Why I don’t feel guilty- even though I did for a minute.
Recently I decided to update my professional profile on linked-in. “People you may know” kept popping up, and out of curiosity I clicked. Then, I started comparing myself to my colleagues. All the ones who are moving right along with their careers doing great work as counselors and art therapists. Uneasiness swept over me. In my mind I heard professors and colleagues from my graduate program- “The worst thing would be if you went on and didn’t practice art therapy. You have so much to offer here [in the U.S.].” And I felt a little guilty. “People here need you,” someone might say, and I felt another tinge of guilt. But then I thought no; people here need you. You who is dedicated to your professional life here. You who feels comfortable where she’s at, with what she’s doing.
Comparing myself to others led to self-judgments and subsequently guilt. I need to be me, and that means I may do things differently. The ever looming pressure to conform into society’s neat little mold for myself weighs heavy on me. You know- once you have a Bachelor’s degree, you’re smart, you go on and get that Master’s degree, then you work hard for the organization to get the qualifications, and you become a professional art therapist/counselor in your community. Maybe you save lives with your wisdom and character. And if you don’t do it quite like that– you guessed it– guilt.
The fact is: I am an art therapist, and no one can take the education, practice, and time I spent becoming one away. I decided to live in a different community. One where the world view varies from my own. “Therapy” as we know it in the Western world is virtually non-existent. “Art therapy” in its strictest sense, which is born from theories of Western psychology and arts, is also non-existent. What’s a person to do when she becomes unceasingly intrigued by a place that doesn’t support her career? Go home and follow the career track anyway, while dreaming about doing things differently? What does one do when personal and professional desires all of a sudden don’t line up? She re-frames her mind. She creates her own path. Sometimes the deep down stuff you know in your soul has to come first shines through, and the work finds itself along the way.
So, am I practicing clinical art therapy? No. Does this upset me? No. Should I feel guilty that I am “not living up to my potential as a therapist?” No. Do I believe in the healing powers of art deep down in my core? Yes. Will I be sharing this belief and inspiring creativity in others no matter where I am or what I’m doing? Yes. Will I be happy if I follow my heart and remain open to all the new possibilities the world holds for me? Yes. Is my happiness the most important thing to me? Yes. Can I follow my heart and still develop myself professionally? Yes. Will it take loads of work and time and determination? Yes. Will I be constantly reassessing my role and place in the world? Yes.
This is a reminder to myself that sometimes I’m insecure and that’s ok. Sometimes I doubt myself, and it makes me want to justify my choices. Sometimes I judge myself. It’s also a reminder of my strength, my courage, of why the free spirit in me will always win.
As always thanks for reading. Thanks for being you. The world needs people like you!