How old were you when you first started college, and how did you pay for it?
I went straight to College after graduating from high school but found myself struggling with choosing a major. It is common for college students to be
uncertain of their career goals and statistics show that on average, a student will declare a different major at least three times. As we transition from an
adolescent to a young adult, we’re exploring possibilities while others like parents or mentors might tell us what career is best for us or what job to get that
might not match our own dreams, so it doesn’t surprise me that without a clear direction, the idea of traveling or doing something else became more
interesting to me. I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession and was determined to put service into action immediately, so I started volunteering with
Food Not Bombs in Long Beach, which was a full-time gig all on its own, so around that time I found myself dropping out of school to put more effort in
activism. I helped cook and deliver vegetarian food not just locally but as far away as Arizona to the Navajo nation and enjoyed several road trips to see
lands I have not seen before and meet all sorts of wonderful people at gatherings or social causes. I was working in data entry to make ends meet but I left
that to travel and at one of these budgeted trips I found myself applying for food stamps. I looked into going back to College while receiving food stamps
and had no idea that I would qualify for tuition waivers and grants because I met that net income test of being eligible. Besides the fee waivers and grants,
I also applied for scholarships and a small loan, choosing a major in Anthropology. "For my graduate degree, I wrote an essay that qualified me for a
fellowship that paid most of my tuition, I think there were hundreds of applicants for a few spots, so I felt fortunate to have received the help.: With
internships in mental health and child protective services, I went on to work for agencies and schools.
You are now have a private practice as a Psychotherapist, what made you get into this field?
Being in private practice is the perfect fit for me. I can truly say, “I love my work” because I really do enjoy what I do. I don’t have a boss hovering over me
and I don’t have to follow the rigidity of some agencies or told what to do that could be against my own values. I do keep in mind legal and ethical
boundaries but having a one-person show means I get to decide when I want to work and how I run my practice, so I am thankful for the flexibility and the
ability to still be in the helping profession on my own terms. Although it can get a little isolating being by myself since I enjoy working with people and
working in teams, I can get this need met by volunteering in other areas of mental health. I still have hope in trying to change the world but now my focus is
at the micro-level, working with children and individuals from all walks of life rather than at the macro-level of dealing with social conditions and problems
with social policies. Although they are interrelated and are equally important areas of concern, at the micro-level, I really do see the fruits of my interaction
with people, when positive changes and an outcome of improved lives become evident. When a patient says “thank you” for whatever reason, it really
does feel like I have made an impact.
How acute are your clients, and when people have mental disorders, what is the best form of therapy you can offer them?
I’ve worked with those that have suffered from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, trauma, child abuse, gender identity, suicidal ideation, or
difficulties coping with anger, relationships, blended families, employment, parenting issues, low self-esteem, etc. From mild to severe conditions, everyone
that comes in is quite unique and the treatment approach will vary. "I have an MSW, PsyD, a couple clinical licensures and a specialized credential, so I've
acquired skills to allow me to see patients with all sorts of problems but of course I have limitations and don't specialize in treating patients, for example,
those with a primary diagnoses of an eating disorder or drug addiction." I also take health insurance plans, offer sliding scale rates and provide pro bono
therapy to veterans and exploited children. I don’t prescribe medications so what I do is talk therapy, which has been shown to be helpful in the treatment
of all sorts of emotional and mental health conditions. Some of the usual psychotherapy techniques I utilize are cognitive behavioral, mindfulness, strength-
based, psychodynamic and existential theories. I am more of a generalist or eclectic psychotherapist since I use what is most effective for the patient as to
avoid pigeon-holing them into one approach. But really, the most successful results does not begin with how much training or education a psychotherapist
has or the type of approach they use, what’s really important is how much rapport there is between them and how much the patient actually trust their
helper to help them.
How are things different now that you have children, compared to the many years ago when you lived at an anarchist co-op house?
I think there are similarities and differences of course. In both environments, it is crucial that everyone gets along and enjoys being with each other.
During my younger days in a couple of shared homes in Long Beach and the Bay Area, there was the cooperative vision of changing the social structures
by starting to live harmoniously at home. Most of my roomies identified as anarchists, which under the true meaning of the term, is to oppose oppressive
power relations and injustice. The idea of equality rather than domination of one towards another allowed for the shared living experience to restore a
sense of community. One is hopeful that such ideas can hold up with 5-10 people living under one roof but of course drama can ensue as well with varying
beliefs and goals. What is important is how to resolve those issues and similarly within families, problems arising is normal, it’s just whether you work
together on the problems you face or you throw in the towel and move on to create something better.
You organized "Anarchist Gatherings" and "Conferences" in the past, and a couple of years ago you attended an Anarchist event in Los Angeles, what
are the differences you see now compared to back then?
The conferences and gatherings were definitely educational and informative. The workshops tackled topics such as capitalism, religion, rejection of
dominant behaviors like sexism, racism, homophobia, nutrition such as veganism and vegetarianism, freedom and equality, class issues, labor history. I
can’t remember the workshop titles now but I recalled I had fun and was inspired to self-study. There were always music events with socially conscious
bands playing punk, hip hop, grind, and I did a few plays on anarchist history with friends who acted in it. I am totally out of the loop for many years now
but yes two years ago, I guess I still saw a sense of comradery with the younger folks who seem tightly connected, which are crucial in their psychological
development and such bonds encourage positive emotional growth. I mean I’ve heard people say, then and now, that such events have cliques, but that
can be positive too because this sense of belongingness create good feelings and when we find people with similar interests in these conferences we feel
accepted for who we are and that there are others who also strive to create a better world.
Why is it, in your opinion, that at school or in the movement we never learned about money budgeting, investing, and how to survive in the "real world" as
we got older?
These are life skills we don’t necessarily learn from school. Sometimes there are parents or other adults that can offer guidance but oftentimes, you have
to learn to sink or swim on your own. With the movement, there is a rejection to be part of the capitalistic world, so that can be delayed as well and interest
in investments is very low. But yes, the idea of struggling cannot be romanticized for too long and I’m speaking for myself. There came a point when I
needed to get back to college and finish a degree so I can get paid, even if it felt like I was “selling out,” the idea of volunteering or working for a non-profit
without an education, however great the cause was, wasn’t paying me a living wage.
As we age, why do you think it's important to have a savings account, retirement plan and life insurance?
I think as we get older it is important to be productive, whether through community activities that matter, our job, with our families, or just helping give back
to society somehow. Some of those things you mentioned are important to have so that we don’t become a burden to others or the next generation and so
that we can continue to take care of ourselves rather than expect others to take care of us.
What suggestion would you give to a person who is already over the hill and has no career, broke, and can't even support their family?
Mid-life can be a good age to start a new direction. There is no rule that says otherwise. It’s never too late to find a career, change careers, or return to
school for a degree or a vocation. Like I mentioned in one of the questions, there is help out there and free money for education that I had no idea existed
until I stuck my nose into a counseling and financial aid office and asked for help or varying options on how to be helped. But you’ve got to be resourceful,
find ways to help yourself and really zone in on what you want to do in life and state your mission. "Without a set goal, it's difficult to get started; however,
also keep in mind that if there is an underlying mental health issue, that would probably need to be addressed first so that motivation and goal setting can
For someone who had a full time minimum wage job, is it still possible to attend college? If so, how?
Yes of course, one can go to school part-time, try enrolling in a community college, or even take online courses to get ahead. There is no guarantee that
an education itself can land you the job you want but why stop at trying? But one also has to look at the cost effectiveness of the degree, if you’re going to
invest in a college education and take out loans, it’s best to finish a major that actually makes sense and get you a job. There are also those forgiveness
loans but you have to finish a specific degree then work in areas where they need to fill jobs with underserved populations.
What are some things you do now that makes you happy in life?
I mentioned that I enjoy what I do for work and being of service to others but I think the best job is being a mommy. Feeling loved by a little person and
giving love back never fails to spark the happy hormones that we all need. Lots of things bring me happiness of course and through the years, I learned
that we really do need to create it for ourselves.
Cami during her Black Bloc days