We’ve all heard the saying “When One Door Closes another Opens.” How we approach that open door varies for each of us, and varies by circumstance. Some of us don’t wait for the door to open but barge on through anyway. Some of us forget the door and hop out the open window (Defenestration of Self?). Some of us stand before the door without ever seeing it before us.
In my case, recently, I didn’t know I was standing before an open door at all. Sometimes all of life’s crazy decisions lead us on a path we don’t recognize until someone points it out to us, even if unknowingly.
Right now, the door that opened for me is a new job opportunity. The door first cracked open an inch when I was asked to apply, then the door opened completely when I was offered and accepted a position with Altacare/Acadia of Montana as a Mental Health Associate, working with K-12 students at the local public school. I didn’t even think I could apply for the job because I have no background or experience in mental health. But after some encouragement, I applied anyway and was told that for the Associate position, as long as I’d be willing to learn, previous experience with mental health was not a prerequisite. At one point the job was explained to me as “You are essentially a teacher. You are teaching kids how to succeed in life.”
In considering whether or not to move on to a new job, I thought a lot about where I have come from in my life. I don’t know where this came from or why it came to me all of a sudden, but I can remember talking to a friend in my college days about the future. Of course, then the future was a distant constellation of opportunities that would happen…someday. Now I am among the stars and choosing which to land on.
We were on a service trip to Kentucky to build and repair houses. My friend, Ryan, who was always asking the heavy-hitting questions, asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” I remember being struck by it, thinking, Well… I am an Apparel Design and French major, so surely I’ll enter into a career in one or both of those fields, right? But what I said was, “I just want to help people.” I knew even then that what gave me the greatest satisfaction was simply helping people. I remember Ryan’s expression as I said that—thinking he had misjudged me.
It’s no secret that I did not enjoy some key aspects of the job I am leaving as a Financial Counselor. I will, however, miss many of the people I have gotten to know very well over the short two years I was here, and I have learned a lot. One of the biggest things I learned is how to communicate with people who don’t want to communicate with you. That is a skill I can take anywhere and will likely transfer in my new job in one way or another.
There are some great aspects of my current job that I did truly enjoy that I will be leaving behind. I liked connecting patients to services that could make it more affordable for them to pay their healthcare bills. I liked training to be a Certified Application Counselor, to assist people in enrolling for coverage on the new healthcare exchange. Or at least, I liked the idea of it. I am leaving this position before even delving into that. I liked my roll on Wellness Committee and TLC Committee: encouraging workplace health, camaraderie, and well-being for the staff. But again, the heart of each of these activities and the reason I enjoyed them comes back to a want to simply help people.
As I thought back about it, I do have some experience teaching kids. I taught swimming lessons to kids of all ages and abilities when I was in High School. Upon moving here, I immediately got myself on the Substitute Teacher list for the school. Then, last spring, I fell in love with Track and Field all over again as I had the wonderful opportunity to be an assistant coach. I’ll certainly lean on what I’ve gleaned from each of these experiences as I begin my new job.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing as a Mental Health Associate, or MHA, but I do know a few things. I will be working with an actual licensed counselor. I will be working with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade. I will be working much closer to home. I will not be behind a computer in an office. I could be doing anything from assisting in teachers’ classrooms, to recess duty, to group activity therapy sessions with kids, to helping older students learn how to balance a checkbook. Each day will be different and each day will offer its own challenges and rewards.
I know it was a big surprise to my current employer when I called and gave my notice yesterday. Today has been a day filled with explanations and long conversations with my supervisor and coworkers. It’s bittersweet and surreal already, and it’s only the first day of my notice period. It doesn’t feel like I am leaving yet, even though I know that I am. Similarly, my new job doesn’t feel real yet—and probably won’t until I am walking into the school on my first day. Walking through that open door.