sense of excitement when it comes to finally reaching my end goal.

  1. Grad school was an overall disappointment. There were a few classes and topics that i found interesting and informative but on the whole I was severely underwhelmed and felt under challenged. For someone who is focused on growth I felt I experienced very little this last year based on my experiences in the classroom.
  2. This semester is primarily web based. I am not going to campus much this semester so it doesn’t really feel like I am even in school. I occasionally have to write a paper but the work load is minimal and with no classroom time it feels is as if graduation somehow came and went without me.
  3. This internship being a longer internship makes it feel more like an actual job than an internship. Not having to go to class adds to that feeling. I love the internship but I do not feel like an intern, I feel like an employee because I have been there for so long at this point and am so comfortable with the job.
  4. I have decided not to walk at graduation, I may have already mentioned that. I have zero interest in doing the big graduation and they are not having a small social work celebration so there is no stage walking this time around. This of course makes graduation feel like a nonevent because it kind of is.

I am not necessarily upset by the way things are ending, it is just not what I expected. This is a big life event for me and without the hubbub surrounding it somehow it doesn’t feel so big. I am sure as the months slip by and the end is really upon me I will start to feel differently. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I almost done and that means something, with or without the fuss.

It is Time to Leave this Place

travel

 

In about a week and a half I will complete my final exam of the semester and officially be on break!! With that break will come much needed TRAVEL!!!! Can you tell I am excited?

Oh my God I need to get out of town so badly!! I really need to hit the “reset” button right now and travel always does that for me. When I was single in my mid-twenties my girlfriends and I traveled constantly. We were always going on weekend trips here and there. There is something seriously therapeutic about a change of scenery.

In two weeks hubs and I are going to Jacksonville to visit my soul friend who moved there last month. I cannot wait to see her new place and for the three of us to explore the city but more than that I am really just looking forward to seeing her. I’ve missed her. I got used to her living 5 minutes away. I may not have seen her all the time but it was comforting knowing she was right there and we could see each other on a random Thursday night for dinner at her apartment.

So that is coming up quick and I am thrilled.

We had been talking about a winter trip to the mountains for a while but after chatting via email with a few of the cabin rental companies we decided against it because our SUB is not 4 wheel drive and we felt it would not be safe for us to do the mountain roads in the snow. With that we took a winter trip off the table and decided we would travel over spring break instead. Well now we are revisiting the idea of a winter trip.

I am worn out (lets be real this is borderline burn out). Between the past two semesters of grad school and balancing full time school with full time internship I need a vacation. We have not taken a true vacation since last fall, it feels overdue. We have not started talking about new destination ideas, hubs had wanted to do Austin before so maybe that will be back on the table. I would honestly be fine keeping it simple and doing a quick road trip to South GA or something. We will see what we come up with. For all I care he can pick at random, I just want to get out of town.

I think we both also recognize that this may be the last big winter break we get together. When I working full-time again I am not going to get these nice long seasonal breaks where we can travel. Plus babies are going to be on the horizon at some point and that will change how we vacation as well. I think We both recognize that we need to travel while we still have the time to do it.

So yeah that is where things are at. I am counting down the minutes until winter break and trying not to have a melt down while studying for finals. Hubs is teaching himself new things at work and trying to keep smoke from coming out of his ears. Things are going well and we are exhausted. Such is life.

Mentoring

After Thanksgiving the flu took our home by storm. I missed an important day at school as a result but thankfully was given a make up assignment so my grade did not suffer. Our house was destroyed for days because we were sick at the same time and no one was cleaning up. It was hellish.

We both finally made it back to work and internship midweek and now we are just starting to get our life back in order.

It was a busy week at internship but a few exciting things are happening that I would like to share..

I have been asked to mentor two different upcoming social work students which is kind of fun. The first ask surprised me, it came from one of my own mentors. They reached out because they have a family friend whose daughter is thinking about applying to my college’s social work program. My mentor asked if I would be willing to mentor the daughter. I was surprised my mentor asked me as clearly they are capable (they have their LCSW already). Maybe the daughter is looking for someone closer to her age? ( I probably still have close to 15 years on her but that’s cool). I gladly agreed and have received an email from the daughter. We are planning to meet in a few weeks and she wants to know about the program and my personal journey etc. I hope I am able to answer her questions for her.

The second ask came from a friend of a friend. One of my girlfriend’s that was in my wedding has a friend who got her BA in sociology. Now she wants to do the MSW program. I am in contact with her now as she applies and have agreed to review her personal statement etc.

So this has been neat, I am excited to be able to help others on their journey. Every professional position I ever held before returning to school found me in some kind of training position, I really enjoy working with people who are new to something and helping them at the beginning. This feels natural to me. I love being in this cheerleader role in people’s lives.

The next exciting thing is a bit bigger.

A while back I mentioned in passing that I thought a job offer might possibly be on the horizon but that I didn’t want to count my chickens.. Well I still don’t want to count my chickens but…. I was asked if I would be interested in a position that is currently open. The person asking has the pull to get me in but right now I think they were only testing the waters to see if I was even interested. My impression is that they did not want to throw my name into the ring until they were sure it was even something I wanted.

I told them I was definitely interested and that I would want to know more about it. So they have started the ball rolling and are connecting me with the proper people.

My understanding based on the conversation we had is that there is a possibility that I could be working in a clinical position full-time as early as the beginning of next year. Apparently my not having my MSW yet would not be a problem because they know I will be graduating in May.

While all of this is so uncertain I have not even told my family yet (so friends from my real life who read this, please keep this under the hat), it is super validating to even be considered. And as much as I am trying not to get ahead of myself I am not going to lie to you I am excited! If I got this job I would be doing counseling, legit therapeutic counseling. I would be thrilled to have that kind of position straight out of college. I figured I would have to get a job that is clinical but heavier on the casework as a new grad. Almost all social work jobs involve some casework, that is part of what social work is, but this would be a more traditional clinical position where I would be doing therapy all day long.

We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to start working sooner than later and to not have to worry about trying to find a job after graduation.

It has been 4 years since I returned to school and as I enter the home stretch of this adventure I am really thankful for this whole awesome experience. I set goals for myself and blew each one out of the water. I never imagines at the beginning of this journey that I would be as successful as I have been. I really underestimated what I was capable of and my own natural gift for this kind of work. I am looking forward to what the next year will bring as I wrap up this part of my story.

 

Night Coffee

hennkim

I have officially reached the point in the semester when it feels like every single minute of my life is planned out until winter break, my fingers get numb from typing paper after paper after paper, my social life curls up in a hole and dies, and I start drinking coffee at night to pull everything off that needs to be done. This is the point of no return and I am staring it in the face wondering how in the hell to squeeze more than 24 hours out of a day.

The real kick in the pants is that in the middle of all of this chaos I recieved a jury summons. So now I have to press pause and go sit at a court house for who knows how long until I am more than likely dismissed. Honestly, the timing could not be worse unless it happened during finals week or graduation. I have two papers, one group paper, and two group projects that include role plays due in the next week and a half. I am feeling the pressure for sure.

I will get through it though just as I always do. In a few weeks this semester will be wrapped up and I will be just a few short months away from adding MSW to my credentials.

So tonight I am tucked away in a nest I created in the office, dunking my granola bar in my coffee and getting ready to embark on my first paper. Here is hoping I find all the research I need without issue and that my thoughts flow freely and cohesively as I write.

Okay let’s do this!

Social Working and Self-Care

I think my mini melt down Sunday night over gratuitous violence on TV was a precursor for what this week was bringing. It has been a heavy week. At one point my supervisor was jokingly telling me to bring in my sage and smudge the office to get rid of the bad energy.

There has been a good balance though I would say. Tuesday night the topic in group class was self-care, that was fortunate. And Wednesday we got plenty of outside time and we, the interns, even ran a few errands together. So there has been balance.

We attended an intense training around childhood sexual abuse this week, a client’s family member flew off the handle on one of our counselor (which we all knew was pure projection but I know it still didn’t feel good when it was happening), and there was just a lot of other weird things going on that added to the bad energy.

Today we all went home early so tomorrow we can come back refreshed and start preparing Halloween festivities for our clients. I am looking forward to baking with counselors tomorrow, I can’t believe I just said I am looking forward to baking.. It will be fun though.

So other ways I have personally offset some of this bad energy is by writing (obviously), going to bed early and sleeping late, eating well, getting plenty of outdoor time, spending quality time with hubs and Lu (watching the cubbies win!!), and not over doing it at internship this week.

I also reached out to a few people via email that I have been wanting to check in with. I emailed back and forth and caught up with my previous intern supervisor, she and I made plans for lunch in a few weeks. She called me clairvoyant because she said she was just getting ready to email me and check in, we are synced I swear.

I checked in with my friends at hospice, they are doing well, and I look forward to my next opportunity to see them. I also made plans with my former professor turned mentor. I will be seeing him in a few weeks. I am hoping to pick his brain about trainings and certifications, he has given me great leads in the past.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am realizing that I am going to have to seek my learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I discovered through a conversation with my intern supervisor that the rates on some of these certifications are lowered for students. So it might actually be more affordable for me to do this within the next few months. Bring it on. We’ll see what I come up with.

In other somewhat related news.. I don’t want to count any chickens but I get the very distinct impression that I may have two different job opportunities lined up for me following graduation.. I do not know anything for sure but I caught wind of a few somethings and am waiting to see what happens. Again, I do not want to jinx anything but it would be awesome to have something lined up and not have to job hunt right out of school.

So that is where I am at right now. Still trying to take it easy this week. I am hoping the country will chill after the election and maybe the negative energy will clear as the holidays approach.. I hope.

 

Soul Work

When I first started at my internship a small concern I had was with the kind of counseling we provide to our clients. We primarily do pscyhoeducational which is surface level, educational information (as you could probably guess from the title), and does not typically address deeper issues such as trauma etc. The reason for this, at our agency, is because there is high turn over with our clients. We are residential but very short term for the most part and essentially the thought is that we don’t want to tap into some deep emotional wound in a session and the client leave the next day with this wound ripped open and no follow up support in place. We do make aftercare referrals for counseling and other services but it is ultimately up to the client to follow up on those services so there is no guarntee they will get the help they may need. The bottom line is we want to help without re-traumitizing the client.

I understand and respect why we use the approach we use, and I am grateful for any opportunity to practice clinical work. I know the work I want to do long term is the deep work though. It is what my life has prepared me for, much of my professional experiences have led me down this path as well. I want to help people heal at the source, not put a band aid on the wound.

My concern with this internship was that I would not have an opportunity to practice the kind of therapy I am interested in and that it might be hard for me to have the boundary of staying on the surface with a client when I know the issues hey present with run deeper. I am happy to share it had not been an issue. My boundaries have kept me in line with our mission and I have even gotten the opportunity to practice some of my deeper work in a way that is appropriate for my setting and the therapeutic goals we strive for with clients.

I have my own case load now, which I am loving, and I am self-advocating for the opportunity to run a group. I presented a topic for group, with an associated exercise, to my supervisor and she loved it so I am hoping she will give me a chance. We were told at the beginning of internship that we probably would not be running a group unless we really wanted to at some point, and I do! I want the full experience and this internship allows for that. I will have the opportunity to family counseling in addition to the individual counseling services I am already providing so I would love to try running a group as well. I have some experience co-facilitating a group but I would love to try my hand at it solo.

The opportunity I mentioned about getting to practice “deeper” work has showed up in the form of reframing things for my clients and working with them to identify internalized negative messages the outside world has given them that are now causing them to have low self-worth etc. It is still on the surface but they are important topics and I get so excited when I see them make the connection.


 

I started this post this morning before internship and then was pulled away by a phone call. I did not have an opportunity to wrap it up before I left the house so I left it as a draft to finish when I got home..

An update to the original post is that I was asked to run group tomorrow!! I am over the moon!! I created a visual to go along with group that will be used as a sample/example and I will have the opportunity to work creatively with our clients while they create their own version of my template. My heart is so full. Not only do I get to run a group on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, I get to essentially do expressive art therapy with the clients which is also something that holds deep meaning for me. This is what whole hearted, authentic therapy looks like to me.. Being able to share yourself in an authentic, therapeutic way with your clients.

I cannot wait to report back and share how my first group session goes.

In the interim, today was another great day. I got a lot accomplished, I got to work creatively with another intern (we had a blast), I met with one of my clients and had what I consider a productive session. I also felt I made deeper connections with some of my colleagues.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be doing well at this placement. It feels good to succeed, it feels GREAT to succeed at something you were afraid to do in the first place. Everyday I feel my confidence and my resolve to do therapeutic work growing. I am so so eternally grateful. My words are not big enough to hold the gratitude in my heart and soul.

My cup runneth over.

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