I am settling into the first quarter of graduate school, and I can barely believe I am here- a sentiment it appears I share with many of my fellow students. Choosing to pursue a career in art therapy felt like choosing to chase a dream, but sitting in class after class with my brilliant classmates and wonderful instructors, this path feels more and more like a beautiful reality.
Over the days of orientation and the first couple weeks of classes I have heard as wide a variety of odysseys landing at this school as the classmates I have met. Some folks began as students of psychology, some as experienced art educators, some as social justice advocates, and some others still as studio art majors. The tales are wonderful to hear and unearth a brilliant thread of commonality among all of us gathered together. No matter where or who we started as, every single one of us is at Southwestern together because we want to dedicate our lives to helping people and we dream of accomplishing this by drawing upon our diverse creative and spiritual energies.
This realization is palpable in the midst of so many eager new students and incredibly exciting. As I write, I sense my inner adolescent giggling coyly at the blatant hippy-dippy-ness of it all, but let us be honest with ourselves… isn’t that what brought us here in the first place? That inner adolescent is the same inner child who found joy stacking stones, wandering the labyrinth, and opening the art supply closets at a new school pulsing with possibility. Truth be told, I couldn’t have prepared myself for the degree of energetic resonance that has taken place during the last few weeks and the sheer intensity of it gave me pause to question myself.
Did I take a wrong turn? Was I supposed to be here? All these human beings around me seemed so ready and purposed for this moment, was I? Certainly, embarking on the graduate journey elicits substantial uncertainty for many who dare to, after all it is an enormous leap of faith onto a new life path. The spiritual dimension of this program seems to intensify the significance of that leap for me. At Southwestern I am required not only to develop the skills I will need as a licensed counselor, but also to grown as a human being so that I can be a strong community mentor as well.
The calling to be a counselor is both heavy and lofty. It begs us to grow roots and spread wings simultaneously. And how does one do that exactly? It is a delicate tension to master and one that requires the tutelage of accomplished dreamers, no shortage of which is to be found at Southwestern College and the New Earth Institute. Over just a few weeks, I have already felt myself stretching towards that new horizon- a little uncomfortable at first but wonderfully relieving after a short while. I have never felt so honored, so blessed, so thrilled to be a novice.
As I reflect tonight, a little further, I can’t help but see the resemblance between a beloved children’s book character and myself as we each arrive at a magical new beginning tucked snugly away between two worlds- where we once were and where we are headed. Just as there were for him and his companions, there are surely many adventures awaiting my classmates and me and many opportunities for transformation as we grow into the professionals we are destined to be. The excitement is thrilling… All aboard the Hogwarts Express!
Jessica Schreier Kennard is a first-year graduate student at Southwestern studying Counseling and Art Therapy.