That Christmas feeling

Friday was the day of the interview for the counselling diploma, the next level of training that I’m hoping to embark on in September. Interviews are always nerve racking, but this one was far less stressful than you’d expect, and certainly not as bad as the one I had back in December for the course I’ve just completed. There were only twelve people there on Friday, some of whom I already knew from the certificate course that I’ve been on since January; most of the others were from another certificate class that had been taking place at the same college. When the tutor that we had grown to know so well since January walked in and announced that she would be interviewing us, it set my group’s minds at ease even more. We didn’t know she would be the main tutor for the two year diploma course, which made it seem a bit like destiny that we were there.

The interview took a similar format to the one in December. The first task of the day was a group task, where we had to get together with people we didn’t already know and discuss a brief case study. It wasn’t hard. When it came to the main group discussion, I thought I put my points across well, describing the approach I would take with the case and what I thought the real problems were. I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with speaking up in groups now, far from it; but there was a supportive group atmosphere that helped. We were all there for the same reason, we all wanted each other to do well. After that we had a written exercise, then in the afternoon, individual interview slots. Because I knew the tutor so well, it was much easier to give thoughtful and honest answers to her questions. She had already seen my progression on the course, she already knew how much I wanted to proceed to the next level.

At the end of the interview she gave nothing away about my result, but I walked away feeling positive. Doubt remains about the number of applicants and the limited number of spaces available – it’s disconcerting to imagine them having to turn people down, people who are probably well deserving of a place, and I could end up being one of them. I allowed myself to guess that I had a 60% chance of being accepted: a good chance, but I wasn’t going to be too complacent.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the final day of the certificate course that we’ve been on since January. So it was bound to be emotional, as some of us genuinely got to know each other quite well. In a place where you are asked to open yourself up and share your truth, an atmosphere of mutual respect naturally grows. For some, you could almost call it love.

I was in the lift with the tutor who had interviewed the day before on the way up to the lesson, and I could tell by her smile there was something she wanted to say. “I shouldn’t be saying this, but you did really well yesterday. Make of that what you will!” I can’t think why she would say such a thing, other than to reassure me that I’ve got a place on the diploma. My doubting child didn’t want to believe it could be true – she must have been saying it as a consolation, a kind of “don’t worry about what happens, you’ve still done well.” As we got out of the lift and walked the rest of the way to the class in silence, my adult came in and reasoned that she wouldn’t have said anything if the result was negative. She would have known it would be getting my hopes up. My confidence in my chances grew to 70% instantly.

There had been points in the course when all of us experienced intimacy with each other. I kept thinking back to that weekend in April when we went away and spent the weekend together in the countryside, how lovely the whole thing was and how easily we bonded despite our initial doubts about it all. It would be sad not to have that on Saturdays any more, even if I am glad to be getting my Saturdays back and though I probably will be progressing to the next level. We formed a unique group and now it’s over. Goodbyes are never easy.

We pretty much spent the day saying goodbye to each other. I suppose it mirrors the end of the counselling relationship in some ways: every counsellor you see isn’t going to be available forever, so maybe it was something we needed practise for. One of our ‘ending exercises’ involved sharing something personal with the group that we thought summed up our experience: most people chose a song, a poem, or a paragraph from a book they liked. The whole encounter felt very tender and loving: when do you ever get that in real life? Unlike everyone else I’d chosen to bring a drawing that I’d done in the week, of a little kid smiling up at his parent, who’s got their arm firmly around him. It symbolised the new relationship I’m trying to have with my inner child, one that’s loving and accepting instead of critical and resentful. Like everyone I was nervous when it was my turn to show & tell – I was preparing to say something very honest and intimate, something I had never said before. People responded with genuine affection and understanding. It was nice.

At the end of the day the tutor’s final words to me were: “I’ll see you soon!” My confidence in being back in September rose again to 80%. For a few moments I almost thought: “this is it, this is happiness!”

My confidence in being accepted onto the course won’t reach 100% until I’ve received the result of the interview in a couple of weeks. I still can’t let myself get carried away here. Too many early experiences of being let down. To think I could be a professionally qualified counsellor in two years is incredible. It doesn’t seem real.

Most of the class were going to the pub to celebrate the end of the course and put off those final goodbyes a little longer. I chose to be authentic and go to my home meeting instead. I can now recognise that I don’t like pubs, and it would have been hot and uncomfortable standing for two hours in whichever busy central London pub they chose. I hugged and said farewell to them at the college entrance, reassuring those who were applying for the diploma course with me that I would probably see them in September. I really hope we will all get on. It doesn’t look like there are as many applicants for this level as there were for the certificate, and we’re all good enough.

As soon as I got to my meeting I was glad I’d gone there instead of the pub. After such an emotionally unbalanced day I needed the reassuring hand of AA to calm me. I was distracted throughout the meeting by fantasies of September, of starting the next level with all those friends from the certificate that I’d just said goodbye to; dreams of spending the next two years getting to know them even better until we qualify and decide to open a practice together. They were wonderful thoughts, but like alcohol, it’s very easy to get carried away with fantasy. I knew I was doing it, and in the last half hour of the meeting I forced myself back into the room. A few of us went for curry afterwards and I talked about the course among other things with friends who have other stuff on their plates.

One of the friends, C, is the guy I’ve had a crush on for the past two years. I’ve never wanted to take it seriously because it has always seemed obvious that it will go nowhere. Last night when it was time to say goodbye he hugged me extra hard, congratulating me on completing the certificate course and my prospects for continuing; then he said “aww, I don’t wanna let go!” still hugging me. Which I thought was odd. Could there be a reciprocation of feelings there? No, I daren’t entertain the idea. I’d have known a long time ago if he liked me in that way. Unlike me he’s a confident gay man who knows how to get what he wants, or so it seems. You could say that since I never give my feelings away in this area there’s a fair chance that he has kept it secret too. But that just seems like more fantasy thinking.

I still went home feeling like a kid at Christmas. The two things I want seemed to be in my reach: getting onto the diploma, and a real chance of something with C. Soon, those nice images of a happy future were turning sour as reality kicked in again and I remembered all the reasons why a relationship with someone like C would never work. I needn’t list them here again, but I will anyway because it feels like the child in me needs reminding.

  1. I’ve had a bad case of acne for the past five years – who’d be attracted to that?
  2. I have tummy problems that mean I can’t stop passing wind at night
  3. I still live with my mother
  4. I don’t enjoy penetrative sex and I find it nearly impossible to orgasm in the presence of another person

Just one of these things would probably make a real relationship with a normal person like C difficult to achieve. Together they give me no hope whatsoever. I supposedly went back into therapy this year to deal with this – to see if there was some way of lifting these psychological barriers – but last night the more I thought about it, the more impossible and stupid it seemed. The ‘kid at Christmas’ feeling was well and truly gone, and consoling myself with the thought that I’ll probably get onto the diploma course couldn’t help.

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