Post from Jerah

The winding road to becoming a surfing, Spanish speaking therapist:

When I was younger, I was always excited to hear other people’s stories, experiences, thoughts, and ideas. Growing up in a big family of 3 older brothers always meant there were a lot of differing thoughts and opinions in our house and being the youngest and the only girl meant- I had better speak up if I wanted to be heard. Luckily my brothers are more the protective type, which meant their support helped me know even though I was beating to the tune of my own drum, I was always a part of the family. I wanted to play sports, build forts, and play with toy horses. I was told there was nothing that I couldn’t do, try, or succeed at. This encouragement often meant I was dreaming bigger than even my parents were comfortable with. :)


Psychology was my favorite class in high school. As I soaked up news articles and documentaries I felt like I was actually learning something important compared to all my other classes.  I also took Spanish in high school but regret that I was not the model student that I encourage my clients to be. I did enough to get by, but never really considered that Spanish could be an important way to connect to a culture that was becoming more and more marginalized.  My perspective would quickly shift upon moving to California.


California was a place I had dreamed about living ever since I took a trip to San Diego in 8th grade with my family. That was the beginning of the end my parents would say. Following graduation from college in the south- my heart ached to see a different part of the world, and mostly to live next to the ocean. After connecting with west coast people through a ministry called Young Life, I had a vague idea about what I wanted my life to look like. Beach mornings, afternoons, and nights, yearlong tans, and seafood, avocados, and burritos. Done. Flight booked. Car Shipped. 2 suitcases packed. Love yall. BRB.


I primarily entered the sales field for 2 years while living there, and ventured into the non-profit realm of Young Life, each with its extensive lessons of life, hardship, and people. I decided during my time on Young Life staff, that I often was not equipped to handle the depth of issues I was seeing in the kids and families I loved. They needed more than a friend and someone to have fun with. I enrolled in a master’s program quickly after realizing that this knowledge could supplement my ministry. It was at this time in my life where I would find two things that made me feel completely and totally alive: surfing and speaking Spanish.


I have to admit, my friend took me out surfing around year two of my time in San Diego, and I could NOT understand what the obsession was. It was windy, blown out (surf speak for choppy), and we could barely get through the crashing wave part. Fast forward two years later, a cloudless day in July, surrounded by friends- I caught the bug. I was finishing graduate school at the time, and was ending my job with Young Life so I had the time to walk to the beach every day, and try, practice, and hope I only hit myself in the face with my board once a session. A month or two in, I dropped in on my first wave. GAME. OVER. I would look for that feeling every day after. There is something so refreshing to me about being in the ocean. Walking back up the beach after surfing, a change has been made in me even though nothing around me has changed. Add in some friends, laughter, sunshine, and good convos and you have my perfect day.


It was during this time that I also discovered my love for speaking Spanish and how it could be a part of my career. Throughout my internship, I worked with at-risk teens and their families and often had to have a Spanish-speaking interpreter with me. I realized I understood a lot of what the families were saying, and it dawned on me that I could maybe speak in Spanish to my own clients one day. My mind was set. After graduation, I would do an immersion program in Peru, while I was waiting for the paper work to go through to be able to practice in California. I explored Machu Picchu and the Amazon jungle while staying with a Peruvian family and taking daily Spanish classes. Sure, while I was gone I missed a job interview or two, but I had gained something much more long lasting and valuable. I started looking for jobs, and the fact that I knew some Spanish and only wanted to learn more, speak more, and use it more helped me in the mental health field. Spanish-speaking therapists are still much sought after to this day. Each agency I worked for poured resources, training, and Spanish-speaking friends into my life that could help me each step of the way.


I started to see how honoring it is for people to actively learn another person’s language, culture, and way of communicating. I could tell immediately how grateful my clients were for having someone who could communicate with them. The parents who did not know how to help their children with their homework or even read notes home from the teacher were now being provided with understanding and guidance for their family. Their children in turn were living separate lives from their parents, and that barrier in a family is palpable due to a language difference. I wanted to be some agent of change for this.


I don’t think anyone finds his or her passions easily. I think it takes work, moments where you are questioning everything, and perseverance. Every day is not a dream world but that is ok. It is a process, not perfection. We are in all in a state of becoming, and there is beauty in that. We were all meant to feel alive. I know this much.

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