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Counseling Is Noble and Selfless ... But I Don't Want to Save the World

By Erika S. Wheelhouse, Boston College

Sometimes people express a mild admiration when I tell them that I am studying to become a mental health counselor. They may even be slightly impressed when I explain that I want to work with at-risk adolescents and juvenile offenders. Yes, it sounds noble and selfless, but I can assure you that my motivations are not wholly altruistic. 

I have no desire to save the world; I do not aspire to instigate some global movement of social change. You see, in order to become an educated mental health professional, I have had to take a more practical approach and accept that change does not happen overnight, no matter how much I may wish it would. Meaningful and palpable change happens through years of tireless work—spurred on by passion and dedication—that is undertaken by multiple, like-minded individuals sharing a dream. 

No, I don’t want to save the world because, no matter how much I may want to, the task is too big for me. 

Rampaging poverty, uncertain employment, and the continual struggle for equality across gender and race are just a few of the issues facing us both nationally and globally. As crisis after crisis makes headlines, answers are slow in coming, which can systematically sap the hope from those currently working towards solutions. My future career as a mental health counselor will be dedicated to working with and encouraging our children, and my hope is that they will find a way to save us. 

What we need is the hopeful, tenacious, and energetic passion that comes with youth. Not only are our children unburdened by the cynicism of practicality that can develop in adulthood, but they are growing up in the most technologically advanced age humanity has ever known, and they know how to utilize this technology far earlier in their lives than even my generation did. This combination of hope, passion, and advanced tools makes this newest generation a top candidate for tackling many of the ills that we are currently struggling with. 

Each child that we lose to poverty, criminal activity, substance use, or inadequate education is one fewer chance that we have of being saved from the ever-expanding global issues. Each child who falls through the cracks or struggles silently without emotional and psychological support is an opportunity that we allowed to slip away. 

Being a counselor and an agent for social change means giving a child the chance to be more than what circumstances say that he or she can be. It means giving children the best shot at giving us their best. It is not in me to rally the masses towards a common goal of positive social change on a global scale. 

No, I don’t want to save the world. I just want to help our youth so that someday they may have the opportunity to do so.