Moving On, Reaching Back
Updated: Feb 1
As I round out my 14th and 21st year as a Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologist, and as a perpetual "Martha", I am forcing myself to sit for a few minutes and reflect on this career. This "job". It's meant enough personally that the word '"job" has always been, for me, surrounded by quotation marks. Have I made a difference? Have I done what God has called me to do? Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing today? What has made a difference in my career and do I offer that to others? Questions swirl, at times, at an overwhelming clip.
In 1991, I graduated high school without much fanfare and mediocre grades. The person I miss most from those years is, by far, Sister Ursula Harrelson. A small, sixty-something year old Sister of St. Joseph's, she loved me when I didn't love myself. Off to college just a few weeks after graduation, the transition was fairly easy. Young complaints morphed into gratitude toward the rigorous demands of my college preparatory high school.
As the years went, college became more difficult and demanding. One semester, weighed down by harder classes, friends graduating, and more years of graduate school ahead, I left the university on a "break". It would again be the encouragement of a teacher that moved me on. Dr. Lloyd Augustine. Visiting the school one day, I was startled to hear my name belted down the hall, "Ms Branton?!...Come to my office!" I. was. terrified. A petite graying man, with a large personality and even larger hearing aids, he was an expert at garnering respect and love. In no uncertain terms, he told me that I would immediately return to school to continue my studies. He paused for a moment and barked, "Whoever told you that you aren't smart enough to do this is a liar." Well, if Dr. Augustine said I can, I can. And, I did. I graduated with honors and with the coveted, "Outstanding Graduate School Student in Audiology" award. Coveted for the sheer reason that the professors and clinical supervisors voted for the recipients.
When returning to graduate school to complete my dual-certification in speech pathology, there was Dr. Nancye Roussel. Years since had she been my academic advisor, she helped me in ways that you'd have to know the players personally to understand it's magnitude. But, I knew. A mom to three boys, she was a clinician's professor. You SLP's will know what I mean. I was a married, working momma to two young boys by this point (2 years and an infant!). I will never forget what she did for me.
Walking into one of my first classrooms as a school-based SLP, I would meet Dana Garrett. A seasoned SLP who had the demeanor of my adored step-mother, she walked a similar path to mine but with a contagious grace. Working with and knowing her made me a better clinician and person. She is one of my dearest friends to this day. Thankfully, she still answers her phone when I call her with questions!
Marsha LeGoullon (You are amazing. Thank you for all you have taught me on the world of private practice). Lindsay Dalton. The late Teresa Rogers. For every name I recall, another story comes to mind. Stories of those who intentionally reached back along their journey to help urge me forward. That is, after all, what our profession is all about. Helping others. It's all fluid, really. And, it's not really about me. Time spent working with children and their families has been designated most meaningful when the highest highs and the lowest lows of my own journey culminate in discernment, grace, and love, ultimately providing help I might not otherwise have been able to provide. And, had it not been for those who reached back, I might not have been pulled forward. Never crossed paths with that child or that family.
I'm a big believer in seasons. That we are called to a purpose which may somewhat change depending on the season of life. I pray when this season ends that I will have helped as many children as I could, as best as I was able. As these 20+ years have passed, I've become keenly aware of the direct impact these individuals have played in the outcomes for my clients, patients, and their families. Moving on, I pray for new seasons filled with more opportunities to intentionally be the one who reaches back.