This is an open letter to myself. My journey of studying at Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) of Ateneo de Manila University was never been easy but very fruitful. I am excited in embarking new horizon and gaining new wisdom along the way.
Do you remember the reason why you came to CEFAM? You know CEFAM since 2006 when you assisted their practicum students to your family clients in the community (from your previous job). You got close to them and admired their passion and dedication in helping others. But you never know, that one day, you would enroll in that institution. Your current office suggested you enroll you in CEFAM to develop counseling skills and professional development; a part of you, was hesitant because who weren’t finish your Master’s yet and here you go studying different course. It took you one year to prepare yourself and accept that challenge.
You cannot forget your first day in the class. In your mind, you goal was for professional development but you were surprised because during the introduction part; all of your classmates said that their reason for enrolling is personal growth. You questioned yourself that why you don’t have that goal. You just thought that moment to just go on with the flow and enjoy school to forget problems and heartaches.
A few months before you enter the PD program; you experienced tremendous aches and you were in the transition period that time. You thought that life is unfair and no one could understand you. You felt betrayed and alone that time. You never thought that CEFAM could change your perspective in life.
Before entering PD program, you are a strong person, in-control of every situation, you fight what you thought is right, you show people that you can do it on your own – that nobody can dictate you. You thought that you already know YOURSELF. But you were wrong, early teachings in the subject Pastoral Counseling made you realized that you are wearing a MASK – to hide your true self –in reality you are not a tough, strong woman but a weak one (inside). You rationalize everything forget to use your heart; that’s why to got tired of thinking and forget to empathize with others. You blame people for hurting you without knowing that you also hurt them. CEFAM helped you to pick those pieces of yourself by allowing to open your heart and accept things. You allow yourself to be vulnerable – you are no longer the though person who always a mask to protect yourself from getting hurt. You grief for the lost and forgive yourself. You suddenly realized that you are ready to let go even it means sacrifices and hurt. CEFAM taught you to balance things – at first you wondered that why you became very emotional and cry the whole time but you were just trying to balance your thoughts and feelings. You became aware of who you are and what you want in life. The mask starts to deteriorate and show the real you – your real feelings. Do you remember how you thanked your office for sending you to CEFAM during the those times? Studying in CEFAM was planned several years ago, but you were enrolled at the moment when you faced those challenges. God’s timing is truly perfect. Yes, it’s true that everything happens for a reason. And God guided you on that journey. You always keep in mind that in discerning always remember – “you live with, you die for and face God with” ; you apply those things that even it hurts you then but you made a though decision but you know that God was there with you that moment.
You are no longer the mysterious type of person. Part of removing that mask is opening yourself to people especially your vulnerabilities. I congratulate you because you are no longer after to be judged, misinterpreted and be yourself. I noticed sudden glow in your face for revealing the real you – you became more appreciative with simple things, cheerful and optimistic. I cannot believe that you achieved in that span of time. A counselor told you to enjoy life and go out of your comfort zone. You should do what you want to do because you know your limitations and you more mature enough to weight down the consequences of your actions. Like what your counselor said to you, “take risk” , just go on.
Who you are right now was because of your family of origin Jen. Since college, you know that you have issues with self and family but in CEFAM you were able to understand your own family dynamics. You came from a disengaged family – issues with your mother since childhood until the present. You never knew that you were becoming that annoying person like her – CEFAM made you reflect on that. You start to work on those part of you and resolved issues with her. You value now your family unlike before. You visited them regularly because you want to catch up with them and gradually tailored a strong bond for them. You thanked God for that opportunity because you know that life is too short and they are not getting any younger. You now know what you kind of relationship you want to build with your family; you also felt blessed because you have them now and you never regretted anything.
Family counseling taught you a lot of things about yourself and your family. It allows you to go out of your comfort zone – your fear of handling family conflicts lessen and try to be an agent of change for them. While families were narrating their stories and ventilating their feelings; you remember your own family of origin; you somehow made counter-transference especially to those mother – daughter moments as you see yourself as the stubborn daughter. You empathized with the daughter and at the same time don’t know how to handle her because you were like that before and sometimes now. But I admire you, because you are aware that moment; you let it go and try not to be affected by the situation. The next session, you were more prepared and thought of non-threatening activities for the daughter to be at ease and comfortable with the session. I admire you for handling that situation.
In addition, you were good in handling boys (establishing rapport with them and gaining their trust) it is because you were close with the men in your family more. You know how to tickle the senses of younger men and be updated with the latest trends. That skill is commendable because for some, it is difficult to enter the world of adolescent boys.
Other skills that you possess are being prudent – you are careful in your words to avoid hurting others which is very important in counseling. Counselees need our empathy and acceptance but not the tackless remarks. Being prudent also means that you thought of the outcome of your decisions before making. You were like that before entering CEFAM but it was developed and more improve because you know now yourself better. Your composure about the situations also improved because now it was more on leveling up your emotional quotient unlike before that you rationalize things. You became more approachable and accommodating to people.
I also appreciate the way you view each of your counselees as different. You treat them differently based on their personality. You accept them for who they are and believe of their capacities. You easily saw the strengths of each individual that even their families wanted to capitulate. I admired that strength because in the end you were right. I think you being adventurous with things would bring you somewhere because now you are not afraid of taking risk and chances. You can show that to your future counselees not to fear things and sometime they can try new things.
You know you are not perfect and there are still areas for growth. Your experiences in relationship made you wanted to be an expert in helping pre-marital couples decide for marriage. You empathized more with them because you were also immature and has a lot of insecurities before about love and commitment. You now know the true meaning of love and importance of friendship in marriage. You are no longer bitter about love because you have experience the joys and pain of being in a relationship for a long time. You want to develop that passion and learned a lot; I know you really want couples to mature and work had for their relationship.
I know you have some fears right now Jen; fear of the uncertainty and the future. I know that you can face them by just believing in yourself and trust the Lord. Like what had been shared in the Growth Group, you tend to cope through plighting but I guess it’s time to face it ( continue working on it). You learned in CEFAM that “sharing is healing”, that’s why past aches were shared to trusted people.
Like what you have said earlier, your purpose in attending PD program is for professional development and not necessarily personal growth. I know you achieved those two goals graciously. You really wanted to be a counselor (not getting paid) – actually you began to share your learning in CEFAM to your relatives and friends particularly about marriage and relationship and you enjoyed that. You really want to help them enlightened their minds and hearts about the real situations. You became closer to them because of this knowledge ( it not considered as counseling but more of support group and sharing). Now, you wanted to reach out to more people; you get excited every time someone from the community who needs counseling because it is your chance to help them in any way that you can; and you know that they cannot afford one because of lack of finances. The PD program helps me to become more confident in counseling and helping people. You are more equipped with knowledge, skills and my attitude is somehow improved. On the other hand, since you are a training coordinator in the office; you tend to share your learning from CEFAM to your colleagues and participants; you share a wider range of perspective to them and it means a lot to you.
Most importantly, CEFAM made you closer to God. You are a practicing Catholic but sometimes affected by the controversies with priests. But CEFAM opens your mind and heart to the concept of spirituality. You began your journey towards comprehending your own relationship with God. Rituals and religions are not the basis of your faith but rather your deep connection with God. You started to have your own rituals with God alone; you find God in worship songs you loved to hear and during alone time you just listen to music and feel God’s presence. I am happy for what you have become. You continue to seek His refuge where ever you may go. I know you still love being a Catholic and would not trade it in other religion and I also know that above all you are not just a Catholic who accepts everything even it is against your will. You choose to believe what is right and for the good of others because God is within you.
Moreover, you begin to see God in the people you met. I remember there was a moment when you were very insightful that in every action and respond of a person to you; you said that they gave you lessons in life and maybe God is in disguise to them. I am happy that you see those opportunities as an encounter with God in our everyday life.
My motto: Pray for God’s will.
Lastly, I thank CEFAM for those wonderful years. You never know how it changes my life and my relationship with my family, friends, colleagues and clients. My heart is full of gratitude for taking me in this wonderful journey.
Lastly, take care of yourself Jen.