*Note: Woman Wednesday is a new part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.
Q and A with Laura, Morris County, New Jersey
“I try to challenge myself daily, to develop different parts of who I am and who I want to be. I’m a work in progress. We’re all works in progress, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”
One of my father’s hobbies was photography when I was younger, and I couldn’t help but want to try it out myself. In my preteens, I taught myself how to use a digital camera and shortly after, got into film photography. This jump-started my passion for photography. When I won a photography competition against a bunch of older women, at the age of 13, I became hooked. That photo is actually one of my favorite non-portraits to this day—a bumble bee on top of a flower in a Vermont garden. Now, I primarily like taking portraits. There’s nothing like helping someone realize their beauty and potential through a camera lens. Capturing pure happiness is my favorite.
Q: What advice would you give to women?
A: Being yourself is a powerful thing.
Q: What does feminism mean to you?
A: Feminism to me points to the big picture of equality and the ability to express who you are confidently without judgments or negative forces upon you.
Q: Why should more women be in business or male-dominated fields?
A: Businesses thrive when different views and perspectives are brought to the table. Many types of people, including women, are needed to contribute diverse valuable ideas and opinions. This is especially the case when women are the target market. Women know women best.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I knew I wanted to make a positive impact in others’ lives for a career, so I decided that studying psychology would be one way to start on that path. I got my BS in psychology and a minor in photography at a fairly small liberal arts school in central PA. I was lucky enough to study abroad due to my school requiring its students to have a cross-cultural experience as part of their core curriculum. I took the opportunity to go to the place I dreamed of going to since I was a little girl—Sydney, Australia! The beaches, lifestyle, and wildlife enticed me and it surely didn’t disappoint! It was an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience that I’ll never forget. I grew immensely during those 4.5 months by pushing myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible.
When I chose to study psychology in college, I knew that I would have the most job opportunities if I went to graduate school afterwards, so that’s exactly what I did! I ended up getting my Masters in Social Work, with a clinical concentration, from a large public institution the following academic year. During my master’s program, I was lucky enough to have two amazing field placements. First, I worked with high school students doing one-on-one therapy addressing various issues including anxiety, depression, family concerns, relationship issues, and whatever else the students brought to their session. I also co-facilitated a bereavement group with another counselor, which focused on all types of losses the students were experiencing.
After my first field placement, I became fascinated with the idea of working with college students and sought out opportunities to do so. I landed at a small liberal arts college near my hometown and their counseling center is where I fell in love with working with the young adult population.
What’s even more exciting is that this position eventually led to my current position as a learning support specialist. I now work with college students with disabilities that impact learning, primarily doing academic coaching. I meet with about 25 students for an hour per week to address any concerns they have that could impact their academic success. During these meetings, we go through all of their classes, review their grades, go over upcoming assignments, discuss learning strategies and skills that may be helpful, and sometimes do some work together. Another part of my job is co-facilitating an interpersonal skills group with the same population. The students decide what they want to talk about during that weekly group, but topics often include friendship or roommate issues, relationship concerns, academic concerns, family issues, and stress. It’s a space for students to discuss whatever is on their minds that week.
Q: How did your ‘younger years’ impact who you are today?
A: At 5’6” by the time I was ~10 years old, I was a bit physically awkward and wasn’t particularly comfortable with myself on the inside either. This was the case for all of elementary school and most of middle school. I considered myself a misfit who was trying way too hard to“fit in,” and I was compensating who I was in order to try to do so.
That all changed towards the end of 7th grade. I had had enough trying to be something I wasn’t—it was so clearly not paying off. A switch kind of went off in me that I needed to start doing things that were best for me, rather than what was going to make me “fit in.” This was when I started to find happiness in who I was and in my social life. I encourage all young girls to embrace who they truly are—there’s happiness in that.
Q: What is something you want others to take away from your story?
A: The takeaway from my story is that doing what is best for you is the right path for you because you’re the expert on yourself. And when you work on yourself and you’re the best for yourself, you’re also the best for others. A perk of this is that people are attracted to others that are confident in themselves.
Laura & My Lilianas would love to hear from you! Comment below!