Even as a kid, friends came to discuss their kiddie problems with me. I never thought I was of any help to them. I never thought I added any value to the conversation. I only listened, but intently.
As I grew up, the scenario remained the same, only the magnitude of the issues became graver and the number of friends coming to me increased, which was probably the result of increased social interaction. (I sometimes bunked class to hear them out). However, I now wonder how that happened, because I was never the very outgoing kinds. I soon realized, that people I hardly spoke to also sometimes came to me and for what seemed like a heart pouring session.
I started hearing things like “You’re such a balanced person” (voice in my head- duh! No. Ask my mom!). “You’re so non-judgmental” (voice in my head- please listen to me and my best friend talk). “You have such an open mind” (voice in my head-umm. Ya, Okay). “You gave a new perspective” (voice in my head- really? How?). “You’re so empathetic” (voice in my head- huh! ask my sister!) etc.
Soon enough it was time for me to choose a career path. I knew I had to work with people. Something to do with nurturing them or re-building them. Basically, ensuring and helping their personal growth. Psychology was the answer, but an MBA in HR seemed like an easier ball game. Back then it felt like one of the means to achieve what I wanted. Also, being a psychotherapist did not seem like a good enough career plan, for the simple reason that around 2008 when I was making these decisions, mental health was a way bigger taboo than it is today and working in the field seemed tough both monetarily as well as in terms of a career growth.
Once I started working, 2 years down the line I realized I was in the wrong place and admitted to myself that I had made a wrong choice. Even at the workplace, I often spent time (considered as wasting time) sitting in some conference room, talking/ listening to some or the other friend or colleague. One of them even told me “Chuck this job. Why are you here. Do what is your calling.” And I had never even discussed what was in my mind. How did she know?
Under some kind of pressure, I continued with my job for the next 7 years. Some ups and down, a major low phase and a diagnosis of clinical depression with DSH later, I decided to get a grip on my life. I asked myself if I merely wanted to exist or live a happy, meaningful and gratifying life? The answer was to go back my books, do another Masters in Psychology (and hopefully a PsyD someday) regardless of the chatter, and practice what I am best at. Listen to people. Bring them out and help them see that despite everything that is evil and dark in the world, there is still hope and sunshine for them and their dreams. Even if I make a small dent in the field, touch even a handful of lives, I know I will be at peace with that knowledge.