From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a therapist, but I didn’t think I was smart enough because I never did well in school. What I didn’t know then is that I am dyslexic.
I grew up being told, and believing, that I wasn’t smart. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the art room at school. It was safe--no one asked me to read out loud or do math equations. There was value, power, and meaning in that space, which helped me shape my life.
Believing that higher education was not in the cards for me, I spent my 20’s managing movie theaters for United Artists. This job involved wearing many hats: doing payroll, managing a staff of 30 employees, bi-weekly inventorying the snack bar, ordering supplies, holding staff meetings, dealing with customers and on and on. For the first time in my life, I felt accomplished and respected and I began to realize I had serious organizational skills. All of this gave me the confidence to give college a shot.
While I still struggled with reading (I read slowly) and spelling, I managed to do well enough at Santa Monica City College to transfer to UCLA – it was there that I was finally tested, and learned I’m dyslexic. From that point on everything changed. I graduated with a degree in sociology.
By then I was married with two kids and working as a professional artist, life was good. But my dream to become a therapist was always there, right beneath the surface.
When my kids were in middle school I knew it was time to make the leap and go to grad school. In a couple years, I had earned a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. And then, after three thousand hours working as an intern, I realized my dream and became a Marriage and Family Therapist.
But it wasn’t until years later, as I was leaving UCLA after meeting a colleague there, that while walking to my car I suddenly stopped, frozen, and looking out at the campus, I realized I was crying. In that moment amazement seized me--amazement at what I had accomplished, and empathy for the little girl I’d been, the little girl who grew up believing she was not smart enough to do exactly what I’d since done.
I love what I do, and I do not begrudge how I got here. It taught me that life is not linear, it zig zags, and can be hard and uncomfortable, but by listening to that discomfort, and trusting ourselves, we grow. That’s what I want to take out into the world, by helping others face the discomfort, and find the new version of themselves, waiting on the other side.