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Meet Colette


Colette Jones


Year: Spring 2012
Hometown: Rye, NY
Major: Graduate Counseling Program

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Colette's E-Journal Archives:

June 4, 2010
May 12, 2010
April 22, 2010
February 12, 2010
January 14, 2010
November 30, 2009
September 9, 2009


Back to My Roots

June 4, 2010

2nd Grade Career Day

Today was Career Day at my daughter’s school and, dutiful mother that I am, I went in to do a presentation on counseling. Initially, I was a bit stumped by how I was going to make the mental-health-counseling profession accessible to a group of second-graders, but in the end, I think I managed to pull it off. Of course, bringing snacks always helps with kids, no matter what you’re talking to them about!

This exercise gave me an opportunity to reflect on all that I’ve learned this year and the many changes, both personal and professional, I’ve experienced since I began my studies at Rollins. To begin with, I have taken my maiden name back — an incredibly laborious process that is still underway in the Florida courts, believe it or not. After 13 years as a Jones, I’m now almost Colette Jane Iacobellis again. Restoring my familial and ethnic heritage to my name brings me a tremendous sense of pride. Eventually, I hope to carry on the family legacy by becoming a third-generation Dr. Iacobellis. Although I won’t be a medical doctor like my father and grandfather, getting my Ph.D. in psychology as an Iacobellis will be a way for me to honor their great accomplishments and forge my own.

Although it may sound trivial, I’ve made another big change this school year that brought me back to my roots. After almost 20 years of being a blonde, I decided to become a brunette again. Going back to my roots, literally and figuratively, name-wise and hair-wise, has been more liberating than I ever imagined. Not to mention that, in regard to my hair color, the change has saved me an obscene amount of money. When I calculated how much it has cost me to be blond over the past two decades, I nearly fell out of my chair! But, more important, becoming a brunette again has taken me to a place of authenticity that makes me wish I had made the switch sooner (I literally could have gotten a new roof or gone to Europe for a month with the money I spent keeping my salon’s AC running!). Even though I am now painfully aware of my gray hairs, it feels good to have things back to the way they were originally meant to be.

Of course, the most significant change this past year, has been switching careers and going back to school as a single mom in my mid-thirties. It was a leap of faith to leave a stable income and career for something new and unknown, but it has proved to be a jump well worth making. I’m happy I went for it. Change can be scary and overwhelming, but it can also be invigorating, as I have found graduate school to be. It is tempting to resort to cliché and say that I feel like a completely different person from who I was last summer, but the truth is, I feel more like myself than I have for a very long time.

Throughout my first year in the Rollins Graduate Counseling Program, I’ve learned as much about myself as I have about the world of counseling and psychology. In fact, many of the superficial changes I’ve elected to make, stemmed from the didactic and experiential lessons the Rollins Counseling Program provided. Furthermore, the relationships I have developed with other students, faculty members, and the clinicians with whom I’ve worked and interacted in the community have expanded my horizons and enhanced my understanding of humanity in ways it is hard to describe. I feel supported, encouraged, and part of something very special as a result of this new network, and I know many of theses relationships are the beginning of lifelong friendships that I will treasure and nurture for years to come.

Despite how far I’ve come, I have a long way to go in becoming a counselor, but I am thrilled to be on the right path and am enjoying every minute of the journey. Though being a single mom in graduate school has produced some stressful moments — such as trying to type up a research paper in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office while simultaneously policing my bored and restless children’s antsy behavior — the benefits have far outweighed the logistical stressors. Now I know that no matter how difficult things may seem from time to time, I will get through, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in my story holds.

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Being a G.A.

May 12, 2010

Stef and Sam in the G.A. offices

I can’t believe the year is almost done and I haven’t posted anything about being a G.A.! For those of you who aren’t familiar with the abbreviation, G.A. stands for Graduate Assistant, and it’s similar to what is commonly called a “work-study” in the undergraduate world. Basically, throughout the school-calendar year, the student spends a fixed number of hours per week working in a particular department and, in exchange, receives compensation as tuition reimbursement.  

The Graduate Counseling Program at Rollins grants about six G.A. positions a year: one for first-year students, and five for students in their second year. In the counseling department, G.A. placements range from working for the department chair, to working in the Cornell Counseling Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, TJ’s Student Resource Center, or the Office of Career Services. The job activities themselves are diverse and interesting, offering students a host of valuable opportunities and exposure to the world of Rollins beyond what the typical student would experience.  

For my G.A. position this year, I have worked as an assistant to the counseling department chair, Dr. Alicia Homrich. I can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed and how much I’ve learned from this experience. The job enabled me to interact with not just Dr. Homrich, but the entire counseling faculty, as well as the Hamilton Holt marketing department and many of the counseling program’s community partnerships, such as The Center for Drug Free Living. Beyond, my administrative duties, I was fortunate to be able to participate in photo shoots, to make presentations to undergraduate parents, to write news releases, and to work on many great events, such as Hamilton Holt’s signature annual scholarship fundraiser, “Starry, Starry Night.” These opportunities truly enriched my experience as a student. I became a fully integrated member of the Rollins community, getting to know professionals, students, and faculty, both outside of the Graduate Counseling Program and within.  

One of the best aspects of being a G.A. this year was having the chance to work side-by-side with other more-seasoned counseling students in the G.A offices. Stephanie and Samantha are the second-year counseling students and G.A.’s with whom I share office space. Stephanie is the G.A. for the Cornell Counseling Clinic, managing the clinic’s scheduling and performing intakes, and Sam is the second-year G.A. to Dr. Homrich. She and I assisted Dr. Homrich together and collaborated on many of the projects I’ve described. Stephanie, Sam and I worked really well together and also became each other’s extra support system. We were always willing to help each other out, and in our downtime would commiserate about the many papers we had to write for school and share stories about our personal lives. As a first-year student, it was beyond helpful to have the shoulders of friends who knew the ins and outs of the counseling program and had great advice to offer about juggling the many responsibilities of a grad student. I’m so grateful for the camaraderie and companionship of my fellow G.A.’s this year and will miss spending time with them. When my G.A. position wraps up in the next few days, I will miss just about everything about being a G.A. I would encourage anyone who has the chance to pursue such a role.

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Pearls of Wisdom

April 22, 2010

So here I am in the home stretch of spring classes, cranking out another assignment as I force some more coffee down and greet dawn. The TV’s on in the background because it helps me concentrate, but I’ve already played everything in my DVR and am stuck listening to late-night infomercials. An uber-fit blond promises I can have a six-pack just like hers for only 12 installments of $19.99 a month.

With only two weeks, four papers, three exams, and one presentation to go, I’ve reached that point in the semester when I flip out because everything seems to be due at once. But then I realize I’ve spent what little time I had thinking about what I have to do instead of doing it, which makes me freak out even more! To make matters worse productivity-wise, I’m getting ready to host 12 9-year-old girls for my daughter’s sleepover birthday party this weekend. Somehow I have to produce crafts, games, and activities ingenious enough to entertain Charlotte’s friends and make her party the success she deserves it to be. I know it’ll be lots of fun, but I’m also guessing another sleepless night is in store.

I keep reminding myself that these things are stressful but not terribly important in the grand scheme of things. I just wrote a paper on Adlerian theory, otherwise known as Individual Psychology, and feel like some of its positive, goal-oriented, and empowering principles are instructive in times like these. According to Alfred Adler and those who subscribe to this eponymous theory, the individual is both capable of and responsible for enacting change. Central to this premise is the belief that “you are what you think.” Therefore, we can take control of our happiness by changing our attitude toward whatever comes our way.

Although I doubt Adler intended to help people cope with homework and sleepover parties, some of his common-sense ideas are applicable to any situation. Theoretically, if I believe I am rested, capable, and sane, then I am! Granted, I’m simplifying, but maybe it really is that simple. Instead of “sweating the small stuff” during these last three weeks of logistical madness, I’m going to put the stress to work for me as a motivational engine. I’ll use it to make lemonade out of whatever I can find in my abysmally-empty refrigerator.

A few weeks ago, when I was researching my Adler theory paper, I stumbled upon a “poem” in the works of one of Adler’s devoted students. It’s unusual to find something like “The Tale of the Oyster” in scholarly material, so it caught me by surprise. It’s about how you can turn a negative into a positive by choosing how you look at it. It made me smile, so I copied it and stuck it up on my empty fridge. With that said, I’ll leave you with this little ditty and let you make of it whatever you choose or choose not to:

The Tale of the Oyster

There once was an oyster whose story I’ll tell

Who found that some sand had gone into his shell.

Just one little grain, but it gave him such pain.

Now did he berate the working of fate

That brought him to such a deplorable state?

Did he curse the government, call that the sea

Should give him protection?

“No” he said to himself as he lay on the shelf

“Since I cannot remove it, I’ll try to improve it.”

The years rolled by as the years always do

And he came to his ultimate destiny – stew.

And the grain of sand that bothered him so

Was a beautiful pearl, all richly aglow.

Now this tale has a moral, for isn’t it grand

What an oyster can do with a morsel of sand?

What couldn’t we do if we’d only begin

Improving the things that get under our skin?

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What Happens in Counseling Stays in Counseling…

March 19, 2010
Dr. Paladino models counseling in the Cornell Counseling Center

Dr. Paladino models counseling in the Cornell Counseling Center

Did you know that one of the best resources at Rollins is right here in the Counseling Department? It’s hardly a secret, but as I’m out and about on campus, chatting about the counseling program, I’m discovering that a lot of people don’t know anything about the Cornell Counseling Center (CCC) — and the fact that it’s virtually free for all Holt and Crummer students!

The Rollins graduate counseling faculty, which is comprised of professors who are also licensed and experienced mental-health counselors, manages the CCC and supervises the third-year interns who staff the facility. More specifically, it is Dr. Derrick Paladino who oversees the counseling center. Dr. Paladino is both a full-time professor in the graduate counseling program and CCC’s clinical director. I haven’t taken any of his classes yet, but I’ll finally have the chance to do so this summer and am really looking forward to it. The second- and third-year students rave about his clinical skills and how much they learn from him as both a teacher and a counselor. Dr. Paladino has many years of experience, specializing in college-student development and adjustment, crisis/suicide assessment and intervention, group counseling, identity development, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and clinical supervision. It’s easy to imagine why so many students say they thrive under his tutelage. As clinical director, Dr. Paladino supervises the interns who provide counseling services to clients. The CCC counselors are third-year, trained, student interns who, in addition to their role at the center, work as counselors at various agencies, clinics, and practices in the community.

All graduate counseling students have the opportunity to work at the Cornell Counseling Center once they’ve been adequately trained. My time won’t come for two more years, but at the rate things are going since I started grad school, I’m sure that’ll be here before I know it. During practicum, I’ll have my first chance to see clients at the CCC, as each counseling student is required to take on one CCC client during this phase. During the internship phase, third-year students can see clients to supplement their external placement hours. This is a great way to ensure that internship requirements are met and to obtain the benefits of supervision under Dr. Paladino.

If you are a student in Holt undergraduate, any of the Holt graduate programs (except counseling), or a student at Crummer, you can see a counselor at the CCC as much as you need to. Each student pays a one-time initiation fee of $15, and after that, all sessions are free. And rest assured: All counseling sessions at CCC are 100 percent confidential. One of the biggest misconceptions about the CCC pertains to confidentiality. Students are sometimes afraid that if they go see a counselor there, the information they share with the counselor will be passed on to the school. They needn’t worry, though, because all sessions, discussions, files, and records are completely confidential. Whatever transpires in counseling remains between the counselor and the client exclusively.

So if you have something going on in your life that you’d like to talk to someone about, or you just want to find out a little bit more information, call the clinical coordinator, Stephanie Lindlau, at 407-646-2134.

· The Cornell Counseling Clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters.

· There is a one-time initiation fee of $15 for each student, after which all counseling sessions are free.

· Each session is 50 minutes.

· Sessions are scheduled by appointment only.

· Call 407-646-2134 to make an appointment.

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The Fishbowl

February 12, 2010

Now that we’re a couple of weeks into the spring semester, I’m beginning to appreciate how different my experience with class is this term from last. For one thing, I’m finally versed in “counselor speak”, although still far from fluent. It’s kind of like going to Paris after studying French in high school: You can understand the gist of what people are saying to you, and communicate just enough to find the Louvre. Nonetheless, if I were to plot where I am today along the learning curve, I’d have to say that this is a pretty good place to be. It’s definitely a vast improvement over last fall when I often felt like I needed a translator to decipher some of the lectures, such as most of those in my research and statistics class. But now that this dissonance has evaporated, I am able to enjoy this semester’s classes without any “lost-in-translation” anxiety.

Preparing the informed consent

Preparing the informed consent

And it’s a wonderful thing because this semester there’s a discernable shift in the counseling program’s didactic focus. The classes have moved from emphasizing concept and theory to a more sophisticated synthesis of the intellectual and practical matters. With skill training central to the curriculum, my peers and I are learning the hands-on of what it takes to actually be a counselor. In my process class, for example, the lecture and class discussion are followed by a “fishbowl” role-play each week. The fishbowl is exactly what it sounds like: One student acts as the counselor and the other acts as the client, the latter performing according to a fictitious scenario (provided by our professor, Dr. Bertram), about which the counselor knows nothing. The counselor must respond to the best of her ability while the entire class watches her squirm as she tries to look like she knows what she’s doing! To make things even more nerve-racking, Dr. Bertram also records the exchange and then plays snippets of the video back during the critique. Yikes! My mouth is getting dry just writing about it!

Last week's fishbowl about to commence!

Last week's fishbowl about to commence!

But daunting as this is for me, the experience is invaluable. I know that I will benefit tremendously from being subjected to the fishbowl, and as a result, have volunteered to be the counselor this week. My trepidation is mixed with excitement because I am about to gain valuable insight into how I will perform as a counselor. No matter how great an education, there is no preparation for any career like practice and the knowledge gained from making mistakes. Trial and error is the only way to truly grow. Perhaps the most exciting thing of all is to have arrived at a point in my studies, at which I am not only learning from talented professors and informative texts, but also from myself.

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Snow Days

January 14, 2010
Dr. Homrich's Holiday Party

Dr. Homrich's Holiday Party on December 11, 2009

Counseling students, professors and family enjoyed the celebration!

Counseling students, professors and family enjoyed the celebration... Can you tell who's who?

The Counseling holiday party was the beginning of lots of yummy seasonal munching to come...

With so many delicious treats, the party was the beginning of lots of yummy holiday munching to come...

It’s turn-over-a-new-leaf time: the period after the holidays when we’re so stuffed, sick of celebrating, and fed up with our bad habits that it actually feels good to go the Puritan route and deprive ourselves for a couple of weeks. Case in point: I turned down a chocolate chip cookie today — not because I have willpower but because I’ve had so much junk over the past month that I’m indefinitely satiated. It almost makes me think I’m about to stick to a diet for the first time in my life. Almost. Let’s see how many cookies I pass up when the holiday gluttony fades into memory and day-to-day stresses resume.

Despite the annual temptation to believe this year’s resolutions are the ones that will actually endure, come the second week of February, I suspect the elliptical machines at the gym will be free again, and I’ll be one of the many who’ve stopped using them. Unfortunately, if you look at the track record of the horse, odds are that my healthy aspirations such as twice-daily dog walks and gratitude-journal entries will fall by the wayside come spring. By then I fear that I’ll have reverted to the same rushed, just-get-through-the-day behavior I fell into last semester.

It’s always a challenge to achieve balance, but graduate school is one of those things that can put an already-full life into overdrive. It’s hard enough to raise kids and work, much less add a master’s program to the pile. But I figure that if Oprah can read for book club and Obama can squeeze in a round of golf, I can surely find a way to make a little down time and still be just as – if not more — productive.

For 2010 and beyond, I want to be more like a mouse who strategically finds his way through a maze, than a hamster who runs fast and furiously but goes nowhere in his wheel. Even the electronic version of these rodents, the uber-popular zhu zhu pets my girls got for Christmas, can sense when to back up and redirect in order to move forward. So there’s one permanent change to which I’m determined to commit in this new decade: to slow down and be smarter about things so that I can maintain my equilibrium and enjoy my life in the process.

I spent a good part of the holiday break in New York this year, and while many of the things I cherish most about that great city remain familiar and unchanged, I did notice a troubling new tendency: Everyone is so consumed with furiously punching God-knows-what into their PDAs that they’re nearly trampling each other as they stride from Point A to Point B. Forget about crime, you could practically lose your life just being a pedestrian on the city streets these days. Technology certainly increases our productivity by offering us the ability to multitask but it also detracts from our quality of life by distracting us from the moment. On the cab ride to a restaurant, for example, do I really need to watch TV, Google the menu, and text my friends to let them know that I’m almost there? Wouldn’t it be nicer to spend the journey looking out the window and taking in the scenery and solitude for a few minutes before I arrive? We tend to do more now because we can, but there is a cost to this. Multitasking often means we’re never fully “there” when we could, and arguably should, be.

Charlotte and Curran would rather freeze than come back inside!

Charlotte and Curran would rather freeze than come back inside and out of the snow!

In contrast, watching my kids experience their first interaction with the snow this past vacation reminded me of my many childhood snow days and the joy of waking up to a white-blanketed ground and rushing to the radio to learn that school was closed for the day. The best part was knowing that the afternoon would be spent sledding, making ice caves, and drinking hot chocolate without a care in the world.

The thing about being an adult, of course, is that you don’t get to be carefree like you did when you were a child. That’s life, but even grown-ups should have snow days once in a while. A day when there are no pressing concerns or objectives other than enjoying the exhilaration of the moment like a kid in the snow. As grown-ups we’re all struggling with juggling: parenting, work, school, financial pressures, giving back to our communities, relationships, exercising, and trying to somehow squeeze in the things we enjoy– those guilty pleasures that are just for ourselves. We know the fun stuff is important too; it recharges our batteries. Yet when life gets too busy, it’s the first thing to go. To me, balance means finding time to enjoy myself, and enjoy my kids, even when life is at its most hectic. Therefore, my New Year’s resolution is to do less but experience more. To turn off my cell phone more often and make commitments less frequently. To be engaged in the present moment more fully and avoid thinking about what’s around the corner until it arrives. Everyone needs a self-imposed snow day from time to time. I’m not sure exactly how to make it happen, but I know there’s a way. After all, it snowed in Orlando last week, so clearly anything is possible.

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The Art of the Amuse Bouche

November 30, 2009

This year I spent my Turkey Day doing three things I’ve never done before: I volunteered at a residential mental-health treatment facility, I studied, and I ate leftover Vietnamese food for dinner.  My daughters were scheduled to spend the holiday break with their father, and at the last minute I decided to cancel my plans to go home for the holidays in favor of spending the time off from work, school, and mothering, getting a head start on my mandatory volunteer hours, preparing for looming final exams, and finishing my assignments for the remainder of the term.

As the weekend comes to a close, I’m happy to report that I’ve been uber productive and have accomplished much more than I expected to.  I’ve also gotten tons of much-needed sleep and enough solitary down time to slip in a bit of self-reflection.

They say time flies when you’re having fun, but, in my experience, it really hauls along when you’re so busy you don’t even have time to shave your legs anymore (I’m just saying). It seems as if I pulled some kind of Bewitched-style magic trick and transported myself from September to now with a mere nose-twitch. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve been a part of the Rollins community forever. It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t immersed in counseling vernacular, or looking at myself and others through the unique lens of awareness that this program provides.  Even more startling is how much I’ve come to enjoy and rely on the relationships I’ve built in such a short span of time. These new friendships are as dear to me as my oldest childhood bonds.

Because I can never resist the opportunity to relate something to food (a byproduct of my semi-Italian heritage, no doubt), I’ve equated my first semester with the amuse bouche served in a Michelin three-star restaurant. Literally meaning “to please the mouth” in French, the amuse bouche is the bite-size morsel of sybaritic pleasure that initiates your dinner.  Its purpose is two-fold: to showcase the chef’s brilliance, and to tempt your palette into yearning for more.

The analogy is apt, as this is precisely what the past three months at Rollins have done for me: demonstrated the quality of the program in which I wisely enrolled, and whetted my appetite for learning more and more. Just like the best gourmet dinner, or lavish Thanksgiving feast, the anticipation of what’s in store is almost as delicious as the meal itself.

So on a holiday known for permitting us to stuff ourselves like the turkey we sit down to eat, I find myself lighter on the morning-after scale this year, but more full than ever before.  I am full of gratitude for my spunky, healthy, happy daughters who, in a nanosecond, go from pulling each other’s hair to laughing as they conspire against me in a practical joke.  I am full of appreciation for my friends and family near and far, for my own health, and for the luck of my life’s circumstances that the accident of birth saw fit to bestow. And last but not least, I am grateful that I can delve into an academic pursuit I truly love — one that satiates me like no Thanksgiving or fine-dining experience has ever done before.

Exterior of Cornell Hall

The exterior of Cornell Hall, the beautiful building where I have my classes

The view inside Cornell Hall from one of my classrooms

The view inside Cornell Hall from one of my classrooms

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Beyond Gators and Pythons

September 9, 2009

colette-2009-pics-210I had big plans for the bus ride to Gatorland. After pulling an all-nighter in the vain attempt to finish a paper due at 6:45 p.m. that day, I was less than enthused about spending the next five hours chasing 8-year-olds around a simulated swampland. I’d taken the day off to chaperone my older daughter Charlotte’s field trip and would return just in time to retrieve my 6-year-old daughter from school, whisk them both to tutoring on the other side of town, race home to make dinner and plop them in the bath, and dash out the door to class the minute the sitter arrived. I would just have to multitask – the ultimate skill most mothers have mastered, and one that I’d polished to high-gloss perfection when I re-entered the workforce after my divorce. So along with Goldfish and juice boxes, I’d brought my unpaid bills, unopened mail, unfinished paper (beginning to see a theme here?), reading assignment for class that evening, and a freelance project that my finances had demanded I take. If I could knock it all out on the bus to Kissimmee, I could peruse the prehistoric predators all afternoon stress-free.

My ambition ended the minute my seatmate and fellow parent-chaperone introduced herself and asked me what I do. I get very excited whenever anybody gives me an entree to talk about the counseling program, and no one who knows me will be surprised to learn that I – queen of both gab and procrastination – spent the entire 50-minute trip gushing about my new career path.

No matter how I try to explain why I’ve chosen to take such a leap at this point in my life, and why I’m so glad I did, I never feel like I convey what I really want to express: that I’m in the process of doing the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life. How to explain that, despite all the things I have on my plate, I get Christmas-Eve excited about going to class (a response to academia that completely eluded me in my undergraduate years) – or that, from the moment I step foot on campus, I feel a pulse of energy, as if a current is reverberating through the brick-laid walkways, signaling that something powerful is happening right here, right now, and I’m a part of it. I walk under the canopies of Spanish moss that blanket the Rollins campus with antiquated charm, and muse about what I might learn in class that night, anticipating the way my thoughts will swirl and contort, as they do each week, when my professors impart their wisdom, when I interact with my peers, when I raise my hand to answer a question with another question about something else I want to learn – until my head is a hive of activity and my thinking is, not quite turned upside down, but rather, stretched and redirected, offering me a panoramic vantage of things I never knew were possible.

By the time we arrived at Gatorland, I’d resolved to stop thinking about my responsibilities and just enjoy the day with my daughter. We wandered around the park, checking out the alligators – Charlotte, excited by each as though it was the first she’d ever seen; me, wishing I’d signed up for the museum of art trip instead. A city girl to the core, I’d always preferred the concrete jungle to the natural, and – even after years of living in Florida with enough animal life for the Discovery Channel to film an episode of Wild Kingdom in my backyard – am still freaked out by the tiny lizards that populate my porch, occasionally making their way indoors.

Just when I was about to hit the snack bar for some gator nuggets (the preferable way to experience the species, in my opinion) it was time for the whole class to go to the “Upclose Encounters Show.” I didn’t know what that was, but I figured it had to be more entertaining than staring at a bunch of inert mounds in brown water. To my dismay, the show was all about the one species I like even less than gators. I’ll give you the gist: two men in head-to-toe khaki moved about the stage showcasing every type of ridiculously large snake you’d never want to meet in the real world like they were a bunch of trophies. At the conclusion, you’re invited to snap a photo with a 20-foot python for $5 a pop. I would rather poke my eye out than put that thing around my neck, but not Charlotte. Nope, my little tomboy was all gung-ho.

“Please, please, please, Mommy – Mommy, please, please, pleeeeeeese, Mommy c’mon,” she bounced up and down, pulling my hand to drag me toward the stage.

“Charlotte, do you really want to do this?” I asked. “You’re not scared?”

“I’ve never touched a big snake, and I really, really want to!” she said, her nose crinkling up the way it does when she beams.

How could I possibly say no to that?

Down by the stage, I succumbed to the extortion and proceeded to the back of the line, receipt and camera in hand. We waited – Charlotte bouncing, clapping, squealing, tugging me forward bit by bit, as we moved up in the line.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I kept asking her, genuinely floored that anyone would willingly choose to sit under a snake.

“Mah-uuum, yes, gosh! Why do you keep asking me that?” she said in exasperation, offering me a brief glimpse of what life might be like in the teenage years.

After about 10 minutes, it was finally our turn. When we got near the snake – which looked like an industrial vacuum cleaner, albeit a designer one – Charlotte deflated like a balloon in the hot sun.

“I changed my mind, mom,” she said, shaking her head. Her face darkened as she pulled me away. Now I was the one who was exasperated! But I quickly realized what was happening. She’d wanted to do it more than anything from a distance, when it was just an idea, but once we got up close, the reality of what it would be like to wear that thing like a scarf was much scarier than she expected.

In a way it was the same thing as what enrolling in grad school had been like for me. I had wanted to become a counselor for so long, and had planned and strategized and saved to make it happen – so eager to get started I could barely sit still. But when I was accepted into Rollins, and it was time to leave the security of my job, delve into my savings, and reorganize my whole life to make it work, I had a momentary panic. What if I couldn’t pull it off? What if I didn’t have enough time to do all the homework? What if I couldn’t make enough money to get through three years of school? And most terrifying of all: What if, at the end of the road, I didn’t have what it takes to be a good counselor?

Fear is our bodcolette-2009-pics-2151y’s internal warning system. It’s a mechanism by which we protect ourselves from harm, but it’s also a natural response to anything that is unknown. The presence of fear doesn’t necessarily mean we should let it stop us from going for it; sometimes, we have to harness that fear and ride it forward to get what we want out of life.

I knelt down and looked Charlotte in the eye. “I’m not going to make you do this, but I think you you’ll regret it if we leave here without a picture of you and that snake,” I told her.

She looked back and forth between me and the snake a few times and nodded. I watched as she sat down and the men-in-khaki placed the python upon her shoulders. “Look at me, Char!” I said, snapping away. Through the lens, I could see that her crinkle-nose smile was back. The joy of experiencing something new and different had chased the fear away.

On the bus ride back, Charlotte dozed against me, while I attempted to edit my paper left-handed. I looked out the window at the cars whizzing by and smiled to myself, remembering her expression with that snake. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to pull off grad school, but I knew I would. The next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll just tell them I’m figuring it out as I go along.

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Read more about... Colette:

A die-hard New Yorker who will always identify as such, Colette misses home but feels lucky to have made a new one here, in sunny, charming Winter Park. Since starting the graduate counseling program this year, she’s either living at the computer or whooping it up with her two little girls and her “man” Kirby, the family’s adopted dog from the Seminole shelter. The Jones girls enjoy roller skating, going to the park, reading stories, and piling into mom’s bed with pj’s, popcorn, and, of course, Kirby, to spend the evening singing along with The Sound of Music.

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