Saturday, June 22, 2013

Just Jump

Sawasdee ka, readers! Rebecca Townsend again reflecting upon the “study” portion of this study abroad experience. The world is our classroom, and each new experience holds a valuable lesson capable of being transferred and applied to our personal and professional lives. 

My music therapy experience in Thailand has once again proven my love for my future profession. The way music transcends the boundaries of language is indescribable. I knew this from observing and leading sessions throughout my past three years at KU, but each new clinical experience confirms this even more. Both of my practicum settings so far have been with children. First semester, I was at the Language Acquisition Preschool on the KU campus. Second semester, I worked with an individual boy with autism. I am very interested in working with children with disabilities, either in a rehabilitation setting or a school setting. I have not yet experienced working with older adults, adults with disabilities, or in a hospital setting, so I want to experience those before I rule them out of my areas of interest.
Seeing the broad grins of those kids is the most beautiful thing. Watching them engage in and recognize the music is fascinating. Getting them to a point where they are willing to participate gives me confidence in my abilities as a therapist and I know without a shadow of a doubt I have chosen the right career path. However, getting to where I am now has not been easy. I have had to overcome many challenges and uncertainties and put faith into the unknown to reach the indescribable emotions that result from using the power of music to touch people’s lives. 

            Zip-lining through the rainforest in Chiang Mai last weekend was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. Flying from tree to tree was exhilarating, and it offered a view of the spectacular Thailand scenery unlike anything else. I was a little nervous, but snugly strapped into my harness and helmet I knew I was safe. The guides were hilarious! In my opinion, they rival music therapists for having the best job in the world.

Tandem Zip-line with Laura Cribb


I found a lot of parallels to my music therapy career during this experience and it was very enlightening. For both elements, I am aware of how fun and rewarding the process can be. But also for each, there is always that element of fear present. Each session is a little like jumping off that wooden platform. There is that drop in my stomach, and my heart lodges into my throat... the what-ifs cloud my head and there is that split second where I wonder if it is time to turn back and throw in the towel. At each station, after I was hooked up to the zip line, and the guide asked if I was ready, I’d say, “yes” while screaming, “no” inside my head. I’d put my brave face on, take a deep breath, and jump. Only once I was speeding through the jungle, did my fear subside and the fun set in. After the first few times, I knew how incredibly enjoyable it was because I had actually experienced it, and getting myself to leave the platform was no longer a challenge.

I feel my music therapy practicum experience so far is very similar to this. Especially during my very first sessions each semester, I had to use my brave face and jump off the platform without feeling confident or ready to take on the task of effectively using music therapeutically. As I gained experience and learned from my supervisors, my brave face turned into my confident face. I was able to truly immerse myself in the atmosphere my musical interventions were creating for the children. Subsequent sessions came to feel like I was speeding through the jungle. 800 meters is over in a flash. 30 minutes feels like 30 seconds.

Both zip lining and in a music therapy clinical work have both turned out to be exquisite experiences. It is a wild ride, and it is so fun and so beyond worth it. Each session, each time being hooked up to a new zip line, the process gets easier. It becomes second nature. Eventually in my music therapy career, though I can’t say how soon, the stomach drop will be almost non-existent, but the thrill will still be there. I am so grateful I have found a profession I love, and I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me in the near and distant future. Someday maybe I’ll go bungee jumping (get a master’s degree), go skydiving (present at a conference or give an in-service), or even go scuba diving (conduct a research study). The possibilities end when I stop dreaming, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. My passion for this amazing field is just beginning to bloom. 

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