In my life as an academic, and today as a therapist, I have heard many people talk about finding their passion. In all three of my careers I can say passion, or the lack thereof, played a large part. When I began my undergraduate degree at Texas A & M in 1976, I was working on an accounting degree. I can’t say I was passionate about the subject, but it was a good major for a woman who wanted to support herself. During my freshman year at A & M, those plans changed when I started dating a tall, lanky senior who would be the love of my life and future husband. We married in 1977, and I left college to be an Air Force wife, and mother to our son, Travis. As we moved, I took courses in Accounting in Wichita Falls, Houston, and finally finished my BBA in accounting in 1989 at Texas Christian University. Two months after graduation, we departed for a 2 year tour in Germany, where I was fortunate enough to travel all over Europe. I had not travelled much prior to living abroad and discovered a new passion for traveling, learning about other cultures, and opening my mind beyond my singularly American viewpoint.
We returned to Ft. Worth and I began my career as an accountant at a small public accounting firm. I was an adequate accountant and while I didn’t hate it, my job was a means to an end and not something that inspired me. In January of 1993, I got a call at my office from an EMT that would change our family’s lives. Our 15-year-old son, Travis, had been shot in the head with a high-powered BB gun and was being transported to Harris hospital. As the hours passed, my physician husband and I learned the BB had traveled through several brain areas and was lodged in his right parietal lobe. This accident resulted in a loss of motor ability on his left side, including the ability to walk, and serious cognitive deficits. As I watched my son bravely re-build his life, relearning to walk and retraining his brain during the year he spent in rehab, I knew I needed something different in my own life. Again, it was a passion to help people suffering from traumatic brain injury ( TBI) and to answer so many questions following our son’s accident and recovery that lead me back to school to study Psychology with an emphasis in Behavioral Neuroscience. I had 27 undergraduate hours in psychology to earn prior to applying to the graduate program, which I completed in one academic year. While working towards my M.S. and Ph.D. at TCU, I discovered a new passion: teaching. At first, teaching was something the department made you do to earn your stipend, but it became more than that as I gave my first lectures and felt the thrill of making a connection with students through learning. I was privileged to teach many wonderful students over the next 11 years, and I firmly believe I learned as much from them as they did from me. One of my favorite parts of my job as an Instructor was my role as an advisor, which allowed me to interact with students one on one. To me, advising students was about much more than what courses they were going to take, as I wanted to know why they had chosen the path they chose, and what would they do if it didn’t work out. Most of my advising sessions ended with a chat about life, as I saw that as part of my role in preparing students for life after college. Another life changing event, this time in the form of a chronic health condition, forced me to face the fact that I could not continue at the pace needed for a full-time Instructor. I was heart- broken as I loved teaching and it is a time in my life I will always cherish. After a year of rest, and recovered health, I realized I wasn’t ready to stop, so I began to contemplate counseling. I knew there were additional courses I would need to take to sit for the licensing exam, and frankly I was scared to return to the classroom as a student at 54 years old. I enrolled in the Marriage and Family Therapy track at Texas Wesleyan to complete the course work and practicum to sit for the state exam. I was privileged to learn from committed professors and intern at The Art Station which fostered my love for expressive therapy, and The Lena Pope Home, where I saw first- hand the plight of the disenfranchised in obtaining much needed mental health care. Today, I work for myself and I love helping others become their most authentic self. Passion often comes up in therapy, as some people feel like they have lost their passion for life, or perhaps they never felt like they found it. But what is passion, but a love for what you do and how you do it. I was blessed to find several passions in my life and several different careers, with all of them being what I needed at that stage in my life to get me where I am today. Find your passion and don’t forget to look everywhere, as you may find it in what looks like the ashes of your life.