Ages ago, no one could tell me I wasn’t going to be a doctor… not just any doctor, but an animal doctor. I’ve never had a pet aside from my goldfish Flipper. I don’t know what led me to this early decision to seek out veterinary medicine; maybe it just sounded cool, but years later I’m everything but what I thought life had set out for me. I’m happy for myself, but also extremely nerve wracked over it all. I don’t have a true recollection of my emotional settings at the beginning of my CFY. A lot was going on, so perhaps a rollercoaster of “Wee, grad school’s done”, loop-dee-loop of “Am I doing this right?” and a screaming roar from the top of “This isn’t what I saw coming!!!!” all hit in the same short duration of time.. and then over and over again until… well, let’s just say I’m still riding this ride without a seatbelt and well under the height requirement. I’m putting my big ol’ foot into this CFY pie called Tattletales of a Speech Language Pathologist – my new book and my new brand. My aim is to guide myself and a number of YOU beautiful people through a journey that no one in our position can take lightly. It’s our bread and butter. Okay, okay, analogies aren’t always my strongest point but it suffices for the speech therapy. It is the foundation we build on for years and years and more years as we fall more in love with our crafts. There are tons of places with tons of information and opportunities to help chisel and tone our skills and experience. You definitely want to get the book if you’ll be in a SNF, and if not, still subscribe for blogs, access to advice column, and my opinion column. This road does not have to be traveled alone. Journey with ME! You won’t regret it.
Like many speech-language therapists on the go, Miss Suleika holds a record trophy for the largest therapy bags to hit the road into home health. At the very least, I’d say about six months ago, I was carrying a trunk worth of materials. Fresh off the SNF train and overwhelmed with the telehealth-to-in-person transition, I thought I needed EVERY toy in Dollar Tree and book from the shelves of the library of little lambs within reach.
I couldn’t keep up with myself! The therapy bag was heavy, and the toy cleaning process was treacherous. My car was my moving toy and book store during the week and my reason to not carry a purse on the weekends. Fast forward to the new year, and I dropped that habit along with a good three quarters of my caseload.
The two events were mutually exclusive.
Now, I come therapy ready with my early intervention wardrobe and the simplest but brightest red recyclable tote bag with the bare ESSENTIALS. Inside of my tote bag:
2 4-inch monster trucks
4 children’s books
1 metal can with slot, and 24 plastic chips
I USED to carry a police car and fire truck combo instead of the monster trucks. Great, also, but beware of high stimulation and attachment. Sometimes, I couldn’t release these from the claws of my toddler clients. For the ones who were rather aggressive, the fie truck ladder was nothing but a base to swing the truck in a circle before sending it in flight across the room.
I like the bright red bag because it acts as a part of the language intervention itself. It provides structure – the child has attached this consistent visual stimulus (that’s not a face) to the therapist or the therapeutic activities, is expected to share a greeting prior to opening the bag, and some children will need to ask for help to access the bag, so that opening the bag and taking items out is a sort of reward for language use and play skills from the very moment the therapist enters the home.
The materials inside the bag don’t amount to the materials that are used, and on a day I’m moving items around in my stash, I may come across something nice to bring to a session. However, I depend most greatly on the items in the family’s homes to supplement my basic supply. WHY?
Obviously, the 2×30 mandate we meet for each child seems like a lot when it adds up to all of the other things in our schedules, but it’s less than a mere 3% – if even that – of the play, meal, and bath times the child experiences in a week long period at their homes or in their day care centers.
I realized with time, also, that most households have more than enough toys, puzzles, digital tools, and all what the Amazon marketplace has to offer for learning children. If they don’t have enough – encourage and educate as much as possible. I have brought toys and left them behind for families that simply could not, for whatever reason, stock their homes with materials to stimulate language.
For myself, it’s beneficial to have a lighter load, less waste and lost pieces from materials, and most-importantly easy cleaning and greater safety in a COVID-19 world.
It’s just like me to look at the calendar and realize not only is it the end of a month, but the end of the first quarter of the year! I’m beyond excited to place my last two cents on the last day of women’s history month, and celebrate all of the badass women that are making SLP the platforms of our hustler spirits.
Women have won the soft skills jobs fair and square… but this time around, it’s a bit different. While some of our seasoned professionals take the most pride in making speech smooth and the voice more pleasant to listen to… I take pride in our ability to:
• Spend the day caring for twenty times the amount of kids that some of us go home to every night.
• Listening to the same stories, in the same order, with the same pictures, and that same silly song.
• Juggle documentation like we’re performing for Medicare’s got Talent.
• Doing the stair stepper machine in scrubs and a labcoat for 8 hours of the day.
• Dress up in heavy spaceship gear and gather the forces of X-ray vision to perform MBSS
• Stand up tall to over-seasoned, salty, and stubborn MDs
• Risking it all to bring our tails to work to be essential in all the ways we never hoped for, and still ignored for the ways we do.
• Smile… constantly.. persistently… and effortlessly…
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, SLP busts my behind every day. And every day I choose to be a stronger professional, a more upright human being, a more fabulous woman, and a more dirty hustler.
This month, to me, is a great time to look back on what women chose to do that changed the world. It gives us more power to relinquish all doubt that we are indeed badass, worthy, and magical.
Littered with many changed plans and broken promises, I found a light at the end of a 4 month journey after leaving the SNF setting: Behavioral Health.
Might just be me, but who applies for jobs in bulk as a set it an forget it measure?
I do it, not often, but certainly enough to wrinkle my face in confusion when I get a rejection letter from a random research group at the University of Space Cadets saying that they’ll keep my information for future opportunities. I mean, I really didn’t have working in a hospital setting at all on my mind, and certainly not in psychiatry. When I left the SNF, I felt like my medical SLP persona was a day dying in the west, and all that was keeping topics like dysphagia alive for me were my reflections in my book and a couple (fake-it-til-you-make it) early intervention cases that brought feeding to the forefront, as well as my impostor syndrome.
I was no more versed on behavioral disorders than working with autistic adults from the scope of an SLP, yet I’d convinced myself that if I scooped up a double serving onto my plate that the confusion on both sides would cancel each other out.
I’ve had the passing thought at least weekly that group therapy is still alien to me… maladaptive behaviors (to such an extreme) are usually contra-indicated to the services I provide… and that psychosis is best left up to the psychiatrist and God – The SLP has no place in it.
But, with time and a lot of flexibility, I’ve been more glad to take my footing in a job for which I said I was only going to the interview for “fun”… and actually had so much fun that I came back for the long haul. When I met my team, I got that “when you know, you know” feeling, and it became all the more meaningful when I greeted my first patient.
So, all of my patients have intellectual disability. Nine times out of ten, they are autistic. Ten times out of ten, they are a colorful story waiting to happen.
No admission is the same, no day is the same as the last. So far, I’ve run the gamut of split personalities, girl drama, tantrums, food wars, in-house thrift shopping, property destruction, bullying, baby mama drama, attention-seeking, nudist tendencies, and hoarding, and paired most of these to some speechy activity to address them.
My life here is more interesting than anything I’ve ever experienced in a job setting, by far.
Join me, because we’re in for a crazy ride.
This post is, really, an apology post.
Wherrreeee have you been, you may have been wondering? Maybe not. Either way, I’ve got to say, I hoped to be way more consistent than I’ve been.
This entire journey sprouted from the decision to self publish my book Tattletales of a Speech Language Pathologist: the CFY’s Guide to Surviving the Skilled Nursing Facility. Well since then, I’ve also decided on a self-led organization, self-funded toy drive, self-teaching in a new job position, and self-sacrificing in as many areas of life as I can name in a moment. In the least amount of words, I have bitten off far more than I can chew.
When I say “self” I should clarify that I haven’t been completely alone on any journey, and I’ve been glad to accept advice and assistance where it’s been offered. My publishing journey has been made much more light and easy with the laughs and stories shared between myself and my editor and new friend Melissa. Friends have shared in my joy and bought my book.
Still, achieving work-life balance has been inevitably impossible since I decided to bring SLP to the forefront in all of these different kind of ways. If you’ve known me for some time, or if you’ve read my book, you know how important mental health is to me. That being said, I want all of the things I do by my “self” to equate with the amount of things I do for myself.
If there’s one thing I’m going to always do it’s to give the real… I’m a storyteller, so naturally I try to entertain along the way. I’m not going to pretend, however, that underneath the giggles and creative prose, that there’s not a single thing left that gives me pause.
Loving, living, and thriving in this field is a choice. Loving, living, and thriving with self is a must. So, finding the balance is really the daily goal.
While it seemed to me that this may be achieved as a series of solo tasks, the truth is that a solid community might be the best way to structure around self- goals and needs.
That being said, I count on you to make this journey as meaningful as it was once intended.
I have a few questions:
How would you describe the community you currently are or want to be a part of?
How is this community helping you care for your self?
What tactics have you learned to achieve balance between your job and your calling?
Feel free to comment below or message privately.
I didn’t quite feel comfortable letting the last minutes of February slip by without saying something. As busy as life gets, and the farther we get from elementary school programs and poster boards, the more we have to attune to the real black history – not just the history that made us, but the history we’re making for generations to come.
I know that for myself, there are two things I’ll always take pause for – race and religion. I’d say, smelling the roses isn’t quite the appropriate phrase, unless you imagine holding the thorned stem in clenched fists while breathing in what good the aroma that opposes the pain brings.
It’s taken all of this short month, but today is my turn to remind myself of all the subtle ways we put “power” into being Black.
Being a Black speech-language pathologist, a Black Latina, a Black Master’s grad, a Black writer, a Black snowboarder, a Black business, a Black … anything.
While it means so much more that we acknowledge how important it is to be Black in just about any space, we also acknowledge that the space was for some reason not made just right for us.
… or so it may seem.
If I were to describe my Black experience as an SLP, I’d say it’s been great.
Great. More than great. And it’s quite the surprise. I remember sitting in a white-dominated classroom in undergrad being taught about AAVE (newly referred to as AAE) and while my tongue usually prefers a more standard English, I was the professional on the topic with many blue and green eyes and dropped jaws unable to grasp the topic for what it really was.
I remember punching the air in grad school when I nearly failed an in-house clinical rotation, and a black supervisor gave me “the eye” and reminded me of what I needed to prove.
I remember being rejected reference letters because of my “demeanor”.
I thought for a while SLP might not offer much but proving myself time and time again.
Yet… somewhere along the way I was a little more self sufficient. I walked a little more confidently.
I embraced people in employment and academic settings that made me feel at home around them, which were not many.
I embraced mentorship that pushed me to be great because I needed to be great, and not because I needed to be great for a black person.
And now, I can say I have not worked in a single place that put me under the kind of pressure I was most afraid of: a place where the pressure rises around me each day to not be an outsider, to rise above each occasion, to be a socialite in the effort of accomplishing these things effectively.
Have I experienced any racism? Yes, once or twice with 95 year old dementia patients that loved me just as the hard the following day.
But, I have felt systematically safe. I’ve ensured, in my own way, that an imbalanced demographic would not stand in my way. Going back to my “interview tactics”, you don’t just bring YOU to the interview, you bring YOU to work every single aching day. I’ve turned down jobs, school acceptances, and anything else that I felt would lead to my discomfort or distraction with things other than what I came for.
I’ve realized with time, that I don’t have to do that. SLP has offered me something much greater than simply avoiding an uncomfortable situation – it’s given me peace in turmoil, resilience in chaos, the motive to serve, and the why? I am persistently trying to satisfy.
It’s still great to have the ability to see many people that look like me in high places – it’s a Black girl’s forever dream to have a Barbie doctor, dentist, or model with an afro.
I’m somebody’s Barbie speech therapist – just with shorter legs and dreadlocks. I move at the beat of my own drum here. I take the roads less traveled. I follow ALL of my dreams.
So, when someone complains that they’re out of place in a white-dominated space… I just reflect on my own path and realize that community just makes us feel ourselves. It isn’t the source of power, though – that is from within.
“Turning the page” is literal, metaphorical, arousing, depressing, and all the other chemical reactions life has to offer. In this moment, it is the release of something I’ve held onto for more time than I originally meant to. Tattletales of a Speech-Language Pathologist: The CFY’s Guide to Surviving the Skilled Nursing Facility is finally, FINALLY published! It’s been hell and high water to get to this point, but surely… I made it… WE made it! I don’t take it for granted that someone of my level of experience has been able to produce something useful for our community of people. You don’t have to have a PhD to prove you know a thing or two and can bring your brain to the table. Success in this – or any – field is so much more than book knowledge. Anatomy will not save you in retirement. It also won’t save you from a crazed, disrobed dementia patient during your morning session. But two cents from someone whose been there and who cares, can.
It feels like a lifetime now, but turning a new leaf and leaving the SNF behind for some time has been extremely good for me. My newest chapter is in adult behavioral health. It’s a far cry from what I’m used to – to say the least – but you’ll realise sooner than later, when you’re well equipped and confident in your skills, nothing ever feels like TOO much to handle.
New survival book loading?
If 2020 was a gift, I would wrap it in the ugliest, most depressing design of wrapping paper. No bow, no frills, and as a matter of fact, no tape either. Just stuck together with some chewed up gum at the corners where the folds of paper meet – not to mention, no less than three big tears, like when you accidentally tug too hard and the result is irreparable, but you act like you can hide it under tape or patch it with another piece of paper. Yeah. 2020 was THAT gift that if you saw it before it came, you would have looked the other direction. It’s been one for the books, and mostly not in a good way.
Although that gift is rough around the edges like Santa’s last minute effort to deliver his drunken elves work down a chimney with the fireplace still burning the midnight oil… sometimes what comes of it is a bigger lesson and a bigger blessing than the ones with all the frills.
If it weren’t for 2020… If it weren’t for COVID… things would look very different.
Tattletales had a name before 2020 began, but it didn’t have anything but a few paragraphs strung together. Now it is a book, the beginnings of a community and service organization, and a growing resource center.
Breaking the fourth wall, well I had credentials at the start of this year, but I was actively running from my job. Any and everything outside of those lobby doors looked like fuzz and frill and fun…
Work was work, and life was life. I was determined to live them as separately as possible.
Yet, today, I find myself toppling task over task, most of which have a similar foundation in my work. But I’m loving it. I’m finally proud to be a speech-language pathologist. It’s a funny thing, but the more I lived life away from my job, the better I was able to give to myself from a work perspective. I deduced that the only way to make it come full circle was to learn what my needs were, and have the work follow.
Heck yeah, there’s a long way to go. If there’s anything 2020 has taught me, it’s that good things take time. Inevitably. Uncomfortably.
So I welcome 2021 with open arms and a few items on my bucket wish list. Most of all, I wish to see curious but hesitant post-grads learn how to love this field – to help build a recipe for success. We bring so much to the table, in such a unique way. I want that to be noticeable, to be a source of pride, and to ultimately elevate everything we touch.
Cheers to the undergrad and graduate students, clinical fellows, licensed clinicians, researchers, directors, private practitioners, and leaders that make the SLP world go ’round.
You are somebody’s hero.
I bore life into a world I believed would love
As hard as I was ready to
My womb swelled with anxious butterflies
I was unafraid for myself
For I had far more of that emotion to give away
Than to keep.
So selflessly, I poured into you
The birth of an atom of dream
My unique mixture of divine spices
A funny balance of sense and scents
That brought me to hallucination
I refilled with the hope that they’d work together in harmony
I read stories to increase my faith
I washed my hands of my needs to improve your stay
And each day I would do the same
Labor over things to turn out right
I love you more each day and night
And little by little I’m learning that love is
All of these petty forgettable things
Taking up a bigger space in your heart
It’s remembering you don’t eat rice when it’s too soft
And cover your ears when a fire truck passes
It’s forgiving myself when I can’t comfort you
It’s enough never being enough
It’s being thankful even when things are tough
It’s finding the energy when my tank is on E
It’s being worthy of you, God’s greatest blessing to me
Something tells me He chuckled at my plans
Unknowing that my schedules and routines
Were all imperfect for who you’d be
I’m glad for a day like this, more than a birthday!
To manifest new beginnings
You celebrate not just life
But also a shift of minds
A meeting with one’s soul
Rather, prayers of thanks untold
For throughout the rest of the year
Hopes and wishes
Goals and dreams
Push us forward onto our toes
But today and only today
Standing still is the gift we hold
Thankfulness for exactly what we have
Wanting for nothing more
Than an opportunity to brag
About how good God has already been
For health, strength, happiness, and family
Will always be amongst the finer things.
Recently, I have come upon a bunch of new opportunities and ideas that have moved me left or right, onto some new path tangential to the one before it. To say the least, I’ve accepted so many new things, that my already full plate is weighing me down and I can’t stomach it all. It all looks, smells, and give the right appetite can taste amazing. But I’m learning slowly but surely that I can’t say yes to everything.
I’ve gone above and beyond in my confidence, which I denounced in my recent post on interviewing. I’ve also made promises I couldn’t keep…. send me to the guillotine. I don’t even follow my own advice 😩.
I’m going to be honest with you all, at all times. What good does it do me or you to be any less? At the very least maybe you can laugh at my pain. At best, you can make fewer of the amount of mistakes I have or tweak my successes into your own great feats.
We talked about how 2020 has been all the big, long, uncomfortable things. Well, to give myself the relief I thought I needed, I searched high and low for new opportunities. Some, I forgot all about until they came knocking at my door. I’m a pleaser, of course I invited them in for hot chocolate and cookies 🥴
To stay long or to stay for just a little while, I have said “yes” as a jerk reaction to just about everything.
“Yes, I will take that job”
“Yes, I can move”
“Yes, I can learn how to do that”
“Yes, I can meet that deadline”
“Yes, I am ready to take this to the next level”
“Yes, I can commit to that in a short-time frame with no experience”
“Yes, I can work weekends”
Let’s stop right there. I do NOT, have NEVER considered working weekends. If you read Tattletales of a Speech Language Pathologist, you know I was in shambles when PDPM, the new system for reimbursement in the skilled nursing facility, had me working every other Saturday.
Why am I being so untrue with myself and (potential) employers, you wonder?
It’s nothing more than the FOMO that plagued my social life for many years, and has now picked up its things and moved over the professional side of the neighborhood. FOMO has led me to believe that after 2 years of practice, I need all the right answers right now. I’m accepting things that I hope will advance me intellectually, put me in an enviable position, and set me on a path towards greatness. Maybe I don’t need to take a jet pack up every step at once, but I need to know where I can place things on a calendar. How long will it take?
This type of thinking is actively ruining me. I’m saying this because I think we all will run into a point at which we don’t know which way seems the most direct, or maybe you’re standing at a fork after which all paths seem to be littered with jewels of great fortune. Maybe they all are, but if you choose one, the others are inevitably removed from your sight.
The idea that you and I should choose “reasonably”, is unfair. Perhaps what’s most reasonable in my case is making more money. Perhaps what’s reasonable in your case is having great job security or being able to travel. We have to be willing to sacrifice. A wise man once said “What are you willing to go without?”
I was challenged this past week to make a list of the things that are most important to me, where a job or career move is concerned. Making this list may be less the challenge for me because I am driven to believe in the impossible, chase every dream, and trust that I have the power to make it come true.
The greater challenge, which is really the unspoken one, is crossing out one, two, or even all of those things. Maybe it seems like working backwards, but it isn’t.
In reality, how many “most important” things are there really? When it comes to a job, even less. There are things that may give us value in the workplace itself or in our total prospect towards a successful career. In this, we may accomplish a lot, but it is not without the sacrifice of something that we consider to be “most important”
I yielded a little bit of myself in a way in my book, and I spoke about my relationship with my family. “Workaholic” is one word that can bring rise to a lot of negative feelings when I consider the effect that its had on my life. I know that the allowance for personal or “family time” is on every professional’s list of important things. It’s also the sacrifice of many who realize a need for additional money or to stride towards a higher position on the totem pole.
There are things that are never worth the sacrifice, but that will be a subjective and personal decision. I think that when the time comes, we all have an internal shift towards what feels most correct, and I want to say more often than not we are right about it.
I say all this to say that coping with “I accept” syndrome has looked almost like digging a shovel into a hollow grave. There is nothing productive about it, it isn’t safe nor satisfying, and it wastes potential energy – at the end, there is barely enough to show for all of the hard work.
This time I vow to follow my advice, finally. Setting myself up for success is creating a vision and working effectively towards it. It’s saying “no” more often, even to myself. It’s establishing “What’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
Ideally, you’d spent some weeks training. Maybe, instead, a stork just came and dropped you head first into a several-hundred-bed box of no windows, squeaky doors, paper charts, and slow elevators. Don’t panic!