on vacations, reflections, and rocks (these are a few of my favorite things)

I am finally finished with work, school, and DVRT for the rest of December — i.e., I am officially on a break, with NOTHING TO DO. Literally. Nothing. My days are filled with questions like “should I bake cookies today, or scones? hmm I’m going to Panera,” and “do I really need to take a shower today?” (because there’s AN ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD that the answer is NO, BECAUSE I MIGHT NOT LEAVE MY HOUSE) and wow maybe I should focus on the positives of being on vacation?? Tonight, there’s a holiday pop-up market in Ypsilanti that I didn’t have to check my planner before deciding to attend.

This feeling of not having anything to do is pretty foreign to me and it’s been compounded these last few days by the fact that we’re a week outside of Christmas and it’s sixty degrees out. Weather shifts for some reason are always really strange for me — it’s like my brain doesn’t know what to do if the weather outside isn’t textbook-cliche given the date — and between this and the (mandatory) self-reflection I’ve had to do recently for various classes, my introspective side is kicking into overdrive.

All of the self-analysis I’ve had to do for school and for DVRT point to one common theme: one of my biggest obstacles to helping is an almost crippling fear, but as time passes, my fear is melting away. One of my best friends is in town for the holidays right now and I was able to spend yesterday afternoon with him. I was on call last night, so we got to talking a little about that and he asked me a few questions, the most important of which was “are you still afraid when you go out onto calls?” My answer surprised me, really, because back in September it seemed like I would never get there, but I can say, honestly, that unless I’m getting called into the hospital, the answer is: no. I am not afraid anymore. Do I get apprehensive as I knock on a door? Does my heart break more often than I’d like when I’m talking to survivors? Do I still leave sometimes and wish I had said or done something different? Yes, yes, resoundingly yes. But I’m not afraid going in anymore. The difference between then and now is that now, I know that whatever happens, I can do it. I can get in and do some good, no matter how small. Which is a pretty good feeling.

It’s not really the end of the journey, though, like I thought it would be. I thought I would be afraid the entire time until I got to be A Good Counselor (whatever that means??) and then I would suddenly stop being afraid. Like so much else… this is wrong. I guess I can’t explain what’s different? Experience? Having had a chance to see the potential I do possess? The knowledge that I’m going to keep learning, refining, and getting better?

My basic skills class ended on Wednesday, and as part of the final class we had to give oral presentations. The last bit was an instruction to talk for a minute or so about “a topic of your choice related to professional helping” so obviously I chose to talk about river stones? (If you are wondering what the heck is my problem/how I am allowed to leave my house, I can tell you that you are not the only one/I don’t know.) Anyway, the deal with river stones is that they are pretty normal rocks (nothing special, nothing gem-y, just rocks that are in the right place at the right time) and through some intricate series of events, they wind up being transported down the length of a river. By the end of their journey, which is at times stressful and turbulent and which winds up taking them very, very far from where they’ve started, they are smooth and round, all their edges sanded off. You can actually tell generally how far a stone has traveled by its general shape.

Obviously my love for both metaphors and rocks has kept me coming back to this idea every time I feel like throwing my hands up and admitting defeat. I can’t express how many times I have sat at my desk and thought, river stone, river stone, river stone, as I decide to stumble through another assignment or another call. Another encounter, another rough edge gone.

This idea of constant refinement is somewhat challenging for me. I am kind of at a point in my life where I don’t really know what’s coming next. I am incredibly different, already, from the person I was in August. I have no idea who I’ll be a year from now. It’s pretty hard to contemplate that, to know that I’m sort of just along for the ride. Not knowing how I’ll change, only that I will. I really have no idea where the mouth of this river is.

BUT, for now, it’s winter break. I’m going to my parents’ house this weekend for the first time all semester to procure and decorate a Christmas tree. I’m not going to think about anything, for two blissful weeks, except my family and my friends. This little river stone is taking a break. ROCKHOUND OUT.

© 2019 Caroline Horste

I am neither a professional nor an expert, and nothing here should be taken as counsel or legal advice. Along the same vein, nothing here should be taken as representing the views of anybody but myself, including my employers or the organizations I volunteer for. -CH