In Fiji I didn't get enough professional development hours because there was no one there to offer PD. I LOVE my career as a school counselor and am always looking for ways to get better. Also, I need a certain number of PD hours to keep up my licensure as a Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC). It turned out that the time we were passing through LA on our way home was the exact same time as the American School Counselor Association's annual conference! What incredible timing! So...for the second time I would be attending this awesome event.
I was grateful to be able to attend, but I have to say I felt so weird the whole time I was there. First of all, I got off a flight where I didn't sleep at all due to my arguing children, my crazy emotions, and the guy next to me thought he had a heart attack! So, I get off this flight in a total daze...wondering through customs, etc. with my family and then have to say goodbye to them so they could fly to Atlanta to hang out with all of our friends. It was SO sad to say goodbye to the only rocks I had left in that moment. Nonetheless, we said goodbye. I got a sim card, installed Lyft, and figured out how to get the ride to the hotel. I thought I would sleep the whole way but I ended up talking to the driver about politics the whole way. We had such a good discussion I had to give her a hug when I got out of her car.
Next I walked into an insane hotel where Laura (a friend and awesome school counselor) met me in the lobby to help with my crazy bags (one of which was full of winter clothes that had no use to me in LA). I met my roommates for the night and then we went to sign in for the conference. I was feeling SOOOOO weird. I was sleeping in a room with three other women, two of whom I didn't know at all. I was completely exhausted and emotionally numb. They all had to go to a pre-conference session and I found myself in the hotel room trying to take a shower and get dressed. I could barely move. What an odd feeling. Finally, I pulled myself together and met Laura and some of her friends in the lobby for dinner. We walked across the street to a Mexican place and ended up eating with 16 people or something like that. That whole night felt like a dream to me. I remember that people ordered food and sent it back many times because they didn't like it or it was too spicy. People complained about price and service and also everyone laughed and laughed and had a great time. I felt like I was observing the whole thing from afar unless someone spoke to me directly. I kept thinking, "This is America. I am in LA. My family is in Atlanta. Where do I live now?" Obviously I just needed to eat and go to bed - which is exactly what I did!
The next few days were much better. I love professional learning! I always feel like a sponge at these conferences - but I also feel validated because when I hear people speak I realize how much I really do know. I learnt a lot about anxiety, motivational interviewing, trauma, creative counseling techniques, and non-suicidal self injury among other things. I talked to so many great counselors and felt super inspired. I really didn't know what to say when people asked me where I was from so I pretty much fumbled my way around that question. There was a big part of me that felt sad that I don't have a school counseling gig waiting for me in Madagascar. I really can't imagine not doing this job that I love. But,....I am still blocking that out. I pretty much successfully blocked out my lack of future career the whole time I was there.
I had some great nights out with friends/colleagues and awesome discussions around equity, social justice, and on lighter topics too- like current US fashion trends and trending dances. While I was sad to miss out on Atlanta friends, I am glad I got to recharge for my profession. I SOOOOO appreciate Laura for sharing her room with me. I would have been super lonely without her and Stacey's company. Overall, it was a really fun, useful weekend.
|That's Kareem Abdul Jabaar and he's awesome! Such a social justice warrior.|
|I sat with the international counselors in the opening session!|
|I was getting pics sent to me the whole time of my kids having fun in Atlanta|
|We had a super fun night out at a bar that had AWESOME beers and super fun games and an incredible food truck. (Chicken and waffles and tater tots- so good)|
|Girls got to go to Atlanta United game|
|Woop Woop! School counseling starts!|
Yes, school counselors are cheesy!
|Stacy and I went to this awesome food market. OMG- the food choices were incredible and the vibe was so cool|
|Yum. We went to the best Mexican place with awesome margaritas.|
|This book store was so cool. (no AC so not actually cool, but you know....)|
|We also went to the Intercon's rooftop!|
|They did free head shots at the conference so I figured, "Why not?"|