Friday, May 6, 2016

Faith, Anxiety, and a Dose of Déja Vu

Earlier this week, I took a step that some (including myself) would consider drastic.  I left my job (and the secure paycheck that came with it) behind.  Now, this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.  I had been in conversation with others about this decision for months.  Over the last three years, I have been balancing both full-time work and full-time grad school.  It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve made it work.  That’s what I’ve done at other points in my life.  No matter how many things were on my plate, I just made them work.  So, why would I not just continue in this same fashion?

Werner Hall at MTSO
(The Methodist Theological School in Ohio)
Well, something new has come to the forefront of my attention.  This hurdle has been there all along.  I knew it was coming.  My graduate program at MTSO is, normally, a three-year program.  It is, however, going to take me a fourth year to complete it.  While I have been attending school full-time, it has been just barely full-time, and I now find myself facing the tasks of finishing up the remaining handful of classes that I need to take as well as completing a practicum, which is essentially 100 hours of observing others doing counseling, and a 600-hour internship where I will be expected to begin doing the work of counseling myself in preparation to graduate, take the state exam, and, hopefully, get my counseling license in another year.

As recently as the end of 2015, I still believed that I could do all of this while working a full-time job.  It took someone forcing me to sit down and start blocking things off on a calendar before I realized that, regardless of how much physical, emotional, and intellectual energy I was willing to put in, there simply were not enough hours in a week to do it all, and, then, they hit me with the real kicker.  They asked me if I felt that trying to balance all of that was fair to the clients who I would be sitting in a room with, the clients who would be getting the few shreds of mental focus that I had left to give them.  Yeah.  I had nothing for that one.  I did not go through this major shift in career and life direction to not be able to help people and to give them the fullness of my attention that they deserved.  Once it was put into the context of how it could impact my clients, I got it.  I would still have to work some.  I do, like anyone else, have bills and obligations to meet, but it was clear that I could no longer maintain the pace that I have for the last three years.

This shift in focus brings with it other opportunities as well.  I am currently planning on taking the summer to focus on me, giving myself a much needed easing off of the gas pedal and to direct energy towards creative endeavors like blogging, possibly putting together some larger works such as a collection of short stories or a novel, and possibly even developing a podcast idea that I’ve been kicking around.  All of these would be aimed at creating content that, hopefully is helpful and speaks to many of you who might be reading this, but also provides me with a creative outlet.  I am working now to create structure and accountability around these efforts.  In the fall, I will pick up a part-time job, and I don’t want to waste this opportunity of time that I’m being blessed with to explore how else I might be a voice in the world.

Mission Oaks Gardens in Zanesville, OH
Standing at the bottom of these steps,
I found myself reflecting
on this life of faith where
we often don't see all that lies ahead.
All of this has taken me back to my early steps of coming out in late 2009, a time that was burdened with fear and uncertainty about the future.  When I took those first steps out of my former church in 2009 into the cold November night, hands shaking more from the anxiety of the moment than from the cold and with tears streaming down my face, I thought that my world was ending.  That church had been a tremendous source of community and meaning for me.  Despite my position at the church being a volunteer role, I functioned much like an extension of the staff, and I valued the relationships that I had there.  Just as a dysfunctional family that strives to maintain the status quo, no matter how damaging the relationships that define it are, I had, for years, stifled a true and vital part of my identity to maintain my place and those relationships, but my eyes had been opened, and I could not unsee what I had seen.  That moment is one of the few moments in my life as a person of faith that I can clearly say that I felt the intimate and undeniable presence of God envelope me, and I knew that, while there may be moments of uncertainty ahead, one thing was certain.  God had my back, and I would be okay.  

So, as I find myself again taking these first few timid steps in faith, am I frightened?  Yes.  I am.  I would have to be in denial about the reality of my circumstances to not be, but I also know that I have been here before, and that those previous lived experiences and the amazing ways that I have been blessed since then reinforce my faith and reassure me that this too shall pass.  While I can't see all the steps that lie ahead.  I can see just what I need for today, and I trust that I will know that I need to do at the appropriate times as I move forward in my journey.

~ Culbs

P.S. - Please join me as I embark on this year of journeying while I navigate this process of finishing up my Master’s degree, embarking on a new career, and further developing my creative voice.  Stay up to date on my endeavors by visiting and liking my new blogger Facebook page.  Creating this second page allows me to set boundaries between what I share with the world and what I hold as private for the purposes of family and friends, and it also opens up a new way for me to interact with those who read my blogs but that I don't know personally.

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