You know how people ask, “What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?” as a way of getting at your true goals?
As a little kid, I would’ve replied, “Cover the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune,” except I thought being a reporter was, in fact, a stable, well-paying job that set you up for a comfy life. 🤣 I also had no clue that life as a pro sportswriter was 90 percent waiting around to talk to dudes who just stepped out of the shower and were, like, actively trying to avoid talking to you. 🤣🤣
My gut said, “Write books,” but I only verbalized those words as a kind of pie-in-the-sky “reach.” Even in a childhood characterized by creative invention, I had trouble imagining such a free-wheeling, left-to-your-own-devices lifestyle. How would you support yourself, just sitting there and writing?
You had to pay your bills. You needed a “real job.” Dreams were cool, but money was an issue, and despite my youth, I somehow understood the importance of setting “practical” goals. Middle class kids who wore clothes from Venture had to pick something “safe.” Dreams were for the rich kids with a built-in safety net!
That’s how I thought, and it probably explains why it took me until age 42 to start thinking about my true purpose and how I might go about pursuing it.
I think I might have figured out what my dream is, and instead of throwing up a bunch of knee-jerk “reasons why not,” I’m sort of actually allowing myself permission to say, “Why not?”
What if I went back to school to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology, then set up a practice specializing in addiction counseling, and continued to write on the side?
Something about saying that out loud just feels right.
It will take years. It will cost money — like, the kind you don’t have lying around and have to go into more debt to obtain. It will complicate a full-time work schedule, maybe even necessitate a job change to make time for classes and studying. Apparently, it will also require an extensive application process including my undergrad transcripts and three recommendation letters, and it’s been years since I worked closely with anyone who really knew me and understood the positives I brought to the table.
I don’t remember the name of a single professor I studied under at Northwestern. Did I even take more than one psychology class to fulfill my Medill electives?
I mean, there’s a chance I don’t get accepted to a grad program, much less carve out a new career as a therapist. There’s a chance I won’t be able handle the work-school scheduling thing, while also trying to nurse my relatively young sobriety (426 days as of today). What if I can’t find another job that frees up my schedule or make any of this work financially for my family?
Uh oh. The self-sabotaging thoughts are starting! 🤯
There are plenty of reasons why this plan might not pan out. Still, I have to acknowledge the stirring inside me, the growing passion I have for trying to understand the human psyche and how it drives the human experience, and how humans can change their experience by changing their thought/behavior patterns. More than that, the idea of helping other people work through/get past their issues and live a healthier, happier life free of addiction, or whatever it is that’s dragging them down, fills me with an excitement that’s…well, exciting!
I mean, these days, I’m used to getting excited about smoothies, chocolate pudding, Jules thin crust pizza …and sleep. Better than booze, but still, it’s nice to feel a kind of hunger that doesn’t just pack on pounds. It’s nice to feel enthusiasm for something outside of my little bubble, and to look toward the future with a real sense of possibility. The true goal of recovery isn’t really “quitting that negative thing you used to do”; it’s doing new things that build a better life for you and the people whose lives you touch.
It’s nice to believe, however hesitantly, that such a life exists, and it might actually be for me. That little ember of belief is so powerful, and make no mistake, it only exists because I am sober today. It can only grow if I stoke it.
When you think about it, there’s nothing more practical than allowing yourself permission to pursue a dream.
College applications, here I (gulp) COME! 😳