The Scene: With Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as background music, the camera pans across a college campus on a fall afternoon in late 1999. The trees are almost bare and the ground beneath is covered with leaves. Students walk quickly to class, bundled up in bulky sweaters that suggest winter is not far off. The camera settles on one student, Patty, and follows her progress along a pathway up to the door of a brick building, which she enters. She climbs the stairs to the second floor, and walks quickly down a long corridor. At the end of the corridor she turns left into a small seminar room where three other students, Maya, Korinne, and James, have recently arrived. Greetings are exchanged, sweaters removed, notebooks unpacked, soda cans popped, snacks ripped open, and almost as one the group of students moves to take their seats. As the music fades out, we find them all seated around a small table.
MAYA: Oh man, I am so tired. I was up all night trying to finish my theory paper. I’m counting the days until my orals next week.
KORINNE: Aren’t you scared? I mean, I’m freakin’ out about going up in front of Dotson. They say he asks super tough questions.
MAYA: No, I mean, come on, remember what we talked about last week? About fear? And we’ve worked really hard to get to this point. I don’t think Dotson is going to make or break us.
KORINNE: Yeah, I guess so. But still…
JAMES: (Yawning and overlapping Korinne’s sentence). Hey, you’ll be fine. Dotson’s bark is way worse than his bite.
KORINNE: Easy for you to say. You’re done with orals. (At this point Korinne looks over and notices Patty, who’s smiling but hasn’t said anything yet). So what’s up with you? You seem uncharacteristically quiet. And why the big grin?
PATTY: Well, I’ve got some news…I finally finished my thesis. Got the last approvals. Turned it in. Fini, as they say in France! Can you believe it?
(This new information brings high fives all around, back pats, whooping, laughter, a few yippees).
MAYA: Okay, okay, you guys. Don’t want to bring the party down, but we have got to get serious. Dr. Amendola said to do at least one case today, and I have to pick up Skye at 6:00. So since Korinne and I are brain fried, how about one of you take the lead?
JAMES: (Whining a bit). Oh, please, please, please, not me, I’m brain fried too. No, make that brain mush. My kid was up all night.
PATTY: Hey, I respect that. And I’m feeling good today. No problem, I’ll take it.
KORINNE: Great, go!
PATTY: Yeah, okay. So, remember the client I told you about three weeks ago? The woman who’s been having all these insights about her life?
JAMES: I remember. You’re still working with her?
PATTY: Yes, and she’s come even farther. Done a bunch of soul searching and now actually knows what she wants. We figured it out…her calling is to be a veterinarian. And I’m absolutely certain she’ll be great at it. She’s got the grades. I think she can get into vet school. She’s even started doing the research, visiting animal hospitals, all of it. Oh, and her family is super supportive. I mean, it’s so right.
JAMES: This rocks!
PATTY: (laughing in delight at her friends’ spirit and support). Yeah, it’s fantastic. But there’s a little wrinkle.
PATTY: Well, when I saw her yesterday she told me she’d changed her mind. I could barely get her to talk about it. But basically she said she felt too old, like she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger students. And she teared up and admitted how scared she is.
KORINNE: Oh. Fear.
MAYA: Yeah, (spelling it out), F – E – A – R.
JAMES & PATTY: Huh?
MAYA: You don’t know what that means?
PATTY: Well, yeah, I know what fear is.
KORINNE: But do you know what it stands for?
PATTY: I’m not getting it.
MAYA: It’s an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real!
KORINNE: (getting excited) Yes! Isn’t that cool? Maya told me about it when I was in a panic last week about orals. Like, fear tries to make you believe what’s not true. Makes you see a false reality, but fear is never reality. Don’t you get it?
JAMES: (starting to zone out) Sort of.
PATTY: (a little puzzled) Maybe.
KORINNE: So, just tell your client what F -E – A – R stands for. Explain the acronym to her.
PATTY: You think that’ll make a difference?
MAYA & KORINNE: YES!
JAMES: (has slumped in his chair) Mmmmmmmmmm.
(The three women chuckle)
MAYA: Okay, dude, you’ve got to get home, and I’ve got to get downtown.
PATTY: Right, me too. We’re going out tonight to celebrate.
MAYA: Will you think more about what we said?
PATTY: About fear? Sure.
PATTY: I will.
The students get up to gather their belongings and the music starts again. The camera follows them as they descend the stairs and exit the building into the night. They hug good-bye and separate, each walking out into the night as the scene fades away. THE END.
Okay, readers, now it’s your turn. What should Patty do? Should she take their advice? Will it make a difference? Your wise comments are much appreciated!
(By the way, as you’ve probably guessed, this is a slightly dramatized version of a true story that happened ten years ago, just as I was beginning my career as a counselor).
WHY NOT START NOW?