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Confessions of a Curious Mind

The Power of Self-Reflection

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The Power of Self-Reflection

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One thing that I am really starting to appreciate about my social work program is their constant push for our use of self-awareness. Everything in class, in internship, in papers is "How did you feel about that? What were you thinking in that moment? Has that happened to you personally?" It's exhausting and constantly pushing us. But I am starting to learn a lot more about myself than I imagined. It's really unexpected, but very much needed. Of course, a lot of it is hard. One thing my supervisor pushed me on a lot is about the concept of regret. I talked to her a lot about my personal philosophy of TRYING my best to live life without regret, a lesson I learned from losing my dad. I have had some people ask me before what exactly about that moment made that philosophy. I usually think of the day he died, not being by his side enough and feeling horrible and realizing how precious life is and how fast it can all change. But there is more to it that I had COMPLETELY and utterly pushed out of my mind. It wasn't just that day. It was the months leading up to it. After his first round of chemo he began to change. He didn't talk as much, was depressed. My mom was a great caretaker but the pain was too much for her. After making him dinner she would go to the garage and smoke cigarettes and forget her life alone. My brother was so young and so incredibly vulnerable that he hid in his room. I didn't know what to do. I would hang out with my dad for a little bit but I would feel SO very helpless. I couldn't make anything better. I couldn't take the cancer away. I couldn't make the reality that he was going to die go away. And so, I was an average B-C student when he got sick. And I became obsessed with school. It was the one and only thing that as a 13-14 year old could control. And I became an A student. And I would try to cheer up my parents with that. And I would also use it as an excuse to hide in my room and work incessantly all night on homework.

But I would come out to get a drink or snack and there would be my dad. My dying dad. Sitting alone in his wheelchair watching TV. Sometimes in the dark. Just staring out. Blankly. There was something about his face. The heaviest weight of sadness. And it hurts more than you can ever imagine. I have no way to describe in words what it was like. But this is the moment that really taught me about regret. I should have sat with him, hung out and tried to LIVE WITH HIM with what life was left. And that memory is so painful that over the years I have slowly pushed it out of my mind. This memory and the whole overall experience didn't just teach me about regret or give me my personal and professional future goals. I think looking back on it now, it shaped my perfectionism tendency I hate so much. It has also reinforced the guilt I always feel with everything. I think the guilt was something that started out of my parents' drinking but I think this played a role to.

Now in hindsight I know there is nothing I could have done differently. I was so young and had so few resources. It was too much to for one early adolescent girl to handle. I already was acting too much like the parent as it was. But its hard to forgive myself. To actually feel that it is okay. That it will always be painful. But what I am starting to find is that I can sit with that pain and deal with it. It doesn't go away but I can deal with it. I can handle it.

Its AMAZING how much you can remember when you are pushed to recall things. And not only remember an event but, once remembered, see how incredibly important those events are in shaping how we behave and think of ourselves in people NOW, even years later. The events impacts can be subtle. It can be so painful you repress it and forget all about it. Whatever it is, I am realizing that to truly grow and have a fuller, richer life (not just career as a therapist) means going through those memories. I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this yet because I am realizing so much about myself but as my 25th year winds down, I look back in wonder. I cannot believe I am where I am at 25. I may feel alone 87% of the time and I may have an inner critic that is as mean to me as Hitler, but I am proud that I have come this far and I have to try harder to believe that I can handle anything. Human beings are resilient creatures and its why I love working with people so much. It's a beautiful thing.
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