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  • LeAnn Wills

Back on Rocky Top

Wow, summer really did fly by. This summer felt different because for the first time since I began my journey in higher education I did not take summer classes. At first I was unsure what to do with myself. I started by engulfing myself in professional development via ACA webinars and online series. This was enjoyable, but I finally achieved the point where I allowed myself time and space for personal enjoyment. I completed tasks on my personal to do list that I had pushed on the back burner for so long, since I dedicated all of my energy to university while getting my masters. I got up even earlier and took Koda Bear on longer walks every morning (which he LOVED I might add)! I did some home reorganizing, went to Kings Island in Ohio, took a few weekend trips to Highlands, NC, and found new hiking trails with Koda Bear. The initial guilt of taking time for myself wore off, and I allowed myself to really enjoy these moments. I needed this. As someone who feels a sense of fulfillment in productivity and work, I have often struggled to allow myself the space and time to do things for personal enjoyment. I would often choose work over personal interests. I will do this no longer-in order to fill the buckets of others we must first fill our own. I tell my students this often, so why not finally practice what I preach?

Now we are in the midst of the month of August. I begin my PhD journey in exactly 10 days! I am feeling an array of emotions, from excitement to nervousness. Even imposter syndrome is trying to set in!!

As I sit with all these emotions I try to remind myself a few things:

  1. I am exactly where I need to be. Each day I continue to open myself up to learn and experience more.

  2. It is okay (and perfectly normal) to not know everything. How could I? I am only human and am doing the best I can. That is all I can really ask of myself.

  3. You earned your seat at this table. While thinking of how I got to where I am may initially feel a little self-absorbed, it is perfectly okay to be proud of all I have accomplished and use it to remind myself of what I have overcame to get here.

  4. You already have everything you need. You are a licensed professional in a field that you absolutely love. You have already accomplished so much-the rest is a bonus.

  5. You're in a familiar place. You're an alum of this school, you're familiar with institutional policies, practices, and professors. You are in good hands in a familiar setting.

  6. The relationships and mentorships you gained at Vanderbilt still remain-lean on them when needed.

  7. Enjoy every moment. You dreamed of being here. Allow yourself the opportunity to enjoy all the differing opportunities and experiences that come along with these new journey in life.

  8. You matter and you have a life outside of this program. While school is important, your personal life and relationships are too. Take time for yourself and for those important to you. At the end of the day, they matter most. Take the time to eat lunch without doing work. Take Koda Bear outside to sit and enjoy the view. Your identity as a counselor is one component of it, not your sole identity.

As I wrap up this post I can't help but find myself wondering about what these next three years will hold during this program. There simply is no way for me to predict this, but I will stay open to the experience and remind myself of the above.

Here you see one of my favorite pictures of Koda Bear from this summer. He is ready for the next adventure, taking in all the sights, smells, and experiences. He lives in the present and has a sense of wonder when he visits a new place. He inspires me to take a step back and enjoy the now, not focus on the past or worry about the future. Sometimes when we worry so much about the past or future we forget to enjoy the now. He reminds me just how precious it is.

All my love,


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