We learn a lot from mistakes. But what about successes?

 Wendy Edwards, AMFT

I reached a fairly ripe age without ever being called a risk-taker.

And yet, 12 years ago, I decided to take a big one.  Many years beyond higher education, I joined a cohort of 20- and early 30-somethings in a Master’s Degree program at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. I was warned the licensure process was a long one, full of much hoop-jumping.  But, ultimately, if I persevered,  I could become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California.


Seeds of Change

Why, after working for two great non-profit organizations – Hospice of Pasadena and Young & Healthy – would I want to start a whole new career? It wasn’t my life plan to become a therapist.

But life has a way of setting us on unexpected paths.

My sister, and only sibling, died too young in 2003. I had stopped working for about a year to spend more time with her and to help with her care. At the year’s end, I no longer had a job to return to.  And I didn’t feel at all ready to retire. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to the fundraising work I’d been doing for many years.  While I cared deeply about the organizations and colleagues I worked with, I didn’t love the pressure that goes with fundraising to keep the work going! So, I dragged my feet and did a lot of volunteer work.


Finding Passion

Since childhood, I have loved hearing other people’s stories. I like to hear where a person comes from, how their family connected or didn’t, what they remember happily, and what was hard. I’ve always had a remarkable memory for details.  My natural curiosity about others led me to become involved with the Lay Counseling Ministry at my church, and also to obtain formal training in becoming a spiritual director. I found these volunteer activities so satisfying and soul- filling!  When a mentor suggested that it might not be too late for me to start a counseling career, I began giving it serious thought!


Facing Fears and Growing Bold

This brings me to the present, and my reflection on how I have been shaped by successes in my life. It’s easier to focus on the setbacks and failures whose consequences I’ve had to bear and learn from than to consider my successes. Facing fears and returning to school as an outlier in a much younger cohort felt like a bold and reckless move, at the time. And you know what? Nothing, apart from raising our family, has been more fulfilling! I love the work of therapy!  I always want to learn more (which seems to keep me young-ish).  I’ve grown more confident, and now encourage others to pursue their own “reckless” dreams, even when it seems too late. I’d have to call that a success!