I began studying therapeutic recreation (TR) in the summer of 2013 at the age of 44 – I wasn’t quite sure why at the time, but I was intrigued by the possibility of doing something different one day.
At first I was curious how TR could be practiced in working with older folks and I could see myself working to improve the well-being of individuals living in an eldercare facility.
But as I continued to learn about leisure education, TR models, the history and philosophy of recreation and leisure, and all the different venues where TR is practiced, I began to play with the idea of specializing in working with individuals affected by obesity – an approach that has rarely been taken before – or at least not well reported on in the TR literature.
I knew at this point I needed to complete a project, rather than take the comprehensive exam. I needed something in my hand I could show to potential employers. Essentially, I wanted to say “Here! This is what I can do, hire me to do it.”
At the early stage of my project development, I envisioned myself running a very specialized facility associated with a hospital that offered bariatric (weight loss) surgery. Because my project needed to be aimed at a target audience, I felt I could focus on people who had undergone weight loss surgery. Much of my early research was concentrated on the science of obesity, the rate of recidivism in weight loss, the failure of the health care system to find solutions, and the glaring fact that, despite what message we’re sold on a virtually constant basis, the diet industry is bamboozling us into believing that dieting is an effective and healthy means to lose weight. (It is not.)
This facility was state of the art, had the latest equipment, was designed with indoor landscaping, various rooms that fulfilled very specific purposes. There were spaces for relaxation, meditation, and one-on-one coaching meetings; there was a fitness facility and a pool – all built around an atrium with water features and a variety of plant life. Offices were located upstairs, but the main reception area was near the atrium entrance.
As I continued my research and learned more about TR interventions, well-being assessments, and implementation, my vision began to change and I wondered what it would be like to work for myself.
I asked my professor if our upcoming Design and Administration of TR Programs class would focus at all on private practice. Serendipitously, she had been wondering the same thing and was hoping to have the class create an operations manual for a private practice as our student project. My question solidified her decision. So that’s what we did! About 25 graduate students worked together in an online format to create a manual for our fictitious business “Good Life Therapeutic Recreation Services.” I played a pivotal role in creating our mission and vision statements, and worked with my small group to develop a list of objectives and values. “Good Life” was chosen as our name collaboratively between me and my professor.
This project was so inspiring that it changed by vision entirely. I decided to take this on as my master’s project – using the same format and templates we used in class, I would create my own operations manual for my own future private practice. I would no longer have to work for someone else.
I believe I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, as did my mother. I sold Girl Scout cookies so I could go to summer camp; I picked night crawlers and sold them at the marina; I picked blackberries one summer and sold them door to door; I was into desktop publishing before computers existed; I organized a (very short lived) Ranger Rick Club; I had an affinity for event planning and destination promotion while studying tourism, and during my secretarial days I designed flyers and wrote newsletters; in academic clubs I developed and organized successful club fundraisers.
All of that disappeared from my life at some point. It got buried in student services and higher education and simply trying to get by in life.
But with the spark lit by my professor and our transformative class project, a fire was starting to burn.
I completed my required internship, returned to work full time, and passed my national certification exam before I had the mental energy to rewrite my project prospectus in the fall of 2016. I began my project in earnest that December.
Having reserved a private study carrel in the library, and having access to it at anytime because I had access to the building as a staff member, I had a place to focus and create magic. I loaded up the two shelves with my collected research, my textbooks, interlibrary loan books, office supplies and a box of tissues. Eventually I came to add the occasional paper plate, napkins and more than a few empty Diet Coke bottles and paper coffee cups.
I modified the circa 1974 chair in my carrel by supplementing it with a padded cushion and a folded blanket – which came in handy on winter weekends. Don’t tell anyone, but occasionally I brought my space heater up from my office and used that. This was the penthouse carrel! It had everything I needed, including a window for the sun to shine through.
Over the course of that winter – weekends before the building opened, breaks when the building was closed, lunchtimes – and into the spring, I worked diligently at writing and seeking out the resources I needed to create what I hoped would be a plan for my future.
But I wasn’t quite sold on the name I’d originally chosen – The Lotus Center for Therapeutic Recreation and Well-being. I learned about the lotus through my new found interest in Buddhist beliefs, and I knew I needed to include a blue lotus in some way. A blue lotus represents learning, growth, wisdom, and it never appears fully opened because we are always learning – we must strive to gain wisdom and knowing all – well, that’s just not for us, that’s a higher realm of being!
One day in spring, I was doing one of my favorite things – laying in my hammock. I was reading a book aimed at helping women live to their full potential and within was a passage describing a guided visualization. This passage was designed to help us meet and connect with our inner wisdom or our inner guide. The word “inner” was used frequently. I reflected on how strong my vision was and how I hoped to help others create their own powerful visions one day.
Then – I had an epiphany! (Epiphany happens to be one of my favorite words, by the way!) Inner Vision. Innervision. InnerVision! I could see it! InnerVision Therapeutic Leisure Services & Wellness Coaching!
And I can still see it. I can see each aspect of my project – living and breathing in my mind, as if I, too, am living and breathing it every day. From referral seeking, marketing, intake, budgeting, risk managing, assessment, implementation of interventions, documentation, evaluation, right down to the facility spaces and rooms I desire – I can see this.
I see my clients who come in for coaching in my spacious and comfortably furnished office; I see participants in the BodyLuv!, RetireEase!, and Optimize! programs participating in group work in the conference room; I see myself presenting RetireEase! workshops for companies across the state.
I’m now beginning to visualize how I can expand my offerings by creating online initiatives to provide passive income; I can build upon my coaching interests by creating a robust mailing list of potential clients and referral sources; I can design and offer well-being retreats and workshops. Opportunities abound.
Staying motivated is challenging, especially when working full time in a career that has become less-than-fulfilling. But everyday I try to make some forward motion – whether it’s reading books on side hustles or self-improvement, or stockpiling resource information and potentially useful activities – or even if it’s the daily challenge of maintaining and improving my own health and well-being so I’ll continue to be a positive role model for my clients.
Everyday I try to move a little bit closer to my vision, I won’t give up on living my purpose – that’s not an option at this point.
But here is something critical I learned on this journey: visions change; mine did, and it very well may change again. It may become even more enticing and fabulous, or it may morph into something that feels a bit less daunting. Maybe I’ll end up working solely from my laptop on my couch, reaching out clients across the globe. Who knows?
The important thing is that I have a vision. It’s a strong one, for sure; I feel that fire burning constantly. It keeps me going, prevents me from languishing and settling for discontentment; it stops me from becoming complacent.
When you visit my website, I ask “What’s your vision?” So? What is it? Do you need help? Don’t know where to begin looking for your vision? Have a spark in the back of your mind, but it’s a bit out-of-focus? Let’s light that flame together – contact me today – let’s create your InnerVision.