Have you ever decided to walk to the nearest pizza place in a foreign country? I did in Italy a couple years ago. I kept thinking a pizzeria had to be around the corner only to find it was not. It was dark and cold and I was jet legged from a long flight. Or have you ever taken a long road trip and kept thinking you would arrive only to have to continue the windy road well into the night?
That’s how I feel about the long road of getting my Marriage and Family Therapy license.
When I entered graduate school my “dreamer brain” was in for quite the shock. I spent four years in graduate school taking classes on what it means to be a therapist, writing papers and taking exams. When I wasn’t studying, I was working to help get me through school and to pay for rent.
Not only did I have to work 10x as hard as I did in my undergraduate career, but I had to continue to work 10x as hard outside of it. After graduation I was suddenly making roughly about a nickel an hour with the title “intern” after I had a masters degree! I was told I was to do 3,000 “therapy hours.” No small feat.
And FINALLY after working in countless jobs for next to nothing pay with large huge loans looming ahead, I was told that I get to TAKE AN EXAM. Some people don’t pass. People pay thousands of dollars and spend hours studying for the exam. Some people quit their job during this 6-month study time. Then after you pass (IF you pass) it still could take months before you receive your licensure.
Do you know how old I expect to be when this is all accomplished!? Probably 81. That’s my best guess. I will be 81 and I will be TIRED.
I asked my good friend who just recently accomplished the 3,000 hours feat if it was all worth it. She said the best thing and it’s the best because it was the most honest.
She looked tired and said, “I don’t know.”
Honestly that’s the only answer I would have believed anyway so I’m glad she said it.
When it comes to something like this there has to be something deeper than a paycheck or even the ability to pay off your loans. There’s got to be a bit of endurance. Like the kind I had to cultivate when I ran cross-country in college. Maybe it’s my determination to run or walk or crawl the long road. I do this because this road is full of meaning.
Meaning gives me purpose more than material things or a big house can. I think that’s why my friend stuck it out. She is still passionate about all of it. I think she’s just tired of being run over by the system, of bad pay and poor hours. And who isn’t really. Who isn’t asking “Is this all worth it?!” Don’t we all wonder from time to time if pursuing a life of meaning is worth it? My life isn’t about hoarding up as much as I can. Why? It is because I believe in abundance, not scarcity. However, the call to an abundant life is not always about “winning the lottery” It’s a call to the deeper, the richer, the more that really lasts.
This long road of gaining hours is one that has given me meaning. It’s given me endurance. It’s told me a lot of about what it means to stick with something. I don’t think most people would have described me as loyal person earlier in my life. I like new. I grew up moving a lot. I changed houses and changed churches. When I got older I changed boyfriends. I would change my clothes 3x a day. I’ve worked in a zillion different types of jobs. This is one thing that has stuck. It’s crazy that is has. Usually when a boyfriend and I hit conflict, I would run. When my clothes got old and out of style I’d say SEE YA…(which could mean they end up hiding in my closest for years…)
My husband is LOYAL. If life were up to him he would live in the same neighborhood, the same city, go to the same coffee shop and wear the same clothes for the rest of his life. And he’s bound to love the woman he has for the rest of his life (me-hurray!)
I’ve taken a few notes from him on this stuff. Sticking to something creates a type of endurance and loyalty and meaning that few things can create in a short circuit type way. You can’t fast food it to a lot of meaning. Things that are meaningful take time. IF all of it was instantaneous I doubt it would mean so much.
So, what is the silver lining of my never-ending MFT career? Endurance. Loyalty. Meaning. I stuck with something I wholehearted believe in. I might not love the way I have gotten to where I am, but I believe in it. As Thomas Paine so eloquently wrote, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value"
And, I’m at 2,300 hours. Only 700 to go! I might make it to licensure after all. Maybe even before I’m an eighty-one year old grandma!
Spring is around the corner after all.