Sunday, 3 July 2016
A new chapter
I wanted to write an update of what has been happening over the time that I have not been writing, but yesterday was a very exciting and important day and that seemed to be a much more relevant topic to be describing.
I have spent the time since my surgery reflecting on where I would like go with my life. I am a full time carer for my wife Mandy, but I do not intend to pursue this for imminent future. I will always be her carer, but I also have a life, a new life so to speak to explore and a career as the true me has become a tantalising prospect. Of course, I have not just gone on a decided to abandon her or even taken any steps without a great deal of discussion with her. We have enlisted our social worker and there will be support available once I start to do something.
It was inevitable with my previous Samaritans work and now my continuing work at the Laurel's, that some form of work linked with that would likely. I have had many discussions with the therapists at the Laurel's, and some deeper ones with Lynda, my previous therapist, and Maria, the team lead. I feel that a career in counselling beckons.
I did my research and asked many questions and this led me to the Iron Mill in Exeter. There is very little in the way of training offered in Somerset, particularly quality accredited training. It is the accreditation with a professional supervisory body that I feel is very important to me. There are counsellors out there with some very questionable training and colleges that offer such training. I do not want a piecemeal collection of certificates as some have, I want a quality academic background that would lend me skills that are equally as good in quality.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP, are the main accreditation organisation for this field of work and the nearest place to me was the Iron Mill. Ironically, their college is literally a stones throw from the Laurel's. I have sat many times in the therapy room with Lynda staring across at their building, it being nothing more than an attractive piece of architecture and finding it interesting to find myself in that very building looking back across at the Laurel's.
I had already applied for and been accepted on the Certificate in Counselling. It is a short course but a requirement for most further training. It will look good on a CV but very little use for anything else apart from enhancing my skillset alongside other work. To properly offer counselling, I must at least do a Diploma in counselling and I need the Certificate to be accepted on to this course.
Yesterday was a Taster Day offered by the college. For a few quid, you would have a full day with the tutors, see the inside of the college and engage in some activities to help decide which course you would like to apply for. Although I had already applied for my course, I felt it would be a really useful exercise in just being able to see inside the building so that when I arrive in September, I would not feel to out of depth. A free lunch came as part of the Taster day, so that seemed to make it all the more worthwhile!
It was a strange experience driving to Exeter on a Saturday after all the Thursdays that I have done so in working at the Laurel's. The park and ride car park was eerily empty too as was the bus and it was a reflectful journey into the city. This seemed a big moment in my life and I have thought very deeply recently about where I am at with everything. I sometimes feel my life stopped soon after I left school and I bumbled along escaping into masculine jobs to avoid acknowledging the woman I truly was. I have dealt with that and feel I am almost back at the age, perhaps eighteen years old and in a position to shape my future properly now. True, there are a number of years in between, but they have little relevance on who I am now. In some ways I feel I am in a really grounded place to decide on my future. I feel young inside but have the life experience to reflect properly on choices and take counsel too.
Once I arrived in the city, I felt I was way to early to go to the college so I found the nearest Costa. I suspect there is going to be more than a few morning visits to coffee establishments so I decided I had better start sampling them to find which were the better ones!
Once caffeinated, I made my way to the college. Inside, I was met by the tutor and shown the kitchen. I, with a couple others, made myself a drink and we made our way to the main teaching room. Once everyone was sat, there was a brief introduction and then a tour of the college. It was a lovely old building, lots of natural light and felt like a wonderful place to learn new skills. Even better was that there wasn't a single desk in sight, apart from in the admin rooms. By far the best room was their small library. Shelf after shelf of literature on various branches of counselling, psychotherapy and much more. There were a few comfy chairs in this room and I felt I could just shut the door and spend the rest of the day there!
But, that wasn't an option and we filed back to the main teaching room. Our first task was introductions and instead of introducing ourselves, we had to introduce the person next to us. This was an exercise in listening and came very easily to myself. I talked to my partner about myself and quickly, I had to "out" myself. It is still very difficult to talk about myself, my past and my ambitions without having to bring in the Trans part because it is still a very significant part of who I am at this time. I know in years to come, this will fade but for now I accept outing myself and often it has positive outcomes. In return, I found a fascinating story from a woman which engrossed me with it's richness.
Once this was done, we went around the room talking about each other. I was really surprised to hear so many people in the early to mid forties looking for a new start. Sometimes I feel unique or alone in needing to have to pursue such a bold new career but yesterday I was in the majority for once. Something else that struck me was how my voluntary work now puts me in a very good place for this type of academia because very few had actually tried any such support work.
We then had to go off and construct name badges for ourselves. The college tries to offer many ways to enhance skills and this means ways other than talking and listening. Seventeen of us returned to our childhood and we all set about with card, glue, stickers, pipe cleaners and much more to craft a meaningful badge. I'm totally rubbish at this kind of thing, but I am pleased with the results! Some of the other creations were works of art and over time, I suspect I am going to have to hone these skills.
We then had a talk through some of the courses offered and it was a useful exercise in being able to ask questions. Sometimes these are simple queries but important nonetheless. I felt a lot more informed afterwards about how the next few years might pan out.
Lunch was next, which offered a really nice opportunity to talk to people. Something that has really struck me since the day was how rich and varied everyone was. We all had stories and past lives, and I find this a healthy reminder than again I am not alone in having had to battle to be where I am now.
The afternoon found us engaging in groups with a couple of activities. One was having to listen to a story and reflect on the meaning of it. The other was to pair off and one of us place objects in a sandbox to describe something in our life and then talk about the meaning of it all. It was a useful exercise in using ways other than words to talk about something.
And as quickly as it began, the day was over. Those eight or so hours really did fly by and I left fully enthused and totally excited for September when I embark on it all properly. There were three or four in the group that were probably going to be doing the same certificate and I look forward to seeing familiar faces then. I was also humbled by the maturity of those who felt they weren't quite ready. More than one had found the day a little triggering and they needed to deal with one or two issues before they were able to start such personal training.