Recently I picked up a book of poetry: Inward, a collection by Yung Pueblo. The book “explores the movement from self-love to unconditional love, the power of letting go, and the wisdom that comes when we truly try to know ourselves”—themes that I encounter a lot as a counselor. One poem resonated with me in particular:

I am not fully healed
I am not fully wise
I am still on my way
What matters is that
I am moving forward

This poem speaks to our own philosophy here at the Works Counseling Center: progress, not perfection. We don’t expect our clients to walk out after a session with all the answers, fully healed and fully wise; instead, we just hope that they are more equipped to move forward along life’s winding road. Perfection is a lot to expect from our ever-growing, ever-changing hearts and brains. But progress? We can do that.

“Moving forward” looks different for each client. For one person, it might mean marriage; for another, it might mean divorce. Both paths can be healthy steps towards a more meaningful life. I try to help each of my clients identify what the healthiest path forward looks like. When having these conversations, I often find myself asking the question, “What’s the bravest thing you can do right now?” For those of us who feel stuck—stuck in a job, stuck in a relationship, stuck in ourselves—identifying the bravest step can often be the catalyst for positive, forward momentum.

An often overlooked way that we “move forward” is the simple act of aging. I work with a lot of older adult clients, and often the forward momentum of the aging process actually scares my clients: our bodies don’t work like they used to, our skin shows signs of wear, our words come to us more slowly than they used to. In therapy, I try to reframe aging as a gift, not a curse. With age comes a clearer perspective on the types of relationships you want in your life and the types of activities that bring you joy and meaning.

That said, I find that there is a lot of pressure to be, as Yung Pueblo puts it, “fully healed” and “fully wise” as we reach our later years. But the reality is, we continue to discover new things about ourselves throughout our life spans. I’ve worked with people who have not found their calling or their true love until they are in their 70s, 80s, or even 90s! We do not stop growing; we are never fully healed or fully wise. What matters is that we continue to look for opportunities to become a more fully realized version of ourselves, no matter our age.

As the New Year arrives, I will be asking my clients how they want to move forward in 2023. Maybe that’s in the realm of career or college, relationships or physical health. Maybe it’s retirement; maybe it’s adoption. Maybe it’s something small, like reading a new book every month or making the bed every morning. Whatever your momentum may be, I hope that you, too, are on your way.