Grist for the Mill…


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“Everything is grist for the mill.”  I first heard this expression used by my professor in one of my intensives this summer to describe us having a variety of experiences, even those outside what we desire to focus on or specialize in.  The idiom means that everything can be used; everything is beneficial.  Since hearing that expression, I have tried to incorporate it into my life as a personal mantra.  Everything – all my feelings, experiences, acquired knowledge and wisdom – can be used and is beneficial.

Yesterday was one of those days where I left feeling very frustrated about where I am.  The source of my frustration comes from knowing who I am, what I know, what I can do…and not coming close to utilizing my potential on any of those fronts on any given day at my job.  Then there is the annoyance of those around me who find ways to remind me of my position in slick and condescending manners.  I need no reminders; I’m living it.

For my education and experience, I am underemployed.  When I graduated from Penn State five years ago, I received a job offer a month after graduation making two and a half times the salary that I am making now.  But unemployment and underemployment, two things that I have experienced since graduation, were not two things I was taught to be prepared for after college.  And you know…life comes at you fast.

So though I am grateful for the basic needs this jobs affords me to provide for myself, there are some days where I honestly frustrated to the point of tears.  And since I am nearing the end of my Masters program at LU, this job is a good fit practically for right now because I need to be able to take advantage of the flexibility it affords me.  All in all, it means I need to be cool about this for a few more months.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from being in my position is how much people assume as they look at your life.  My job does not require as much education as other positions at my place of employment; yet, I have more education than many of the people who hold higher positions than me.  However, just based off of my position, some people have treated me in certain ways that are indicative of “I’m better than you.”

It’s been amazing for me to sit back and watch people assume what I am or am not capable of because of my job, because of this label.  Distinctions are made, even when distinctions aren’t necessary.  But isn’t that how many of us operate?  We look at people’s lives and assume that they are a certain way, they think a certain way, they are limited in certain ways before we even get to know them.  We make distinctions between us and them, even when distinctions don’t need to be made.  Being on the receiving end of it in this environment has been particularly hard for me because everything in me wants to prove to them who I am, what I know, and what I can do.  But it’s not my job to prove that to them; who I am, what I know, and what I can do speaks for itself.  And people can see all of that and still outwardly deny it.

Everything is grist for the mill.  As I am still heavily in my preparation phase to enter into the counseling field, I will be entering into a field where the power playing field will automatically be uneven.  I must come into each session with an open mind and open ears, without forming a person’s story – the person will tell me their story.  My experiences now will fuel the empathy I have for my clients.

Everything is grist for the mill.  In my daily interactions, I size people up all the time; it’s kinda what I do.  Many times I will have my mind made up about someone before I have had a full conversation with them.  Sometimes it’s discernment but many times it’s based off pretentious assumptions.  My experiences now will cause me to give pause before I assume and act on said assumptions.

Everything is grist for the mill.  I, one day, plan to own my company that will employ a couple dozen of folks and will service hundreds.  May my experiences now forever be a reminder of every person’s humanity, uniqueness, and potential beyond the labels and positions they currently occupy.

No grief wasted.  No frustration wasted.  No lesson wasted.

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