The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

It happened again the other day. A friend told me about the outrageous treatment she received from a high school guidance counselor. She was basically told to stay in her place and look for a husband. The nerve.

I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years about people in this particular field that it leaves me sputtering. Either they discourage you from pursuing your dreams and try to send you down another path, or they tell you to give up because you’re a loser, or if you’re a high achiever, they try to push you beyond what you’re financially or circumstantially capable of achieving. Some of them simply throw diagnostic tests at you and try to fit you into a nice little box based on the results.

This topic is so insidious that it has even spawned its own “Guidance Counselor Horror Stories” forum topic. I started to read it. I really did. But it made me angry.

Because really, how hard is it to tell someone that every human being has potential, and each one is unique, and with some effort, can find his or her calling? Why not say, “Go for it. Your life will be what you make it, so make it great.”

In most cases, their “sage” advice is ignored. Thank goodness. But occasionally their slings and arrows hit the target and they negatively influence someone for life.

Guidance counselors can be a force for good or for evil. If you are one of the ones who is a force for good, I sincerely thank you, and hope you’ll keep up the good work. I wish we could clone you. Unfortunately, based on anecdotal evidence, the bad apples seem to take up most of the space in the barrel.

It must be a heady experience, sitting up on your throne and predicting someone’s entire future. But the fact is, it’s about as accurate as soothsaying. Some people with really bad grades and unruly behavior in high school go on to be quite successful in life. And some valedictorians wind up in prison. You just never know.

Personally, I’m thrilled that I am no longer the person I was in high school. I don’t particularly like who she was. I didn’t even like her at the time, which was half the problem. If we met today, we would not be friends.

I was expected to become this super successful CEO of a fortune 500 company or something. Everyone thought I’d be a smashing success, and that’s what success would look like.

But that kind of life would have made me miserable. I tried for it, for a time. But I kept throwing up subconscious roadblocks in front of myself. Even then, I knew, on some level, that that wasn’t supposed to be my path.

Decades later, I’m not rich. I don’t own a penthouse or a fancy car. I won’t be able to retire early, if at all. But I’ve learned to measure success by a different yardstick. I’m content. I like my job. I’m happy with how I turned out.

And I still have absolutely no idea what I want to be when I grow up.


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6 thoughts on “Guidance Counselor Horror Stories

  1. Angiportus says:

    The schools I went to were too tiny (and corrupt) to have anything like a counselor. When I got to college, I had better luck…until I ran into one who kept reading Fraudian nonsense into stuff I said or wrote. I told this individual to knock it off but they did not—I utterly demolished them with Logic, but eventually that crap popped up again…long story short, the case went to the school authorities and they heard us both and the counselor wound up contrite. I never knew if I was the only one to speak out against that, but I have a suspicion I wasn’t the only offended one, as the head lady thanked me.
    I’m so sick of people who think they can tell my story for me, who think they know me better than I do, who make up total crap that when I was a kid I am now ashamed to admit I believed. Some of it was a lot worse than shrinkoanalytic nonsense, and I’m still working my way out of it. There were some that spun a big long line about how “bright” I was–then turned around and treated me like a moron. Well, I have different people around me now…I hope your friend can, even many years later, tell that counselor they are full of crap. No one knows what her place is except her.

  2. lyn sutton says:

    My counselor said I wasn’t living up to my I.Q. potential when I was failing (in protest) all the classes he’d made me take . When asked my I.Q. score, he said he couldn’t say because it might swell my head. Unleashing the full potential of my intellect on him resulted in his yelling and kicking me out of his office. Seems his head was swollen and he couldn’t handle a 16 yr. old girl shrinking it down in size. To retaliate he had me scheduled in classes I’d already passed so I spent a month in limbo until the head counselor found out and took over. I was a month behind in the classes I was finally given (still not my choice). You’d think he’d have been fired for that stunt, but he wasn’t. All I wanted was the right to choose my own path. I wound up dropping out and got my GED diploma then went to jr. college to complete my general ed. requirements. This is a small sample of damage done, by other people forcing their expectations on me, that followed and infected many aspects of my life. I made sure my children felt supported in choosing whatever paths nourished their souls because they’ve had their share of non-supportive counselors and teachers also.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s so wrong on so many levels. I’m glad you found your own way in spite of him. It shouldn’t have to have been that way, though.

      1. lyn sutton says:

        I was fortunate enough to have the emotional I,Q. to recognize my worth and though it’s years of 1 step forward, 3 steps back, I continue to fight for my and others rights to own our unique individualities. Hopefully, one day we’ll all be respected for the successes we truly are.

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