A Calling

Below is a poem I wrote in commemoration of earning my MSW at Columbia University School of Social Work in pursuit of my career as a mental health therapist.

A Calling

I know I am called to do this work,

to be a therapist,
a non-judgmental listening ear,
a vessel of healing and compassion
meant to hold space for
untold stories
deep, dark secrets,
so the weight of them
may be lifted from where they sit
heavily on chests,
so their owners can finally

when I am sitting alone at family gatherings
and my aunties come to sit next to me
and suddenly, without prompting,
begin to spill the contents of their hearts
and let me see into their wounded souls;

when they tell me of
the abuse and rape they endured in their youth
and share other horrors they’ve witnessed,
decades long before I existed,
and admit that they cannot even bring themselves
to share these stories with their own children,
and I realize that they feel they can,
for some reason,
confide in me,
their quiet, sympathetic niece
who simply listens
holds their confessions
in the sanctuary of my heart.

I know I am called to do this work,

when complete strangers
approach me in the subway
as I wait for my train and say:
“Can I tell you about my day?
I’m gonna tell you about my day.”

And how can I turn them away
when something about me,
perhaps the innocence of my youthful visage,
apparently seems open and welcoming
and they feel they have found
someone who will
about what they have to say
even if we don’t know each other
and will likely never meet again?

I know I am called to do this work,

when my clients tell me:
“You remind me of my mom”
give me a hug after a deep and heavy session
when they approach me silently,
simply reaching for my hand
hold on tightly for 20 minutes straight
because somehow
it makes them feel
which must mean that
I am someone with whom they find

I know I am called to do this work,

when I remember how over the years,
since the days of my waning youth,
friends and family often came to me for
advice and support
and I always knew that,
even if I didn’t have the answers,
my role was to
uplift them,
give them hope,
let them know
that they are important and needed
in this world.

I know I am called to do this work,

when my little sister
comes into my room after a long day
to tell me all about who annoyed her at school today
and she’ll go on and on
I smile just knowing that I don’t mind one bit
because I like these moments,
just listening to her
while she gets all her agonies off her chest,
and I know that
being there for her
as her big sister
is helping her in some way.

I know I am called to to do this work,

when I visit my Granny back home,
My beautiful, amazing Granny,
who loves her life and everything in it,
and never dwells on the bad experiences
from the days dating back to her childhood,
and she listens to me talk about
my own journey in therapy and
how I navigate my PTSD;
and she comes to understand
that her own life — as wonderful as it is for her
has been filled with deep-seated trauma
for the first time,
she realizes she, more than likely,
is living with complex PTSD too;

and when she tells me of her epiphany,
I see how,
in my own healing,
I have maybe helped her heal a little too
just by teaching her something new.

I know I am called to do this work,

when I see my people in pain,
carrying the traumas of generations past
I feel this inexplicably strong pull
to do something, anything
to help them
I believe in my heart
that I can maybe help facilitate
our collective healing
because somehow
I know I have the power to do this
because my ancestors are guiding me.

I know I am called to do this work,

when I release my art to the world and,
in equal acts of courage and vulnerability,
I share my own stories on stage
as applause thunders around me
notes of gratitude and testimonials come my way,
I realize that my work
is just as therapeutic for the audience
as much as it is for me,
an undeniable sign that
I have a gift,
a powerful one I need to use in the service of healing.

I know I am called to do this work,

when I observe the work
of my own therapist with me
and see how much she has helped me
patch up my damaged soul
that has endured
far too much
throughout my young life;

when I see the difference
she makes in my life
just by being
a non-judgmental listening ear,
a vessel of healing and compassion
holding space for
my untold stories
deep, dark secrets
so that the weight of them
is lifted from my chest
and I can finally

and after a session with her,
when I feel my soul
come to life again,
I know that
I want to do this for others too.

I know I am called to do this work,
because professional degree or not,
I’ve been heeding the call and doing it all along.

As an immigrant woman of colour, I am of the opinion that, in order to serve and help our people, those from marginalized communities like mine do not necessarily need to have fancy degrees from elite institutions, which have historically not been accessible to us and were never made with us in mind. Many of us have been doing the hard work without a degree in hand and it is a privilege and a luxury to be able to attain higher education and formal recognition in the professional world. In my journey, I have learnt that I have been a healer long before I pursued and received my degree and I wanted to capture that in this piece I wrote. I consider my work to be something I am called to do and to have such a calling, to know one’s purpose in life is truly a blessing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s