I was ready to quit after my first class. I couldn’t help it. All I could do was look around the room and listen to the others introduce themselves. Everyone in the meeting room had letters after their name. They had titles and credentials. They had professional history, and worse, they all knew each other.
They were all players in the mental health field. They were all on a first name basis, and then there was me, passed the midway of my 40’s with a limited education and wondering if I could make a go of a new direction in life.
I have had long conversations with people that call themselves “Late bloomers,” in which they found their calling later in life. Somehow, something changed.
I suppose one door closed and then another door opened. It was fate, they said, something called them to make a switch in their life.
I suppose one could call me a late bloomer in this case. Something changed. Something called me to do something different. However, although I hoped my calling was true, in fairness, I was absolutely afraid to try, or worse, to try and find out that I was too stupid to make it.
For one, I have never been a fan of classroom settings. I do not like the cliquish mentality. I have recollection of classroom tragedies and humiliating exposures in learning facilities.
I grew up with learning disabilities that were never properly addressed or diagnosed, which left me with old concerns and old imprints in my memory.
I walked into the room with my personal bias whispering in my ear, which is why I wanted to quit before the first class even started.
I looked around at the team of people. All of them were dressed in business casual.
A few of them had their laptops out and they were working before the class began, chatting back and forth, talking about policies and politics, and about hospitals, nurses, staff, and detoxes that I would inevitably be introduced to.
I felt inept . . .
In all honesty. I never hear the sound of my accent. But I get it. I’m from New York. I have an accent.
I have a thick one too.
My “th’s” are bad, which means any word with a t and an h together sounds different when I say them.
Bathroom sounds somewhat closer to ba–troom, which is not totally as bad as this script makes it sound; however, words like “Mother” and “Father,” almost sound closer to muddah, or faddah, which again, this is not as “Street-like” as it sounds, but again, the way I speak sounds much different to some. Needless to say, I stand out
. Or maybe, wait, maybe it’s better to say that everyone else has an accent. Maybe it’s not me.
Nevertheless, in the realms of discomfort and insecurity; I was above anything else, uncomfortable and obviously insecure.
I never thought I would finish the course I never thought I would be able to make a dent in this world or be recognized.
For one, I swore this would be short-term. I swore my intimidation and my lack of traditional education would somehow keep me from attaining my goals.
In my head, I must have quit 10 times during the first class. I probably quit 20 during the second and at least 30 on the third day.
I nearly had an argument with someone midway through day three. But they backed down. And the class was simple too. I was on my way to be certified as an opiate overdose responder, which would allow me to sit bedside with someone that experienced an overdose. This way they had a chance (or a choice) to get help if the chose to seek help
I swore I would quit. I swore something was going to happen. And truth be told, each time my thinking was intimidated, each time my thoughts turned anxious; each time I went through the worry that I was not able or capable, sure enough, I was ready to quit.
I was looking for an excuse. I was waiting for someone to look at me sideways. I was waiting for something to go wrong or for me to be exposed in the middle of a class.
And that would be it.
If something went down, I was going to lash out. I would strike back and let them see what intimidation was.
Meanwhile, none of this was real. None of this was true. Meanwhile all of this was related to my younger years and old intimidation in classroom settings.
Meanwhile, within 3 years of training and 3 years of learning on a daily basis, working with others, doing research, reaching out to people, creating programs, working in jails, visiting rehabilitation centers to do motivational presentations, being part or school programs, and working in shelter programs in the homeless community; I have lost and I’ve gained.
I have made changes in my game and learned to walk away, only when I need to.
I learned to avoid the older narratives in my head. I have moved away from old, default ideas which have been with me for decades.
I learned that I have the ability to learn, adapt, improve, and better myself on a daily basis.
Put simply, I learned that I don’t have to be afraid to try.
If you would have told me then that this is where I would be now, I would have never believed you.
I never expected any of this. I never thought anyone would send me to California or have me go to Texas.
I never thought I would be writing programs for empowerment groups.
I never thought I would be on the news, the radio, and I certainly never thought I would be on the front page of a newspaper.
Of course I never thought any of this would happen.
How could I?
I never knew what it meant to believe in my ability.
I never believed in myself.
Last Sunday, one of the attendees in my Sunday morning class at the county jail said something remarkable to me.
He said, “If I want to improve then I have to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
He shook his head and lifted his eyebrows to emphasize his words, which are not new words to me or him; however, hearing the young man’s quote was like no other time before.
I relate to him.
If I want to improve then I have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
How else will I reach my dreams?
I have a new challenge coming up in a few weeks. I will be heading down to Orlando for a special training to become a Mental Health First Aid trainer.
And why not?
I made it this far, might as well keep going. Besides, this puts me one step closer to pulling off my plan.
Note to self:
Beware of the internal narrative.
You are more capable than you could possibly imagine!
We all are . . .