Why I Am a Therapist

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When I was younger I traveled every chance I got. But I didn’t just travel to places. I lived in them. I had a supportive family and few commitments back home, so I could commit to spending months or even years in different places traveling, studying or working. I loved talking to people. Going to the market. Walking the streets, riding a train. I enjoyed hearing what people thought of their lives, how they viewed their problems, how they saw their place in the world.

While traveling I picked up chunks of the newly fallen Berlin Wall and watched Eastern Europeans as they tasted a new kind of life. I biked across Northern Ireland and talked to Protestants and Catholics and found their views weren’t that different one from another. Knowing no Spanish, I lived with a family in Ecuador. Like a child, I found my understanding growing as language took shape in my head. From Senegalese people I learned how to say hello (it involves a lot of extended handshaking and questions!). I walked and rollerbladed across Paris until its historic streets held my stories, too.

Living in foreign countries, I understood things first from a visual and kinesthetic sense and then from a more cognitive place. I let myself be guided by intuition and was often rewarded by incredible generosity and kindness. When I was lost or in need of something, people relished an opportunity to be helpful. Like me, many people along the way seemed to appreciate a genuine exchange of time and interest for however short or long a time we shared together. I would sometimes wonder, of all the places we could be, of all the things we could be noticing, how is it that we came to share this moment?

These chance meetings were a gift. In any given moment something wonderful and unexpected could happen simply with the exchange of a few words or the flash of a smile. While traveling I was adrift, alone in a vast world, and often lonely. A single act of connection could make me feel like I belonged.

In different countries on different continents I found my desires reflected back in some universal and meaningful ways. Like me, many people wanted to feel noticed and appreciated. They wanted to feel understood and respected. They wanted a sense of belonging. When I left home as a young woman, I often felt like an outsider. I came back with a sense of self-acceptance.

After a time spent living abroad, I didn’t want to just keep passing through places. I wanted to anchor myself to a place and to build a community. I wanted time to connect with friends and family, and I wanted a job that would challenge me to continue reaching outside of myself.

I found that as a therapeutic riding instructor and then as a therapist. After more than a decade spent working in those roles, I am still in awe of the times when there is a meeting between two beings. Whether by chance or not, these meetings are times when I both see into another and feel seen. In those moments I can feel both the exquisite uniqueness of the other person as well as our shared desire for feeling connected and valued.

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