Written by: Ethan M.
It may sound like a negative comparison, but I want to try to make it as clear as I can that it’s a positive one.
As a new consultant, having just started in January after taking the class during the fall, I feel almost like I’m exposed to the elements. I prepared with all of those observations, co-consultations, and finally some lead consultations, but it doesn’t compare to truly beginning to do sessions on your own.
Clocking in for the first time was like coming up from under the ground and squinting at the sunlight covering a wind-whipped tundra. There were no recognizable landmarks, no shapes on the horizon that pointed toward civilization, just the flat ground with a light layer of snow blowing over the top in waving, undulating patterns. It felt like the cold wind was touching me for the first time, and like I was truly traveling into a new world.
Again, I’m not at all saying that the Center is a desolate tundra, rather, my experience as a new consultant was like starting a journey in unmapped (for me, at least) territory. Those first few shifts were the first tentative steps into a new world that I couldn’t tell was welcoming or not. But, after seeing some sessions be conducted, and after seeing some experienced travelers step with confidence on their paths through the cold wind, my confidence began to grow. Maybe I couldn’t navigate the landscape as well as they could, maybe I didn’t have all their fancy navigational tools in the form of well-tested strategies and resources to refer to, but I knew that I could take my first couple steps out of the warm protection of being a prospective consultant.
With every new session, I encounter something new; a type of academic paper that I haven’t seen before, troubles with citation that I haven’t yet encountered, resumés that need to be done by the night of the session. But through all of these new experiences, new shapes form on the horizon of the flat ground I look out at. A rock here that represents a good speaking-into-writing strategy, a wooded area there that could represent good leading questions that get clients thinking about their work. The more I move into this new, sometimes intimidating territory, the more comfortable I become.
One thing that’s surprised me so much as I’ve begun to forge my own path as a new consultant in the Writing Center is that all of us travel together. If I begin to lose sight of where I want to go, what direction I want to take a session in, there’s always a more experienced hiker by my side, with a backpack full of tips and tricks for working with writers that they can toss to me in my times of need.
With every session, the wind slows a bit, the sun’s glow becomes warmer, and I begin to see the landscape of the Center for what it is. Not something to be afraid of, to retreat from and avoid in favor of staying in my comfort zone, telling myself that it wasn’t even going to be that fun being a consultant anyway, but a vast area full of interesting writing, and of course, interesting people. All I need to do is keep moving forward, and keep orienting myself to the landscape that becomes more inviting with every step.