A glass desk, mahogany shelves in an office working with adolescents helping them find ways to improve their thinking and manage their emotions. I was one of the few who never changed majors and found my pathway or purpose. I followed, what I thought was my dream to be a psychologist. After several degrees, a job working in a residential mental health facility with juveniles in Colorado, and the edifying gratitude knowing that I had impacted the lives of teens who everyone else thought didn’t stand a chance in the world, I was living my dream! I was making a difference.
Fast forward a few years, a move back to Illinois to be with family changed my pathway. All of those stories about my clients in Colorado became memories of my past. Where did the dream go? Why did I let it go? In the desire of needing employment, my youngest sister who attended the local community college told me that maybe I should go be a teacher. Why not? I could teach Psychology. So, I applied and the department chair took a chance on me- a stranger to the classroom as a teacher. I thought to myself: I loved school, I did great. I can be a teacher.
My first day of class in the community college as an adjunct faculty- a disaster. Every expectation I had of myself as a student was reflected in my syllabus that was clearly not aligned to what my students needed. It was that moment, I realized… I could influence these students to become psychology majors, I could be that teacher they remember who changed their pathway in life, who helped them fulfill their dreams. It wasn’t about just doing APA style and taking final comprehensive exams, but about helping my students learn how psychology can make them a better mother, a better employee, a better person. But, what about my own dream? It was my experiences in the community college classroom that made me never look back at those stories from Colorado as a loss of what could never be. My experiences in the classroom and working with students drove me to become even more passionate about influencing others.
Throughout the last 17 years, I thought I lost my dream. The time to be a psychologist was over and the time to be a faculty member and leader in a community college emerged. I never dreamed of being a faculty and I never dreamed of helping lead a community college. It was stepping into the classroom as faculty that reshaped my dream- being a psychologist was an outcome of my dream; being a faculty member was an outcome of my dream. They share in common a sense of influence and compassion to give back. So, my dream- the one that I am living now is the continued opportunity to shape student’s minds, influence their success and foster an environment that makes a difference! In essence, the dream has never changed!