10 things a year as a therapist taught me about life, work & growth

As of 6pm on Friday, I am no longer a therapist.

It’s a strange, bittersweet feeling. For over a year, being a therapist was more than just a job–it was part of my identity. Work didn’t get to stay at work; it was part of my life in a deeply profound way. My co-workers became my supporters in ways that were unlike anything I’d experienced at any other job; the concept of a “mental health day” took on an entirely new meaning, being present in my work became more important than ever.

Looking back on the past year, it’s hard to pick out the things that I learned from being a therapist as opposed to things I learned simply by getting another year older (and maybe a few months wiser). But that, I suppose, is why self-reflection has become such an important part of my growth process. I’ve written before about journaling and how daily reflective practice has changed the way I spend my time, but it really has made a huge difference–not just in my ability to look back at moments of gratitude, but to watch myself experience learning and growth. It’s also allowed me to read old entries and see the places where I learned hard lessons and received some painful reminders of my own limitations–limitations that, thanks in part to that active self-reflection, I was sometimes able to turn into strengths.

But not without challenges, and not without luck, and not without help.

For better or worse, I’m a lists person, and I do my best memory collection through organization. So, here we are:

10 Things a Year as a Therapist Taught Me about Life, Work & Growth

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looking back on 2015: a year of passion planning

So I’m a huge nerd about planners.

This should come as a shock to approximately nobody who knows me, and even less of a shock to anyone who knows my mother. Guys, my mom is a planner champion. Growing up, my sister and I knew that my mom never went anywhere for more than a few hours without her “book”, otherwise known as the planner binder that contained her schedule, our schedules, vague attention to my dad’s schedule, family addresses and phone numbers (this was before cell phones), family birthdays (this was after birthdays)–this book was the household bible, and we were well aware that if that book ever got lost, the entire family was screwed.

Needless to say, some of that got internalized, and I may or may not have grown totally obsessed over the years with finding the perfect planner. Since high school, I’ve gone through a series of planners of just about every size, shape, and orientation imaginable, but always found myself supplementing with extra notebooks, binders, or just straight-up to-do lists.


Grad school is awful.

So, when a friend of mine shared the Passion Planner Kickstarter with me last year, I just about lost my mind. A planner that doubles as a notebook, a sketchbook, a goal planner, a to-do list, a doodle pad, an inspirational journal, and a self-care tool? SIGN ME THE HELL UP, TEAM.

I was a little late to the game to buy a Passion Planner last year, but the creator of Passion Planner, Angelia Trinidad is a truly wonderful lady who decided to make multiple PDF versions of the Passion Planner available online for free so that people could print individual weekly layouts or even an entire planner at their local store (or even at home, if you’ve got the technology!). Talk about a woman who puts her product right into the hands of the people who need it. I downloaded a full 2015 planner, and marched my tushie right to Staples to print it.

I won’t lie, it took me a little while to get used to this planner style. Part of me was a little daunted by the gorgeous, beautifully decorated planners I saw online, but I was also just a little nervous about getting into the fully integrated method of using this system, but after awhile, I got really into it, I’m not gonna lie.


I did not, however, get better at taking pictures.

Once I got into the planner properly, though, I got really into it. I made my weekly goals. I set my daily focuses. I tracked my to-do lists and paid attention to the different and assignments we were given each week. I didn’t always complete the assignment, but at the very least, I tried to focus on it and take it to heart.

I even started adding in my own doodling and quotes!

(Always giving credit to the folks at @passionplanner, obvs.)

One of the best parts of the Passion Planner system was that it provided monthly reflections to help users look back at each month to determine what was learned, who was helpful, how you got closer to your goals, if you were happy with how you spent your time, and what you hoped to do differently in the coming month. I wasn’t as diligent about doing these as I maybe should have been (full disclosure: I still haven’t done my December 2015 reflection) but it was absolutely wonderful to be able to look back at each month and see how I grew and whether I was happy with what I did.

I know that a lot of people are really into the whole digital planner thing, and that there are probably billions of apps and calendars that do all the things that the Passion Planner does. But in all honesty, and maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, having a paper planner is something that really makes me connect to what I’m doing. Maybe because it reminds me of learning the art of organization from my mom, maybe because I’m a packrat who loves memories and keepsakes, but I just can’t connect to a digital planner the way I do with a paper-and-ink one. And at the end of the year, something about looking at this just fills me with warmth and gooey happiness.

2016 marks my second year using a Passion Planner, and in a lot of ways I’m in a similar place as I was last year–filled with a lot of uncertainties and looking ahead to a lot of transitions and changes. But if my mom taught me anything, it’s that as long as you’ve got your trusty planner by your side, you can handle just about anything the world throws at you. So here we go, 2016. Let’s do this thing.

ten things you will always find at my desk

Image(my desk at home)


In the last few years, I’ve had a lot of desks. Like…a lot of desks. The down side of getting one or two new work spaces a year is that there’s a lot of schlepping of stuff that goes on. The up side, however, is that I have gotten really good at knowing exactly what I need to have within reach in order to be organized and successful.

  1. Color. I don’t know how people function in work spaces that are bland and one-dimensional. My desks always have pops of color, whether they’re the metal buckets that hold my pens, different desk accessories like scissors or staplers, multicolored pens and post-its, you name it–color is a must for me.
  2. Inspiration. This takes a lot of forms for me. In my office at home, it’s a poster of inspirational quotes, a bunch of post-its full of messages I write myself or my sister or husband write to me (one of the notes in the picture above says “put on pants! A+”. She gets me.), or the different post cards and buttons I’ve collected in my travels. In my office at work, it’s the artwork that my clients create. My walls are covered with handprints, pictures, sculptures, glitter works, snowflakes, and other artistic expressions of the work they do here. What other inspiration could you need?
  3. My planner. As tech-savvy as I am, I am basically incompetent without my pen-and-paper planner. I love my google calendar, but nothing will ever replace the usefulness of writing something down and having a quick way to refer back to it, as well as being able to look ahead a year. Having my contacts, schedule, and life notes in one place (without having to switch between apps or scroll through screens/tabs) is essential.
  4. Post-it notes. Oooohhhh my goodness, post-it notes. However did I survive without post-it notes??? I have these things everywhere, in multiple sizes and colors: on my desk, in my work bag, stuck to the back page of my planner for easy accessibility. I’ve got little tabs, full-sized, lined, and in every color of the rainbow. Post-it notes are great for writing a quick reminder and throwing it into the planner on the week it’s needed, writing an inspirational message to myself to stick onto my computer or a friend/coworker’s notebook, to scheduling tentative appointments that might need to get moved from day to day, for marking a page in a book or a signature line for a client–post-its, in short, are fantastic.
  5. A mug of coffee. Self-explanatory. Bonus points for hilarious mugs. (You can’t see it well, but the one in the picture above has dots on it that turn into constellations when you add hot liquid. I’m obsessed.)
  6. Sorted desk supplies. One of the biggest tips you see on “how to get organized” lists is “keep your stuff sorted.” I follow this pretty close to the letter. Also, I like fun buckets and different colors, so having my pens and markers sorted is a win-win for me.
  7. A to-do list. I would be so, so, so screwed without my daily to-do list. The amazing office manager at my internship prints off a copy of our schedule each day, so I often just pencil things onto that, but I’ve always got a pen and paper handy to jot things down. I sometimes write things down that I’ve already done just so I can check them off, because I am a Huge Loser.
  8. A snack. Or food of some kind. I’m the kind of person who can’t focus if my blood sugar’s low, so I’ve often got crackers or granola bars stashed away in my drawers. My home office is right next to the kitchen, so I don’t always have something right at the desk, but I try to keep something close so I don’t interrupt the workflow.
  9. Pictures. At both my home and office desk (though not seen above, because I’m getting it re-framed) I have pictures of my family and friends. They remind me of why I’m here and what I’m working for, and nothing cheers me up faster than a glance at my husband’s cute face. It is a very cute face.
  10. Natural light. This one might be cheating, but I am a huge believer in the power of sunlight to brighten a workplace, a mood, and a productivity level. I always try to put my desk near a window and to take advantage of the natural light as often as I can. I often leave my fluorescent office lights off as often as possible to work just by sunlight, because I find I have much more energy.

And that’s my desk! This has been A Post.