I have never understood how other people picked their career. I know people have interests and those lead to careers. Others go where the money is, and still others just have talent and intelligence in a specific area (because who could be legitimately interested in organic chemistry or physics? Seriously...). Sometimes I wish I had chosen something else, such as journalism or sports management (I can turn the Arizona Cardinals into Super Bowl champions in 2 years with roster moves alone in Madden), but ultimately I know I am in the right spot.
I think I am very fortunate to have a career choice that meets all three of those criteria: interest, talent, and the dollars. I have a legitimate personal interest in the field, I will be paid more than adequately for my services, and I believe in my heart that no other speech-language pathologist (outside of a person in a similar situation) would be a better candidate for a job than I would. In my situation, that's the level of confidence I need to have: nobody is going to be better qualified than me. I have the empathy necessary to understand the agony that a child can go through, but have enough sense to not let them dwell. They have to know that they will have slumps where your mouth, tongue, and chest feel tense and you can't get anything out no matter how much you practice. These slumps could last a day or a week, the important thing is to not give up because the results will come. Even if you have a rut, you need to keep stretching your comfort zone. I know enough to understand that the clinic environment is so sterile that it can be a trap because during a session, fluent speech comes so easily. I certainly know enough not to say "well, maybe you just aren't practicing enough." Empathy is the most difficult thing for someone to have, because you can never be in their position no matter how much you try. I have heard that in the graduate course on fluency, one of the assignments is to go out and stutter voluntarily in a public place in an effort to gain some understanding of that pain. A fluent person doesn't understand how it feels to be laughed at by a girl you are trying to talk to, or how much it hurts to be be hung up on while trying to make a phone call. I don't say this in an effort to gain sympathy or to make people feel bad for me, but those are situations that people take for granted. I am anxious to see how others respond to that, because believe me, it can be very, very painful.
The most difficult thing I am anticipating is how much of a role model I will have to be. I am in the unique position of having to practice what I preach every time I open my mouth. This is difficult because I am not 100% fluent all of the time, or any of the time. In high school, I practiced every morning with a tape recorder, a mirror, and a newspaper article to read aloud. I definitely reaped the benefits of the practice as my speech improved drastically. In college, I never practiced because of being in the vicinity of roommates and I have never been comfortable with that. That, and being caught up in college life took all of my motivation away. My lack of effort showed a lot because of the amount of trouble I had. I would use so many excuses as to why I wasn't fluent, including "I just haven't practiced lately," "I'm comfortable with my stuttering, that's the important thing," "As soon as I get home for the summer I'll practice," and so on. As my fluency showed, I never did. The typical goal for any type of speech therapy is 90% success, because 100% is not realistic. Lately I think I have been around 80-85%. That means I have to step it up and put more effort to get to that 90%. I practice every morning in the car on the way to work, and as soon as I start mowing fairways, I'll have my headphones and my home-made practice tracks and I can practice more at work. I also have to do things I would never have done in the past, including making more phone calls, taking more initiative with friends, and not avoiding any possible speaking situations. To think back to the point where I used to be, where I would have Ethan order my Wings, have Jaylynn order my coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, or have somebody lean over to talk to the drive-thru at Wendy's are depressing thoughts, and those are only changes I have made in the last year-and-a-half. I still have miles to go in regards to risk taking. I make all (well, almost all) of my own phone calls with little hesitation. I do all my own ordering in person and on the phone (just ask my Dad and he'll show you the credit card bill for Wings.....God, I haven't had Wings in a while....do you think they deliver to Worcester?) I am planning on joining the organization called Toastmasters which is more-or-less a public speaking club, I would like to be an officer for NSSHLA, and I would even like to do readings at church (assuming I start going to church up here).
Of course, these are all plans, and time will tell if I actually follow through with them, but I am trying my best, and I need support. I need to actually DO IT rather than talk about it. I cannot be static in terms of my progress. I have the blueprint in my mind of the kind of person I want and need to be in order to be successful in this field, and I'm lucky to have it figured out so early. I have no more excuses.