What do you want to be when you grow up?
Me, I wanted to be a therapist — a child therapist, to be exact — and I really meant it. Now mind you, I also knew even then, that I did not want children of my own. I did not want to give myself over to the constraints and life adjustments that went with the act of raising a child; but I wanted my life’s work to be about kids. You can read about a thousand things into all of that. You would mostly be right.
My belief in my chosen career path persisted all the way through college. I majored in psychology and family studies (and Norwegian, but that’s just a side note at this point) and spent summers working at an inner city child therapy center where I was sunk over my head into a group program for high energy, under-performing (so the schools would say) kids. It was heaven. I wanted it to be my life. I thought I was good at it.
It proved true that I would not have children of my own. It did not, however, turn out that I would make children my life’s work. Graduate school was financially out of my reach at the time and most programs wanted applicants with outside experience. After college, I took a business job. I thought it would be temporary. I thought I would hold onto it until the “right” job came along to give me the experience I needed to make graduate school a possibility. But instead I stayed at that business job. I got promoted and I made more money and it became harder to think about leaving. Also, my interests shifted. I became good at other things and applied to law school and then work and law school became so intertwined that it came to define me and determine my career path. So, case closed. I’m a lawyer, not a child therapist.
Except I’m not even a lawyer anymore. Fifteen years ago, I walked away from that in order to have this beautiful, precious, can’t-make-it-up-if-you-tried life with a man who loves, loves, loves me deeply and is committed to bringing that love into everything we do. And so now he and I are intertwined and it is our love that defines me and has determined my “career path”. I am here for him. I am here for our family. I am here for our animals. Full-on. Full-time. Pretty much happily ever after.
Until, you know, that whole cancer thing.
Since cancer made itself at home in our lives, it has walked me down contemplative paths that, until now, I have had the luxury of ignoring or explaining away with superficial reasoning. Specifically, cancer has made me see myself dying and cancer has made me wonder how I intend to live the life I still have. Ultimately, cancer asked me the darker version of the childhood question of what you want to be when you grow up. Cancer asked: “What do you want to be before you die?” and I said:
“A child therapist”.
Which made bells ring in my bones and a river of love and longing rise up and bend me over in equal amounts of grief and hope. Grief because I’m 57 years old and it’s too late; I’ve already lived the part of my life where such a thing would be possible. Hope because that is not the law and, even if so, then it is a law that is meant to be broken. You live once, only once. Jump, Lisa. This time, just jump.
So I did.
I am enrolling in a graduate program here in Ocala which will qualify me to sit for licensing boards in 2 1/2 years, going straight through. There will be multiple intern opportunities along the way and 2 years of supervised practice after that meaning I will be full-fledged official about the time anyone in their right mind would be gathering themselves together for retirement.
Still, I believe in the power of saying yes to this. I believe in the gift I am giving to myself. Cancer will decide what it wants to do with me, but I can decide what to do with myself in the meantime. I choose this and I want it so very much. All the well-wishes you can muster up for me, please, please, I will happily accept. Also, I have a plan. I am dreaming of the equine/pet-assisted therapy program I will run when on the other side of this. Trust me, I will not be in this alone.
I think we’ll be good at it.