‘AFLOG… what?’ you’ll ask. I asked the same when my first year counselling trainer and supervisor Morag said it for the first time, 3 years ago. She’s a lovely lady in her 60s, who wears floral dresses and is motherly and funny and at times rude enough to make me blush. It stands for ‘Another Fucking Learning Opportunity for Growth’. We have lots of those in counselling training, as in life I guess. The last 4 odd years has seen many an AFLOG, and I’m coming to terms with being grateful for it, instead of just lying on the floor in agony yelling out ‘why?!?’ and shaking my fist to the heavens John Cleese style. AFLOG’s, are by definition, incredibly unpleasant within its whole existence, and it is up to the recipient to not just make it an AFO (Another Fucking Opportunity) and add the LOG (Learning Opportunity for Growth). 

I’ve moved a lot in life, but no bigger move could have been from being a single survivor to being a part of a team, a couple, a joint future. To complement that we of course moved to the other side of the world. All went well. I’ve learned through this the value of bonding, mutual support and compromising. I’ve learned experiencing wonderful things in a shared unity, and missing out on others in the same set-up. It’s a wonderful thing. I learned that the relationships I build do not have to be the same as my elder’s relationships, nor do they have to be the same as my peers. I have in the past few years received a very ample and steady flow of love from a few very solid sources and it nourished me to a level where I could push myself up and think about serious things; education, work, identity. I did, and I will be forever wholly grateful.

The inevitable happened though, this push and exploration changed me. And I think it’s generally a lot easier to accept and flow with a change in others, than it is to see that within you something is changing, and it’s making things difficult, but there is no way to stop it. I’ve gone through many AFLOG’s and was determined to do the full circle, instead of stopping at the AFO. I was determined to grow. And when you grow, like a tree, the view changes. And sometimes when you grow, and who knows, grow to fast (or sideways?), you find yourself alone, with all your development and experiences under you belt, and just the horizon to stare at.

The AFLOG’s have facilitated a space for me within which I’ve grown into practising as a counsellor, providing general therapy for depression and anxiety, HIV support and suicide intervention. I am grateful for the AFLOG’s to have made me into a person who is comfortable working with such serious issues. Dare I say I am proud to do so. My John Cleese fist comes up often though, because the anger in the ‘F’ description of an AFLOG is real. My AFLOG’s changed my life, and caused me to lose many things that initially facilitated the growth. My friend Brian encourages me often to kick fuck out of a beer bottle bin at work. That is where my frustration at AFLOG’s go, that and the occasional crying into a pillow until it hurts. Because where else could it go but inanimate objects.

Growing pains are a real and ruthless symptom of AFLOG. Sometimes a soul gets stretch marks, and sometimes they become scars. The growing is necessary though, if I’m curious about the view from the top. As my belt becomes heavier, so does my heart. And that heavy heart can be used in my work, as well as in my love to others. I am learning a hard lesson to love the growth, regardless of what it has brought upon me, but there are always beer bottle bins to kick fuck out of I suppose. Sometimes however, I wish AFLOG was more of a friend, and less of a harsh and ruthless teacher. The growing continues.