This semester has been quite possibly the craziest time of my life. This past summer was one that led to a schoolwork burnout. Working seven days a week to get all of the required internship hours and then enduring four-hour night classes after long day ran my energy and focus out. I had two weeks after the summer of fun to return home to my family in Florida until the fall semester.
Two days before I was leaving for summer “break” my car died and I received a call from my dad. My dad informed me that he had just gotten back for the doctor and that he had cancer. I immediately stopped dead in my tracks. My dad has cancer. This started the longest three weeks of my life. I went home and was welcomed by my family all with brave faces on. No one knew what was happening, all we knew is that we needed our faith more than ever. While I was home, I also helped my sister pack up and move into her freshman dorm room hours away from our house.
Leaving home was heart wrenching. My dad drove my to the airport and I held back tears as I boarded the plane to come back to Steubenville. My parents were now empty nesters and my dad’s surgery to remove the cancer was less than a week away. In this surgery, the doctors were going to find out how bad his cancer was and what the next steps were.
As I entered the classroom on the first day of fall semester, I just wanted to run out of the room and head back to Tampa by my dad’s side. I was distracted and emotional and definitely not ready for the craziness that my professors were explaining via their syllabuses. I stepped back and prayed for endurance to make it through this semester.
I am extremely grateful to report that my dad is now cancer free. But the semester is still extremely crazy. As of right now I am trying to get all of my internship hours completed, writing papers, preparing for exams, moving houses, savoring the last few days left with some of my best friends, and slowly but surely recovering from a cold that has truly messed up all of my plans and over stayed it’s welcome.
So long blog short, if this semester has taught me anything it is that self-care is extremely important. I had heard my professors talk previously about this topic and I had always thought it was something to remember for the professional world. I noticed this semester that that was definitely not the case. I found myself to be stressed out and extremely tired all of the time. It was easy to revert to this state any chance I got. I spent more time in crisis mode this semester than ever before.
Last week I was forced to stop this craziness thanks to a fever and cold. While I was laid up in the quarantine of my room, I started to freak out about how behind I was when I realized how I have neglected so many things this semester. I started to think about how little time I have had to myself or time with friends. I also started to think about how I have started to look at my internship hours as more of a burden than an opportunity to work with the community.
With everything I have to be thankful for this semester, the biggest one being my dad’s health, I realize that I have not been able to see all of the amazing gifts I have been given this semester. I have been so overwhelmed that I have not taken a moment to “smell the roses”. In these next few weeks, I am striving to not let stress to claim my attention. I want to enjoy the time that I have left as an intern, student, and spend time with my friends who are leaving me sooner than I want to think about. I realize that I have not been very grateful to the gifts given to my this semester. I also plan to spend more time in prayer. I know that this semester could have gone smoother if I had this insight. Self-care is more than just putting down the books for me; it is about spending time in prayer, focusing on the present and the gifts given to me. I encourage all students to do the same. It is incredible easy to fall into the stress/crisis trap of school, work and internship, but balance is key (also enormous amounts of coffee). Take time for yourself, prayer, family and friends because life is short and semesters are tiresome, but gone before you know it.
We are all children of God, and as a counseling intern, I find it such an honor to love and care for people the way that my degree allows me to. Counselors are called to care for people, help them understand their worth as a person, enjoy their life to the fullest, and help them find their way when times are hard. Pastoral counselors have an added advantage, they are able to meet with people in a religious setting and use the resources of the Church to help their clients. Being able to talk about someone’s personal relationship with God as well as the ability to call the client on in holiness is an amazing privilege that pastoral counselors have.