Every now and then, usually following hours-long conversations about people and how they work, my mom will suggest that I might make a good therapist. I’ve never ruled it out as a possible third or fourth career (or, to be more realistic considering the rate with which I’m currently moving through occupations, twenty-somethingth), but I’ve also never really seen myself following the family line of work.
But, almost by accident and feeling very unprepared, I do find myself doing something very much like counseling. I have clients. I ask them questions about some of the most private parts of their lives (Are you pregnant? Who are you living with?). They know nothing about my life and yet give me intimate details of theirs (What’s your marital status? Do you have any monthly medical bills?). In our brief interactions we talk about very personal things: family and money. Some of the most difficult conversations are around the intersection of the two (Do you receive alimony? Are you paying child support?) They tell stories, a lot of which appear bleak and hopeless to me on the other side of the desk. There is a lot of repetition from one to the next. I offer what advice I can, but it never seems like enough in light of the situations my clients are faced with.
One of my cuter and more insightful childhood comments was my answer to the question, “What does your daddy [a psychiatrist who works in counseling] do?:
“He listens to peoples’ hearts”.
I was, of course, referring to the stethoscope that we would occasionally get to play with. I was also right.
If you had asked me at that same age what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have answered that I wanted to do what my mommy or daddy did.
And now, in a small and imperfect way, I am.