A few months ago I announced my plans to join a school and was too timid to even name the school for fear someone would look it up, judge me up one side and down the other, then burst my bubble that the school was a fly-by-night scam and that I was an idiot. Then I quit worrying about what people would think and asked the Internet for FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
And last weekend I started that school: Interchange Counseling Institute.
Later tonight (I started this post on Thursday night) I will trade practice sessions with a classmate, which sounded daunting until late Sunday afternoon came around.
At the end of the first training weekend I felt a bit overwhelmed and under skilled. So many of my classmates are currently counselors or have extensive experience in talking with people on a personal level. I couldn’t give myself the credit I needed of being perfectly apt at carrying a classmate through a conversation for 30 minutes. I was overthinking it, like I do. And my ‘not good enough’ were having a raging good time up there in my head.
Fortunately, fate paired me off with a gifted counselor who cleared me out of my own way. I grasped a sliver of confidence like a relay baton and took my turn as counselor. What happened in the next 30 minutes was personally astonishing. Of course I won’t share any details about our talk but there was this moment where things clicked inside. I was all the way with this wonderful human and I heard a clue. I took a risk and asked a question. I hit pay dirt. My client had an immediate, visceral, positive reaction and I physically felt the bullseye in my own body.
I COUNSELED SOMEONE. I didn’t give advice, I didn’t pat their head and say ‘There, there…it’ll all be ok”. I took all the pieces given to me, looked at them closely and snapped them together. Then handed them back and said, “Look. There’s that thing you’re looking for. It’s right here.” Or something. I’m sort of terrible at analogies.
That was the biggest moment, knowing that I was a counselor. There were plenty of other cool observances and happenings. So many. And I didn’t live tweet it, either. In fact, I mostly left my phone with my stuff on the side of the room — ignored for hours on end. At one point my son was frustrated I hadn’t answered his first 30 texts that said “Mom”. So he sent 17 more in various form, called 15 times and left 5 voicemails ranging from angry to tearful. But he lived and so did Twitter. (His phone wasn’t charging. That was the big, ironic emergency.)
My classmates range in age from early 20s to, uh, 70ish? Ethnically and socially diverse, soccer moms mixed in with Burning Man regulars. Loud, bright men mixed in with quiet and shy women. And vice versa. All good-hearted. All highly emotionally intelligent. When I realized I was in a room with 150 of ‘my people’ my eyes filled with happy tears.
The meeting facility is at Ft. Mason and when we look out the window there’s a view of a marina. Beyond that, was the Golden Gate Bridge. Mostly the weekend weather was completely and totally perfect with just enough fog to be charming.
I uncovered things about myself that surprised me. Did you know that I have some places where I’m closed off and protected? I hope to work on that in a gentle, purposeful way. I also hope to find more places that need light and fresh air. I’m ready to really flourish.