Life lessons: Debs Wand

By Alan Perrott

Life lessons from the trainee counsellor.

Debs Wand. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Debs Wand. Photo / Sarah Ivey

I've always thought that when I figured out what I wanted to do in my life, nothing would stop me from pursuing it. Following through is a lot harder than I imagined, especially giving up my not-insubstantial, regular pay check. I had a good job but struggled to stay motivated. I wanted to be one of those people who can say "I love what I do".

It started five years ago when I volunteered as a Lifeline volunteer. I felt this calling to become a counsellor and eventually a psychotherapist. It was a profound realisation, that I had something to offer and that life has more meaning, even if I'm still trying to figure out what that more is.

My life has been about change and discovery. When I immigrated from England 12 years ago there was much about New Zealand that I found strange, like adults using words like kindy, veggie, smoko, figuring out was a dairy was, turning right on to a busy road and learning the hard way that "sticking your nose out" is not road etiquette here. But I am wary of being a whingeing pom. I feel blessed to call New Zealand home.

My first step toward therapy was to get some. The excuse I gave was that if I was going to become one, I needed to find out what it's like to be a client. It was a purely intellectual exercise, of course I didn't need it. Well, that illusion disappeared quickly. It became a confronting and challenging journey, so I now know the courage it takes to break old patterns and how self-awareness can add to your life.

I used to burn both ends of the candle. But leaving my job has forced me to slow down, I have even discovered my inner-hermit. In between setting up a business and studying, I wile away my time pottering around at home. It has been wonderful. I don't understand how I fitted in a full-time job before.

I could blame my teenage years for that restlessness. I grew up in Singapore, a privileged life in a tropical paradise, hanging out with kids from everywhere. My parents loved travelling, so I was continually exposed to new places and experiences. We moved back to Britain when I was 11, which was a huge culture and climate shock. Toss in all your usual teen angst and I struggled to settle and never felt like I belonged. But I wasn't particularly rebellious. I think the worst I ever did was throw a forkful of spaghetti bolognaise at my mother.

Debs Wand gave up a career with a healthcare provider to set up her own company, Flourish (

- NZ Herald

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