This year had its moments, but overall, it was a good year I do not want to forget. Many milestones took place, and while my sanity was on the fleeting verge of escaping me, I am ending the year with a happy heart and ready to roll into 2019 recharged.
I will not rehash the earlier memories of the year since those have probably been in umpteen photo montages. My friends and I have made so many accomplishments this year, and I do not say that to brag. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and this semester is evidence enough. Through countless hours of studying together, watching a few (or more) episodes of Friends, and eating many meals together, we saw each other through the highs and lows. There is an obvious theme for what gets us through each semester.
I was especially excited to finish up last year’s research project and take it to present at ASHA. Going to ASHA is a thrilling experience but getting to present (for the second time) is incredible. This year marked the close of a project we saw through from almost the beginning, and publications for the last two presentations will soon be coming. Seeing the hard work become something that will contribute to research is surreal. What initially started as narratives and lists of themes quickly became something that meant more than I could have ever imagined. The day to present came, and I was stoked. Throughout this year’s ASHA, I made a point to interact more with the professionals with interests that aligned with mine and hoped to meet some of them if the opportunity arose. Well, sure enough, I ran into many of the people I met through Friends, as well as attend sessions of whom I have read numerous articles from and gain inspiration. Getting to listen to Glen Tellis, Scott Yaruss, Craig Coleman, and Ken St. Louis had to be some of my favorite ASHA moments. Not only did I absorb every word they said in their sessions, but I also had the privilege of researching with Dr. St. Louis and Dr. Gabel and present that research to some prominent people in the field.
As the year went on, I felt such a metamorphosis take place, and I owe that to an opportunity to earn an additional certificate alongside my master’s degree. When I started out wanting to pursue speech-language pathology, I thought I wanted to work with special needs children and only that. As I got involved in research with my advisor, I realized the purpose and passion I have for the profession was taking me down a different path than what I expected. Stuttering became a huge area of interest for me, and I knew I wanted to make that a focus as I went through the rest of my education. Taking extra coursework to fulfill the certificate in this area and creating my research project were breakthroughs in further discovering what my future held and what I hoped to do with the new knowledge and guidance I have received this semester.
Besides a huge thanks to my parents and friends for dealing with me being a wreck at times, I also need to thank my academic and research advisor, Dr. Gabel. Without him, I know I would not be at the place I am today. He opened my eyes to another side of the profession and made a way to give us the best opportunities to gain perspectives and a chance to take ownership of our interests. It is not every day you meet a professor who cares that much about the success of their students, as well as show genuine concern when struggles come. I cannot begin to place a value on the investment he made in my education and hopeful research, and I will forever be grateful for that.
I had a strong support team all semester long. I feared I would be letting them down, but they kept holding me up no matter what. That is partly what made this semester so hard. I had come so far and being a student was what I have always been good at, so keeping up with my own standards made me push myself even harder. In that aspect, I have always been a pleaser, and I irrationally equate academic performance and achievements to worth. While being my worst critic, I internalized every little thing that happened this year, and once I let go of unrealistic demands only I was placing on myself and appreciating the little things that made me happy, I knew that the only way I would be letting down the people who have cheered me along was by not doing what I love.
So much of this year has been a blur, yet it felt like an eternity at the same time. I learned more about myself and grew in my hopes and desires. Through networking, I have met wonderful people. By being curious, I am actively searching for answers through research. And, for the first time, instead of asking others, I am asking myself: “do I make you proud?”
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018
Since coming back from ASHA, I had a breakthrough of sorts. This semester has been challenging in more ways than I think I was prepared to encounter. I struggled with seeing the journey for what it is presently, rather than what I found myself focusing on: the entire grad school experience. But attending ASHA and seeing thousands of people doing what they do best was the jolt I needed to snap out of the anxious state I found myself in for the entire semester. If that many people could survive the seemingly never-ending cycle of worrying, crying, and studying, I could too. Seeing the community of SLPs who are fulfilling their dreams, helping people, and making advances in research was the exact glimpse of survival through grad school I needed to break my own negative cycle. I came back with a renewed energy to finish my classes with less stress and such a strong desire to pour my heart into my research project. Being so stuck in my stubborn ways of planning every detail out made me lose the excitement I thought I should have for the future I wanted.
Having an internal battle with my heart and mind was the most frustrating and exhausting thing to work through. Somewhere, my ability to rationalize beyond the stress was lost, and I was letting a little bump in the road escalate to be a mountain-sized problem in my head. I had gotten to a point where I questioned everything, but deep down, never doubted anything. There was something that made me still believe that I loved every second even when the tears and frustration made it look and feel like I hated it.
Going into grad school, I had mixed emotions, and they only became more intense when the semester was in full swing. I went through the motions of survival and hoped I did not go down like a sinking ship. Having a health issue in the middle of it all did not help my case either. So, when ASHA rolled around, I was hardly feeling much better, and adhesive heat packs were my best friends. As much as I was looking forward to going, I knew it was going to be a hard trip for me. With the help of my friends who were willing enough to bandage me up and obliged by staying in and ordering takeout, I survived. Compared to last year’s ASHA we went from being girls’ night out to The Golden Girls. Having a good stack of homework that had to get done was enough to keep us in anyway.
With as much that was going on between school, ASHA, and life in general, my mind was consumed and overwhelmed. I knew the desires of my heart; I could not get my brain to think beyond the stress and see the light at the end of the tunnel would come soon enough. The idea of giving up on my dreams was never an option, but I struggled with wondering if I would ever make it. The fear of failure was real, and looking back now, I realized I let it escalate to heights that were disproportionate to the current state of the matter.
It took going to Boston to get me out of this funk that made me not recognize myself anymore. There came the point in the semester before going to ASHA where a friend called me over, pulled out a picture, and said: “I miss this girl; get her back.” That was an ah-ha moment that made me aware of how much I was letting the pressure bother me. When my friends were noticing that big of a difference in me, I knew I had to snap out of it, and that paired with spending a few days in Boston to level my head, I began to think clearly again.
Sure, this semester was tough, but I came out stronger. I was never second-guessing my decision to pursue the career path of my dreams. No matter how hard it got, I knew deep down there was still an excitement. When I returned, I dove back into my research project and got it to the next step of submitting it for board review before leaving for break, and I finished the semester without any tears. And compared to how the first part of the semester went, this was a major step forward. There was a new motivation to push through and get the job done no matter what it took. My clients got the best of me instead of what was left of me, and we made a partnership work to see the sessions to the end.
Without going to ASHA, I would have still been stuck in a deep rut of letting every little thing get to me and stop me from being the student, clinician, and person I knew I could be. I needed to see that there was life after grad school and that others were either in the same boat as me currently or had been and still survived. This chapter of life sure has not been smooth sailing, but it makes me appreciate the good times. A good dose of reality and the small voice deep down made me remember that the reason I started this journey was that this is my passion.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018
As a kid, you wonder what your future holds, and once you are an adult, you look back at the life you lived looked like. I am sitting in a prime spot in life to reflect back on the journey so far and look to the future to see where the journey continues. All I have ever known is going to school and checking boxes off my goals list. Now, I am at that point where I am closer to stepping foot in the real world and putting my plans into actions.
Growing up, I think I have always been introspective and methodical in figuring out what I can do to contribute even the slightest of contributions to the world. We each have something that makes our light a little brighter and the sparkle in our eye shinier. Whatever that thing is lets us know we have found our calling in life. I somehow knew as an eighth grader that speech-language pathology was what I needed to do for the rest of my life, and nine years later, I am finding myself so close to becoming an SLP.
I still get asked fairly often what an SLP is or what they do, and I still do not have a concise answer that adequately encompasses everything one may choose to hone into as an SLP. I mean, I know what we do and have a better grasp on the profession than I did when I first decided on it, but now that I know of the vastness of the range of our scope, it is impossible to give someone a quick snapshot. And, because of the rich diversity in my future profession, that makes me love it even more.
The excitement is hard to contain when you get any group of SLPs together and have the chance to talk about all of the nerdy things we talk about, but it magnifies when these conversations take place at ASHA. It is like the ultimate family reunion of long-lost relatives you never knew about. There is an instant connection. I think what I enjoy the most is hearing what made other people decide speech-language pathology was for them.
We all have unique reasons for choosing this career. But, beyond thinking of it as a career, it means so much more than that. SLPs are some of the most compassionate as well as hard-working people I have ever met. There is no dedication like spending countless hours working on therapy tools even if it means spending the better portion of a night laminating and cutting out what seems like millions of pieces. The level of concern shown towards families who are struggling to adapt to a new normal and relearning how to best communicate after a diagnosis is next to sainthood. The dedication of advocating for clients, families, and the profession as a whole is what keeps us going.
At the end of the day, we are all trying to make the world a better place. We may not be superheroes in the traditional sense, but not every hero wears a cape. Some heroes find themselves forming goals, keeping data, and writing IEPs. Other heroes are those who get to witness a child saying their first words after countless tears shed, ensure safe swallowing practices for a stroke patient, and teach a person how to use an AAC device to ensure their voice is heard.
My heart beats a little faster knowing this is my future. I owe it to my younger self for understanding enough to choose such an inspiring career, but more importantly for revealing my purpose.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018
As the ASHA adventures continued, so many thoughts continued to consume me. My wheels were continually turning, and it felt like everything that was said hit home and resonated with me. I am still in awe of the keynote, and another point Roy Spence said made me reflect on its application to life beyond ASHA.
He spoke of a mantra of Aristotle, “do good and be happy.” What a concept. I am sure I have heard this before, but with other things, I heard it, but it did not stick. This time, it stuck. Given the population hearing this address, I would say we all understood where he was going with this point in a different way than someone who may not be going into the helping profession. The most good cannot come from a heart that is not happy. If we are not taking steps to choose a career we love, then we are not going to be able to make the most meaningful and positive contribution to the world. Being happy is not enough either. If we are not passing along our happiness through our actions, then a selfish act is keeping us from showing the world what happiness can look like. The world needs to see the joy of giving and what helping others is all about.
A reference to former presidents was made, and believe it or not, politics aside, if there is a need, differences can be set aside to ensure a positive solution is found. Roy Spence then went on to say, “God made us all different, and it is the only thing that unites us.” To know that we each have something unique only to us should teach us to work together to prove unity is the way to change. Without each person’s strengths working together for one purpose, the highest potential is not able to be reached. Finding common ground to achieve unity is not easy, but if decades’ worth of former presidents could look beyond political affiliations, we can do it too in our own communities and lines of work. What we are not able to contribute ourselves, we have an obligation to seek the help of others who can support and fill in the gaps we lack on our own.
Two seemingly unrelated topics somehow met and made an impact that I will carry long into my career. I chose this career to help others, and even on the hardest of days, I must chip away at all of the negativity to reach happiness. We need a reminder in life that the world cannot steal our happiness. When we allow our happiness to take a back seat, we are unable to be and do our best. Doing good in this world must prevail no matter what we are up against in life. At the end of the day, as a future speech-language pathologist, I must prioritize the value of communication and humanity. I know that without a sense of community I seek in my fellow professionals, our services are not best serving our clients. And not only to serve in a helping profession is enough; we must be happy with the commitment we made to enter such a profession. I have said it before, and I think it is appropriate to say again. I am inspired by the people who chose this career path forty years ago and are just as enthusiastic and happy about their decision as they were on day one. As long as I still have that spark, I can confidently know my actions are done out of happiness, and the good I am doing is done from a place of compassion.
Regardless of the careers we choose, and the life we live every day, we should take a step back to reflect on the reasons we chose to live that way. If we are not happy, it is time to time to do what does make us happy. If we are not doing something good, it is time to close that door and look to something that allows us to do good. If we are divided in our differences, it is time to see the commonality that the greater good must be served, and unity will win. These ideas are a reminder we can all benefit from, and just know that wherever we find ourselves, joy will lead the way.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018
Going to an ASHA convention is an experience unlike any other. It is hard to put into words the feelings that come with going to ASHA, but I am going to try to capture some snapshots and highlights of the experience. This year’s ASHA took me to Boston, and now it has been a coast to coast adventure. Going to Boston in the wintery months was never on my bucket list, so the sightseeing endeavors had to be put on hold compared to last year’s Los Angeles shenanigans. Plus, grad school kept us preoccupied with trying to stay afloat.
I do not know about anyone else, but I live for the keynote address in the opening session at ASHA. Through the years, I have attended my fair share of keynotes at various events, but this one was the best of the best. Roy Spence opened his mouth and inspiration spilled. Needless to say, I had chills during half of it and on the verge of tears the other half.
As I sat there, in a convention room filled with thousands of professionals and professionals-to-be in the same field, I was overwhelmed by the unwavering commitment contained in that space. Roy made the statement, “when someone helps you, you can help someone else.” In our profession, that statement holds so much truth. We start our career with such a strong support system, and once we reach a stage in our career, we no longer rely on the same supports we once did and are able to become the support for another beginning their journey. So much of what we do is built on a pay it forward system, and the goal is to always serve the greater good.
“Communication is a human right.” In a room full of people whose life mission is to ensure that people will always have a means of communication, this statement captured it all. I actually heard people say “amen” as those words were said. Regardless which path we take within the broad field, we are all doing our part to keep it that way. Communication, no matter how we do it, is essential to humanity. Without communication, there would be no exchange of ideas and innovations. Interactions would be nonexistent, and the extreme corners of the world would be further removed from accessibility. I said all of that to say this: communication is crucial in our world, and this solidifies the notion that what we have to say and contribute to this world matters and is important, no matter the means (conventional or otherwise) we utilize to express ourselves.
I did not want the keynote portion of the convention to come to an end. If I did not know any better, it was as if I was walking out of a good church service. That is how good it felt leaving the opening session. The rest of the day, week, and even up to this very day for that matter, I have not stopped thinking about Roy’s impact and dedication to his own line of work. He put actions behind his words, and at one point in his life, he was just an ordinary person trying to make his mark on this great big world. Just like the rest of us sitting in that room, I was an ordinary person who has set out to make an impact, set aside differences, and show the world what humanity can really look like. Wherever we go in this life, there are going to be intersections, and those are the very places where ordinary meets extraordinary.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2018