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.