Tag Archive | education

The Donut

I have twenty-nine days left in this Assessment Processes course I am taking. It is a core course and a prerequisite for my practicum. And it is brutal.

In that 29 days, I have three assignments due, which will comprise 75% of my course mark in total. The first of these three is due in just eight days. It is worth 30%. And it has been (so far) the most difficult because it requires me to analyze the real-life results of personality and aptitude testing, integrate those results into a cohesive description, and synthesize recommendations on someone’s suitability for graduate school. That someone is me.

mri-2813914_640 from Pixabay

I found this picture of an MRI “donut” on Pixabay!  Free!  Check them out at www.pixabay.com

The process reminds me of an experience I had about 11 years ago. I had injured my left shoulder, and I was scheduled for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. This diagnostic procedure required me to be inserted into this tube that looked like a giant doughnut (or donut, depending on where you are from). I had to take off everything metal, put on this johnny shirt, lie on the table, and stay completely still in spite of the noise they told me not to pay attention to. The noise was LOUD! They offered me earphones to play music and drown out the sound, but nothing would drown out that sound.  Buzzzzzz, click-click-click, buzzzzzzz, … it was not what I would call pleasant. I turned down their offer of the headphones.

However, the strongest sensation from that experience was not the sound. It was that the donut was so narrow and I was so … not narrow. They had to put me into it head-first, and I was in there down to my elbows. I felt like the last pickle wedged into the pickle jar! And I knew that I had to lie perfectly still so the imaging equipment could get a good picture of the inside of my shoulder (which it did).  I found myself humming songs I liked to pass the time. Each song would take five minutes, so it was a way to mark the time for me – so that kept me from panicking.  The feeling of not being able to move – of not having the option to even twitch – and the pressure of the sides of that apparatus on both shoulders and arms was quite unnerving.

But it needed to be done. I was confident that this procedure was necessary to show my specialist what was wrong with my shoulder. (I had a torn labrum, by the way, and it needed surgery – which was entirely successful.)  Was my time in the donut pleasant? No, not really. It was just something that I had to endure to get to the place where I needed to be. And I did. I endured it, and it ended, and it served its purpose.

Just like this course. Not pleasant, to be sure. Necessary, yes. Difficult, most definitely! But I am enduring it. It will end. And it will have served its purpose (when I pass the course) in being the last prerequisite for my practicum.

I am fortunate to have had the support of my employer and my doctor in taking some time off so as to devote more time to this course, which I believe I said (in my previous post) is three times the work / reading / assignment time of any other course in this program so far. But it has to be done. All I have to do is to submit to the procedure and commit to it. I am sure it will involve some singing to calm my fears and to pass the time.

And in 29 days, I will be able to get out of this donut.

I think I had better go now, and get this next assignment done.

♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫

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The Back Stretch

My practicum is set; my Learning Plan is approved, and wheels are in motion for me to take regular time off as well as to tele-work, in order to allow me to do my practicum hours in a different province. I have located and put a damage deposit on my apartment, and plans are in place to sign my lease and start moving in.

But one core course stands between me and my practicum, and it is by far the absolute hardest one so far, requiring nearly three times the amount of work as other courses. Since the schoolwork takes up so much time, and I have a full-time job, I was increasingly dreading going to work, much as I like what I do. I was not sleeping, not looking after my psychological / social needs, and I was slipping farther and farther down the slope toward burnout.

horse-1911382_640 on Pixabay

I got this photo at www.pixabay.com – free!

In horse racing, there is a point known as the “far stretch” – wherein horse and rider get into a “zone” where everything else fades away and all that matters is getting through the fatigue and the distractions to finish the race, and finish it well. I had been too distracted, and I was more tired than I had ever been; I was on the back stretch and it was time to set aside everything else and go forward.

So I did two things. I called my Employee Assistance Program and asked for a counsellor, and then I went to see my doctor to talk to him about my exhaustion. When he questioned me and heard everything that was on my plate, he told me that I had all the signs of depression and that I was headed for burnout. He gave me a note to be excused from work for a few weeks – which I accepted gratefully.

Since that time, I have been sleeping a bit better, and have had more time to devote to my school work, which is a great source of relief for me. I can lay aside my distractions of having ‘not enough hours in the day’ and just focus on finishing my course.  Not all of my symptoms are gone; in fact, I still have difficulty concentrating, still catch myself sighing, still feel overwhelmed (although not as much), and I have to really work at motivating myself. But the severity of the most troubling symptoms has reduced.

I think I will finish this course; coming around the far turn, I was not sure I would make it. But I think that I’m catching my second wind – and with a little help from my prof (I’ve asked for a short extension on my upcoming assignment deadline) I think I will be able to make it to the finish line.

And then, I will be able to cool down and prepare for the next race.

In the Dark

The last few weeks has been fraught with frenetic activity: getting a vehicle, looking for an apartment out of province, applying for a criminal background check (a requirement of my practicum site), getting fingerprinted, viewing an apartment, paying a damage deposit on it, and planning to pick up the key in a couple of weeks. There are less than three months until I start my practicum placement, and it seems that there are periods of time like the one I have described above, and then there are those times when it seems like time seems to stand still, it is moving so slowly.

Meanwhile, I get requests for information that I cannot yet give. What are my hours going to be at work when I start this thing? Well, I am not sure, because I don’t know my hours at the practicum site. So I wrote an email to my practicum supervisor and am awaiting her reply to see if we can’t hammer out my hours. Part of me isn’t even sure that this internship is real – in those moments of self-doubt, I wonder if I dreamed the whole thing or if things (for some reason) might not work out. The moments are fleeting but … no less distressing for being brief.

In the dark, both literally and figuratively, is a hard place to be. I don’t like not knowing what to expect; it is quite stressful for me. And when I don’t know what is ahead, I tend to become preoccupied, which wakes me in the wee hours of the morning with obscure, random thoughts. The other morning, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. thinking, “Where am I going to put my garbage cans in the apartment?” Sighhhh.

candle-2631921_640 from Pixabay

I got this pic at Pixabay.com – check them out! Free!

So the only thing I can think to do, where the dark of uncertainty encroaches in, is to light a candle. Remember that the time might seem long, but it truly won’t be long until I am in the midst of the light of day and doing what I have been training to do for years. Really.

Things will fall into place. The night will end. The day will come. And in the meantime, I keep my candle lit… the candle of hope, the candle of perseverance, the candle of assurance that I didn’t dream this, that this is really happening, that I really will be able to do my practicum.

And with the candle lit, I can concentrate on the little details I need to take care of: homework, paperwork, and the family activities and (self-imposed or not) obligations that make life interesting, if not frantic. I can (try to) sleep. I can prioritize. I can breathe. I can survive. And when the time comes, I can shine.

Just like my candle, I can make a difference to someone else’s darkness.

 

 

Wee Hours

As I start this post, it’s nearly 5 a.m. and I have been awake since 3:15. This happens occasionally; sometimes I get so worked up (even about good things) that I only sleep a few hours and then I’m wide awake. That’s okay – I had to empty my bladder anyway (haha).

I finally got a practicum. An honest-to-goodness this-is-really-happening practicum. I had to look outside my own province to do it, but I start in September at an agency that is quite good, with a supervisor who is absolutely fantastic. The agency also accepts my university’s policy of video recording some of my sessions so that my prof can see me in action and provide feedback.

office table and chairs from Pixabay

Neat setup for a counselling office – got this pic from the folks at Pixabay

So the last few weeks, I have been putting some other things in place to support me in my upcoming move – which involves me getting an apartment and living on my own, while tele-working part-time at my job to pay the bills – and so far I have gotten a second-hand vehicle, arranged to have furniture delivered to whatever apartment I end up getting, and scouting out neighbourhoods in that city.  A big part of that arrangement includes the support of my employer. And yesterday, after three weeks of waiting, I received word back on the tele-work proposal I had submitted, outlining how long I would be gone, and how many hours I could work, and a few other details.  Management approved it! So now I know I will be earning SOME money, and getting much-needed experience in my new chosen field. It is a good transition into a new career.

I say that like I’m perfectly calm about it. But the truth is – I can hardly believe this is happening! All those countless hours, all that money on tuition and finally, I am nearing the home stretch!

So, I guess I’m not surprised that I woke up so early this morning. I am already starting to yawn though, and that is a good sign. Good night folks … um, er…. good morning. 🙂

Spring Whispers

I thought I heard Spring whisper last week in my heart.

I was in the middle of a phone interview with a supervisor in a counselling agency out of province, and the lady and I were hitting it off. She and I both agreed that I should come and see her and her CEO, and we set up a time for the following week.

And Spring whispered, “Soon.”

Yesterday, I had finished a face-to-face interview with another site in that city, and I took a break to gather my thoughts in what for me was essentially a strange place. After I took a bite to eat, and got to the second site, I walked into a clean, bright, well-appointed office where everyone was respectful and kind. I waited in a waiting room that had reading material and activities for people of all ages. Soon, the lady I had met over the phone took me on a tour of the facility, and introduced me to a few people. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. We went into her office and talked for an hour, with her asking me questions and me answering her, then me asking a few questions and her answering me.

The supervisor works with a specific clientele: low-income clients usually, and referrals from those who provide services to victims of crime. Just what I was looking for … seriously. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm at the thought of learning how to do trauma work with an expert to mentor me.

“Come with me,” she said finally, and she led me (after a small wait) to the CEO’s office. I sat before him. He had questions for me about my history and my education. And then he started talking about criminal record checks and paperwork.

And Spring whispered in my ear again. “Now.”

I cleared my throat and spoke. “I’m sorry to interrupt you but I have to ask you a question right now.”  He said sure, okay.  And I found myself looking him in the eye and asking him (because I wanted to be sure I wasn’t misreading him), “Are you offering me an internship here?”

He smiled and said, “Yes I am.”

The breath I had been holding in without knowing it, suddenly came out in a rush as I said, “OHHHHH good!”

Spring stopped whispering in my ear, and started chirrup-ing in my heart. That big weight I had been carrying around for weeks, the weight of timelines and uncertainty and stress … rolled off my back like a 100-pound pack and tumbled into the ditch. All I could hear was that chirrup, chirrup of the harbinger of warmer times and milder climes.

 

American Robin by mvp at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “American Robin” courtesy of mvp at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Holding Pattern

So I am knee-deep in this practicum search. I have exhausted all possibilities in my province (it sounds ludicrous to say that!) and am now actively engaging in a search in a nearby province. If it works, I might just relocate there for the duration of my internship. And arrange with my employer to telework two days a week while I do that, so that I can afford to pay for an apartment, and groceries, and utilities, plus my regular bills (including mortgage) … oh yes … it will be tight, but I think I have enough saved up to act as a buffer.

Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset by noomhh at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “Throwing Fishing Net During Sunset” courtesy of noomhh at www.freedigitalphotos.net

But the waiting! Oh … my … goodness. I send out message after message after message and it’s oh no, so-and-so is on vacation and that one has a special project all next week … and well, we have the supervisor but not the space … and from some, the sound of crickets chirping. (That is, the sound of nothing happening.) And meantime, my practicum clock is tick-tick-ticking closer and closer to April 13 – which is the latest I can leave it in order to get the paperwork out of the way for any site and supervisor that DOES offer me a spot. ARRRrrrgh!

I’m not sure if you can tell, but this waiting – and especially the ‘not knowing’ – is stressing me out. I’m in my late fifties, and the part of me that is winding down my first career is screaming that I’m too old for this. The other part that has spent about $18,000 on these courses since September 2015 (and over $32,000 if you go back to September 2013) is saying, “But you’ve come so FAR! And you’ve invested so MUCH” And I roll my eyes, dig in, and take another arduous step toward my goal. This stuff is not easy.

There is a part of me that would love to just get a phone call and someone amazing to say, “Yes, of course we’ll take you!” That would be so super, I can’t begin to articulate! But the reality is more likely to be that after fits and spurts of absolutely nothing, interspersed with frantic activity, I might find something worthwhile by mid-April.

And if I don’t, then I don’t. There’s always next year.

Ready … Steady … Go!

When I was a kid, I would participate in Sunday School picnics and they would have egg and spoon races, three-legged races, and sack races. The superintendent of the Sunday School would always start the races by saying her little rhyme:

One to get Ready … Two to get Steady ….. GO!

That’s where I feel like I am right now.  I’m at the starting line, and my body and mind are preparing for the “qualifying” rounds – pardon the pun!

Four more days until I start my winter semester for my 2nd to last course before my practicum.

I only have 114 days until my practicum plan must be approved by my university. By that time I will have finished my last course before the practicum.

And there are just under 242 days between today and the day I start my practicum! (Can you tell I’m excited?  Keep reading!!)

I had been “courting” this one spot for my practicum placement for the last several months, corresponding back and forth with one of the counsellors there, a really nice fellow.

This past Thursday morning, (to give a bit of context to what’s coming next) I had had a particularly challenging meeting with my manager at work regarding my request for the leave I wanted to take in September to do my practicum.  The leave was denied for various reasons.  However, I had worked out (and presented) an alternate plan during that meeting for working part-time two days a week from September to April inclusive, and she was much more open to that. It was disappointing because of the decrease in money and the increase in stress from juggling two “jobs” (one of them unpaid), but I suppose it is better than having to make a choice between them.

That same afternoon, after I got home from work, I decided to re-contact the fellow at the potential practicum spot again to let him know that I would be available three days a week in September if they were still interested.  The site is at the local university in the Student Services department.

Yesterday evening, I received an email from this gentleman after I turned on my computer. In his email, he said that he was glad that I had indicated my continued interest, since two people had changed their plans for this year, and that the next step for me would be to sit down with (a) the director of Student Services and (b) the person who would be my supervisor. He gave both their names and took the liberty of copying them on the email, and said he’d be backing out of the conversation at this point. Then he said what absolutely floored me: that, after we met and discussed our expectations, if the three of us agreed that it was a good fit, (and I quote), “you will be our intern for the 2018-2019 academic year.”

The Green Way For Start Bike In Park by ArPleum at freedigitalphotos.net

Photo “The Green Way For Start Bike In Park” courtesy of ArPleum at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Boom! No carefully worded escape clauses – just – if you like us, we want to work with you and learn together.

I’m still totally floored.

Within 24 hours of that email (just about an hour ago, in fact), my daughter also got an email from the same university (this time, from admissions). She’d been on a waiting list to take a course in Sociology (she was 21st on the waiting list) and all of a sudden, they told her that a spot had opened up for her, and she could register for the course. She did, almost right away, and is even now looking at her course requirements, readings, assignments, and exam schedules for the semester. (She’s not even behind on any readings because they haven’t assigned those yet.)

Whaaaa???

So the atmosphere in the house is one of stunned and grateful silence, broken by the occasional, “Wow.” In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said that word. Wow.

Oh yes, just to follow up on the email I received, I wrote back to the director and the supervisor. I thanked them and told them I was looking forward to meeting with them, and gave my availability dates and times for the next two or three weeks.  In fact, just now I took a break from typing this and sent a private email to that gentleman and thanked him for his encouragement and guidance, letting him know how thrilled I was to get his email.

And as I mentioned to him, my feet haven’t quite yet touched planet Earth since that moment.

Can you blame me??