Tuesday, 4 March 2014

I'm going to be honest

A coma might feel better than this
attempting to discover where to begin
You're weighed down, you're full of something
Of sickness, and desertion. 
You're weight down, you're full of something
You're underneath it all. 

I'm sitting here wanting to write a post filled with optimism and the positive vibes I've been trying to keep this writing space, but with four weeks of school left and little vision of where my life is headed it's very hard to keep that positivity growing.  I've become extremely agitated over the past couple weeks, and dread conversations about grad school, my future, or graduation. I'm back to being pretty bitter. I'm back to shutting myself in my room and off from people if they tell me they're busy.  I'm skipping my last few classes of the semester because I feel absolutely no challenge, and at the same time I'm not ready to move on.  Even less ready to move on than I was at this time last year.  There's nothing to cling to this time. I'm trying to push away from everything and trying to cut away from everything before I feel hurt. Why?

Because graduating means a lot of scary things for me.  First of all, all of my support systems have been created through my school.  What's going to happen when I graduate? I'm going to be thrown back into the mix of having nothing and nobody.  The support systems I have owe me absolutely nothing, if anything I owe them a big portion of my dignity, self-respect, and confidence.  When I graduate there will be another student who needs that support, and who needs to have someone that they can do this and to push them in the right direction.  And I'm happy for whoever that student is.  These people have been like rocks to me, if they know it or not.  It's been nice to have someone I can send an email to just so I can take a step back and breathe afterwards.  It's been awesome to have someone write me a letter whenever I need it.  But come June where does all this go? It's gone.

And what happens if I graduate and I'm not going to a grad school? What if I'm forced to spend my summer (and now spring) at camp and I'm forced to return home? I don't know.  I can't even have the disguise of looking for full time work because who's hiring for September now?  I don't even know what I can do with my bachelor's degree.  As far as I've been convinced by my education, my bachelor's degree is nothing but a useless piece of paper on it's own.  My diploma is used to help people get into university, so even that's useless.  I don't want to go to my graduation if I'm not going anywhere, because it feels like it'd be nothing more than a celebration of getting nowhere.  If I'm not accepted anywhere, I'm going nowhere. How many times I have used the words I don't know.

 I'm stuck in this terrifying pool of vulnerability.  One that feels very similar to drowning. I don't know where my life is going.  I'm absolutely scared out of my mind.  Nothing anyone can say is going to bring me comfort.  I need to keep going.  I need to keep pushing through. I want so badly to put my feet down and sink to the bottom and give up.  I want so badly to be done.  And at the same time, I don't know a life outside of grad school applications, and outside of being in school at GH.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Dear Meg Jay

Dear Meg Jay,
   I recently stumbled upon your Ted Talk on why my 30s are not the new 20s, and while I respect your views, and it may work for some people, I would like to touch on why this is not the case for me.
  When I was 12 years old, I was thrown into the whirlwind adventure of growing up too soon.  My mom had been institutionalized for a mental health treatment, and my father was working a full time job about an hour away from our house.  My brother was 15 (almost 16) years old at the time, and we were faced with the task of taking care of ourselves, and each other, while my mom was in care.  My dad did the best he could and my mom called when she was able to.  My dad's parents at the time were supportive of providing us with any additional care we needed including a dinner here, or if my dad was going to be super late we went and spent a lot of the night with them.
   I'm not here to tell you the peanut butter sandwiches I made for my brother and I made me an adult nor am I going to claim it ruined my life.  It was a good thing.  While most of the memories I have of this time aren't clear to me, I know that my brother and I knew what we had to do to make my mom's transition home easier. We faced challenges with our family members blaming us for what happened, despite the fact we were the kids in the situation.  It's easy to forget the bright moments in these times, and super easy to recall being told because my room was a mess, my mom lost her mind.
    When it was close to my mom coming home, my brother and dad attended a session at the care facility she was at that was like a support group, but I was too young for one group and too old for the other.  I was in a sense, forced to face this on my own.  I chose to not talk about it for many years.  I mean, how many people had a mom who was crazy?  We found ourselves in a similar situation 3 years later where a new diagnosis was tagged on, and we were faced with challenges again.
   I get that many teenagers spent their years going to parties, getting drunk and high, and having a grand old time.  I never got to experience a stereotypical high school party.  I never made friends with large groups of people.  I never got to have a sleepover at my house. However, I did learn what different psychiatric medications did.  I learned how to sneak them into jam, and apple sauce, and even peanut butter sandwiches.  There was never a "oh she's just a kid" mentality around the situation of me caring for my mother.  There was only a "you need to help your mom" mentality.  I earned the nickname of nurse, and helped my mom to the best of my ability.  She was mom, it's what you do.  From my experiences of this, I wanted to get into psychology and help people.  So it's not completely a waste of my teen years, but it sure as hell was not a picnic way to spend it either.
I'm sure you can imagine how ecstatic I was to get into university and be able to move away from home.  I no longer had to worry about my mom, I could be free to do whatever I wanted.  My first and second year grades reflect that wonderfully.  I still went home almost every weekend to check in on my family, to make sure things were okay and to keep my mom happy.  The summers felt long, but I got through them and I always cried when I had to leave my best friends.  After my first year I was one of the most over involved kids in my program.  If there was a volunteer opportunity, I took it.  I worked my ass off for four years to make a name for myself, and I networked my pants off. I went to a professional conference at the age of 19, and absorbed absolutely none of it because I was too young to know what it was all about.  But I had to be an adult, and I had to take these opportunities, because if I didn't some earth shattering thing would happen.

And I appreciate you trying to push my generation to re-claim their adulthood at 20.  But in all honesty, I haven't even had the opportunity to be anything but an adult for the past 10 years of my life.  I'm constantly being told that I need to be a 20 year old, and not worry.  Do you know how many times I went out to the bar last semester? One. On my birthday. Where one person showed up because my mom made me cancel my party the week before because of a fight.  I get what you're saying about networking, and expanding our horizons and getting experiences.  But when you tell me this, you leave me feeling like I've accomplished shit all.  That the 5 page CV I have worked my ass off for four years is never going to be enough.

You made me question if I was enough, if I was doing enough, if I was good enough, when for the past five months there have been people who have built up my confidence to believe I was.  The one talk, the one where you make it seem like every 20 year old is being a lazy shit and throwing ten years of their lives away, shattered me.  You're suppose to get to go to a bar, and you're suppose to spend your money on a stupid shoe collection.  Instead do you know what I do? I spend it on grad school applications.  I spend it on moving back to residence because I can't be a student and live at home.  I've never been to a club because it's not an "adult" thing to do and it's "irresponsible".  I'm regretting having to grow up so quickly.

 I sat in tears staring at my computer for hours after I watched your talk (mistakenly at 12:30 am) because I chose to take a year for myself.  After four years of dedicating myself and my time to my program, and to others in my school community I chose to be selfish.  Because I have ambitions and I have dreams.  I came back to my school where none of my friends were anymore to take courses with people I don't know, and to feel like a social isolate moving back home with my parents.  You don't understand that sometimes, not doing anything is exactly what you need to do.  That the stress and the pressure to be successful and some big shot in my 20s is now what I need.

My type A personality drives me to continue to push myself to be the best that I can be.  I constantly need that reminder to take a step back, not a step forward like your talk suggested.  I support what your saying.  I support what you do.  But in all honesty, this is not what every 20 year old needs to hear.  I need to hear someone telling me it's okay to let go.  It's okay to be upset at the world today.  It's totally cool if I decide I don't want to work six days a week - it's not going to ruin my life. I don't need to get a job in my field right away, I can work my way up to it.  Sometimes I need to grow down.  Sometimes I need to remind myself it's okay if my 30s are going to be my new 20s, especially if I'm going to have a Ph. D in my hand when I get there.

With respect,

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013: A Year in Review

For the first half of 2013 I was bitter.  It's easy to write the behaviour I had off as being sassy, and hard headed, but I was bitter.  I had no idea where my life was headed.  I had nothing to cling onto.  I knew my university career was coming to an end, and I was about to move home for more than two months, which was something I hadn't done since my second year of university.  I felt empty.  I didn't have a boyfriend.  I wasn't any where close to finding one.  The sinking reality of a pile of debt and no future in my field was quickly approaching me.  Join me for a late night review of my year, that is as scrambled as I am.

I broke down.  
A lot.  

It was over little things at first like not having a screw driver to set up my TV.  It grew into things like failing my first midterm since first year because I had overloaded myself with responsiblities.  It shifted to my responsibilities leaving me with a feeling of loneliness and crushed heroism where I felt I was the only one working towards making the world better.  There were tears about "what will people think of me" if I come back for another year of university.  There was a four day drunken bender when I was lost two awards.  There were life chats in Tim Horton's parking lots that left me driving home in a desperate sense of trying to get my life back together.

There was a place in Northern Ontario where I sat on the steps of a Healing Lodge, and every word that I needed to hear in that moment just made me cry even harder.  For an hour and a half of tears on someone who knew next to nothing about me.  There was coming back home to a job I was worried I was going to feel disconnected from.  The one where I realized all my friends had moved on from our university and I felt like the deadbeat clinging around waiting for something.

And every breakdown, every irrational, over emotional, desperate plea with reality to "Give me a fucking break" left me panicking.  Some had me laying in bed for days wondering if I was going to "end up bipolar like my mother" and some made me pull myself together and take advantage of great things in my life.

But, there was strength.
Moments where I let myself shine, and be seen.

I met with my professor about that failed midterm, and he gave me a make-up assignment of a 12 page paper.  First year Amanda would of seen it as too much work.  Fourth year Amanda shut herself down for a weekend to research the difference between arbitration and mediation divorces.  
My feelings of being crushed were always rebuilt by being surrounded by an amazing team of people who would try everything in their power to pick me back up again.  A fake award made for me here.  Coming out to a pub night fundraiser for me there.  My amazing friends were amazing friends as long as I needed them to be.

And while my drunken stooper does not even come close to measuring up to Rob Ford's it taught me many things such as coffee mugs make a great place to hide booze (I'm kidding).  On a more serious note, it taught me that even when I sober up, my feelings are still going to be there.  Talk it out.  Find a way to work through it.  As I sit here almost eight months from when this all happened, I just want to laugh at how I placed such a strong sense of my self-value into a stupid piece of metal.  Less than three weeks after all this happened I won an award.  It felt amazing.  I refuse to take it down from my living room because it's the first one I've ever won outside of a sport.

My Moosonee Break down and me have a love hate relationship.  I absolutely hate that it happened.  I think it's because I'm the kind of person who doesn't allow attention to be drawn to myself unless I'm doing something humorous or awesome.  I felt ashamed.  The rest of the trip I found it difficult to hear people telling me they wish they had felt that, or how they look up to me at school, or give me any sort of praise.  It felt a lot like I was walking around naked at times and people were just watching, waiting for it to happen again.  Looking back, this is obviously not the case.  I was super fortunate to be surrounded by so many supportive people on the trip, who I can never imagine shaming me for crying.
 I watched a Ted Talk on Vulnerability recently and started to understand why people said it was strong of me to let it out.  From this experience, and finding a connection with Brene Brown, I'm starting to see that this cryfest was a good thing.  How would I have felt if it was one of my friend's letting it all out instead? I would of admired them.  So why should I shame myself over it?

It took a lot of strength to apply to grad school.     

When you grow up thinking that university is not a possibility, you never see grad school as being one.  I have found myself in moments of pure bliss in applying to grad school, but more moments where I am faced with a difficult moment and I want to give up and quit.  While most people stand on the line for starting the race to grad school with a game face and "come at me bro" mentality, I stood in the background cheering on my friends.  When it was my turn to stand up to the line, I was looking around for support.  For people to tell me I could do this, and that I was going to get in no matter what.  Overcoming the belief that these people had to be my parents was one of the hardest things I've had to face.  Eventually, my parents are going to be proud to have a daughter who's a clinical psychologist.  For now, we face a difficult battle of understanding why their broke daughter is spending close to $1000 in applications throughout North America.  

Applying for grad school was really fun once I felt like I could do it!  Every baby step was easy until I had to face my nemesis, the personal statement and reference letters.  Being a girl who has never set goals for herself, or looked at anything in the future, I had to overcome my fear of people seeing me for who I truly am.  It was a tough week getting that statement out.  One where I was encouraged to write about my journey through psychology, where I saw it going, and who helped me along the way.  I felt like my story was embarrassing.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed of where I came from, that at one point I hated the field, and that my biggest role model wasn't a famous psychologist, but my program head who's given me a passion for learning about the humanistic side of psychology.  To be honest, I can't tell you who came up with which theories in psychology.  But I can tell you, with every fibre of my being, I truly believe that psychology is a human science where we need to start looking at people as people, and take a more qualitative approach to research.

My advice if you're going to apply to grad school: Have people who know what kind of support you need.  These people are not the one's who are going to hunt you down to tell you "it's okay, I believe in you!" , these are the people who you can go to and ask every stupid question you could possible have about grad school.  I sent an email to someone asking what their actual degree was.  I sent another email to someone else asking them what "gr" in editing notes means.  I sent an email last minute to a reference begging him to submit something for me. People who want you to succeed and want you to get to your dreams are out there.  Find them.  And be sure to thank them,  genuinely thank them.  No matter how awkward you think it is, they're going to appreciate it. I promise.

Most of my university "friends" have moved on.

And I've moved on from a lot of my university "friends" too.  I don't have many people in my life right now who I consider to be my friends, but the ones I do have I treasure.  From my graduating year in my program I talk to nobody.  Zero. Zilch.  Why? Because I have nothing in common with these people.  When you take away the classroom there is nothing there.  I think most of them are amazing people, and some are terrible. But you know what? That's okay.  Let's take a moment to appreciate the ones I do still have.

Tristan and I, Last Lecture 2013.
The friends that I have kept from university whom have graduated are amazing people.  Tristan is my rock.  People always assume that we're dating because I literally never shut up about how amazing he is.  We have the most hilarious conversations, and the most sentimental ones too.  For most of last year he lived in my room, and half the terrible feeling of him not being at the same school as me is not waking up to him offering me chocolate when I wake up feeling bitter.  Tristan has been so supportive of me applying to grad school.  He's honest with me about the process, and never leaves out the difficult times that came with his experience.  Before I go into a difficult situation, I call him.  Half the time because I know he will calm me down, and half the time because I know he can make me laugh. 

And then there's Erin.  If you could imagine living with me for a year, imagine doing it in a college residence and you can understand why Erin and me are still friends.  We're not your typical "OMG BFFs", but I would without a doubt consider her to be one of my best friends.  We have a tendency to eat too much food when we're together, and I get to live out the events of being an adult with a full time job through her eyes.  Whenever we meet up she's always asking me how school's going, and we talk about cats more than we should.  Erin is the type of friend who understands how important a bottle vs a glass of wine is, and the type who sends you a pair of Toy Story chopsticks from Japan because she knows you'll love them.  Everyone needs an Erin in their life, to remind you to keep things fun and remember the sentimental details of your friendship.

And instead of being the bitter "goals won't get you anywhere but disappointment" girl that I tend to be, I've become a "let's try them out with a plan for 2014" girl.

I want to actually start to lose weight.  Not to find a boyfriend, and not because my grandma keeps mentioning how chubby I am, but because I want to live to cross everything off of my bucket list.  My plan of action is going to be to cut back on my carb intake, start writing VS eating my feelings, and look for ways to get active that don't involve running (yet).

I want to purge the negative people from my life.  Yes, it's hilarious that the girl I dislike is more miserable than me.  Wow, that guy who broke up with me via text message has less of a life than I do.  At the end of the day, how the hell is this helping my life? It isn't.  I've temporarily shut down my social media pages to try and get my life onto a track where I'm feeling more confident in myself and able to express it at a value that is more than a like or a retweet.  I'm going to go through my facebook and decide who needs to be there, and who can go.

I want to read more for pleasure like I did when I was younger.  There has always been emotional issues in my life, but my way of coping with it was never to go and become bitter, or lay in bed for days on end.  Instead, I would read and give myself an easy way to make progress and change in my life.

I want to drink less.  I'm setting aside a limit of three nights out a month.  It's time to take control of things in my life.

I want to save up money.  I'm going to take a little bit from each pay cheque and put it towards my line of credit, and into a bank account of savings.  I will keep at least half of each pay cheque in a "spend how you please" account.  

I want to blog more!  I've always loved blogging but haven't found what to write about.  I plan on finding inspiration in my life, and on the internet, to help me find something to blog about at least twice a month.

Well 2013, you helped me grow.  You gave me life. And hope.  And a feeling of "maybe I can get through anything" that I never had before.  2014, we've got this.  it's time to shine.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Final Lap

I'm at the point in grad school applications where things are getting increasingly difficult and quitting seems like an easier option than finishing.  The other day, a curious google search of grad school message boards turned into an evening of questioning myself.  Who do I think I am? What makes me think I want to get in?  I've been driven by my passion for the field of psychology.  The voice in my head goes "Passion is not what gets you into grad school, Amanda.  It's good grades.  It's about looking back on all those nights you chose to have a drink instead of studying and about the all nighters you pulled for papers you shoved to the bottom of a to do pile." I feel stupid for applying to graduate school when I see people in the 90th percentile of the GRE applying places, with four years of research experience, and a GPA that makes mine look like I did nothing but have a wild five years of university.

The drive to give up is only further pushed over the edge by a personal statement.  The other day I argued with someone that I'm terrible at self-reflecting.  I understand there's a difference between the two, but a personal statement requires your goals and your interests.  I've only recently been able to do things for myself that many have done their entire life.  Like goal setting.  I used to not make goals, because if you don't set out an expectation you can't fail right?  I also never share my research interests with people, because I've been faced with people consistently telling me "that's  a dying field" or "that's really weird" or "what a waste of money".  Being vulnerable is difficult.  Opening yourself  up to a university and telling them "look, I want to go here.  I want to get into your university and this is what I want to study" is hard, because there's going to be a big pile of rejection that is going to make me feel like I'm not interesting.   I know many people think I'm over thinking a very simple process but for me, it feels like a slow torture.

And up until this point, the drive to applying to graduate school has been difficult, but it's been fun.  It's been challenging myself to do something, but it felt like there was no end in sight so it was easy to do.  But now that the rejection seems real, that feeling of I'm not as special as I think I am is sitting in, the desire to save myself the pain is fighting to outweigh the desire to carry on.

I'm about to spend the majority of my Sunday suppressing the overwhelming quitting desire in the pit of my stomach to spit out a personal statement for my top school.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Bucket List.

Recently, I was reading a blog post over on Shari's blog where she touched on the amazing things she has accomplished before turning 30.  Shari has been a big inspiration in my life over the last year, and has really inspired me to find the things that spark my interests and go for them.  She's a big believer in dreaming big, and furthermore accomplishing her dreams which has needless to say, inspired me to do the same.  While for many years I've faced a number of challenges with growing up, becoming independent, and having many battles about my responsibilities as a daughter (more on this later), I've missed what living is really all about.

In April, there was a lot of pressure on me to figure out my life and where I was going.  A lot of it was self-inflicted because my friends were headed off to grad school and I wasn't, and a lot of it was people constantly asking me what I was doing with my degree.  It was overwhelming and stressful and I found myself slipping into a spot in my life that was needless to say, not the best.  While the decision to come back to school had been decided, the glamour of becoming a student again quickly faded.  The majority of the month of May I spent in my bed doing nothing.  I wasn't sociable with anyone.  It wasn't that anyone had done anything wrong, I just didn't feel a need to go out and do anything.  I was waiting to go away on my trip to Northern Ontario so I wasn't working and I had no academic or extra curricular activities to keep me busy.  For anyone who knows me, they can tell you that I'm not the kind of girl to do nothing, but after a year where a burn out nearly happened, a lot of people recognized that it was time I had a bit of a break.  And at first the break was really refreshing, but come the fifth season of a show in two weeks, I quickly was losing motivation to make something of my life.

I know what you're thinking "Why didn't you get up? Call a friend to make plans? How come you didn't just go for a walk or something?"  and to be honest, I really don't know.  I literally was only eating dinner with my family because making a box of Kraft Dinner was effort.  There was one week where I showered twice.  When I drank, I became upset and relied on my friend Joseph to comfort me and remind me that I was going to be okay, that I just needed some sleep, that things were going to turn around.  The two am conversations you have with people are the things you really remember when you come out of a dark time, because you're reminded that if someone is willing to stay up until you're asleep that there is at least one person in this world rooting for you.

  Looking back on all of this now, I realize that I was on probably on that cliff of a depressive episode with one foot on the edge and the other quickly sliding.  The choices I made weren't obviously good choices and I was enabling myself to feel terrible by refusing to help myself.

I want to emphasize that I'm not saying that "I had depression" or "depression is as easily cured as finding a motivation to do something" but one of the elders from my trip said our biggest enemy in our lives is boredom.  When we get bored, we should avoid getting into the slump of doing nothing and we should go out and do something.  Go for a walk, help a friend, visit our grandparents, whatever it is to make our minds busy because when we get bored, we end up in trouble.  Mentally, physically, socially, emotionally.

So my motivation for making a bucket list lies in the fact that I never want to be bored.  I don't want to be in a situation where I make myself vulnerable for a mental breakdown.  With genetics against me (there's an 80% chance I'm going to develop bipolar disorder in my lifetime...more on this later too) I don't want to give life more chances to stop me.  I want to live a life that is full, I want to be able to have children one day and tell them all the great things I've done.  I want that little spark known as adventure to always be burning in my body, and I want to take on the challenges it throws in front of me.

So here it is, my bucket list.  Some with explanations, some without.  Happy Sunday everyone.  I hope your day shines bright xo.

Amanda's Bucket List:
Give a TED Talk
Visit every province (Vancouver & Ontario done as of February 2014)
Run in a charity run and raise funds for a cause I believe in
Get my research published
Earn my masters
Earn my PhD
Attend the Brier (this is a big curling tournament in Canadian men's curling)
Own a car
Get another tattoo
See a show on Broadway (preferably Annie for childhood reasons)
Touch the red sand in PEI
Present at a CPA convention
Submit a Post Secret
Send my mom a care package when I don't live at home
Send my brother on a vacation
Travel with my dad to one of the provinces
Make someone a dream catcher 
Get married
Have a family
Buy a house
Adopt a pet
Visit a Disney Theme park
Attend a winter Olympic event (preferably curling for obvious reasons)
Mentor someone
Get a manicure and a pedicure (Birthday Present from Shari, November 2013)
Visit an aquarium (Vancouver Aquarium February 2014)
Teach my niece a skill I have (bowling comes to mind)
Explore Europe

This list will continue to grow.  As will my dreams, my aspirations, my future, and desire to live the fullest life possible. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

The GREs are not the be all and end all.

I don't think there's any amount of words to explain the relief I am feeling right now.  For one thing, my back no longer feels like it's breaking because I no longer have the Princeton Review GRE Guide lugging around with me everything I go.  I have also set my flashcards on my bookshelf and will no longer be trying to integrate words like "laud" and "gregarious" into my vocab anymore.  I have a huge sense of relief lifted off my shoulders.

The GREs were without a doubt one of my biggest things holding me back from wanting to go to graduate school.  The pressure that I put on myself to be perfect or to be the 80 + student is ridiculous even in my eyes.  The thing with the GREs is you cannot be perfect.  From the time I picked up a book to study to the time I hit "submit scores" I knew my score was not going to be perfect.  At the same time, I wanted to be above the norm.  I wanted to stand out and make my application shine like nobody's business.

But the thing is, as time went on and I did practice test after practice test not only from the ETS Powerprep software and from the Princeton review website I quickly realized I wasn't going to get these outstanding scores I wanted.  I was scoring a few points below the 50th percentile on all the tests I was taking and was growing more and more frustrated.  The thing with the GRE is you get yourself into a mind frame that if you don't do well on these it is the be all and end all of your grad school application.

This is not the case.  It is a portion.  All my applications require another four things to get me into grad school, and while GREs are a big part I still have:

My GPA: It's not the highest, and it's not the lowest.  In some cases, my GPA has made me cross a school off my potential list.  But I consider the overall mid B average and last year A average to be enough to hopefully get me in some where.

My Personal Statement: I have a passion to learn.  I am driven to give back to people and to help them and to change the place that we live in.  There's more than this to my personal statement, but this will be where I shine on my applications because it's a chance for me to show them this is where I come from, this is where I am, and this is where I want to go.

My CV: I have an outstanding CV.  With work and volunteer experience, I'm able to show my future schools what I've done to make myself stand out.  And

My References:  Every person I've emailed to be a reference has been the upmost supportive individuals.  I've given the warning that they could have to write up to ten, and this doesn't turn them away.  These are people who have watched me grow.  At least two of them have seen me at my worst, and all three of them have built me up to be an amazing person.  They know my potential.  They've seen me work my ass off and know that I have the ability to think things through logically.  They believe in me and that my friends, is what has managed to get me this far in the application process.  They tell me to go for my dreams, to get out and travel, to take the opportunity to go to the states and pack my bags.  None of them have held me back, they haven't told me where to apply to or where not to, they've listened to everything I've had to say about grad schools. And that, is A LOT.

The GREs took me a little under four hours to write.  I came out of the room with my eyes watering from staring at a computer screen so long and the biggest craving for pasta.  I looked at my phone to see encouraging messages from peers and mentors.  While I didn't have outstanding scores (152 Verbal and 146 Quantitative, waiting for analytical and these are tentative), I'm proud of them.  My friends and peers and mentors are proud of them.  And while I try not to value myself based off a score I'm holding my head high and screaming I'M AVERAGE.  Because with this under my belt, I feel like I am unstoppable in applying to grad school.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Discovering myself

One day someone told me I needed to figure out what inspired me to keep me going and I nodded my head and sipped my tea acknowledging them. Less than three months later I found myself sitting in an office with someone who told me the same thing and a wave of tears rushed over me.  Why? Because I had no idea what inspired me.  I had no idea what I was passionate about and it made me feel like I did not have a pathway in life.

Finding what inspired me and what I'm passionate about has been a journey.  I've tried to fit into these boxes my friends have made in regards to what their passionate about and what inspires them. It worked for me for a short period of time, and then I would become bored and not the least bit interested in things anymore.  This year, things seem to be different.  This year in addition to being a year to improve academically has been about a year improving emotionally.

What I found out about me #1: I actually love psychology and HATE social work.
 For the past year I've been telling people I'm going to become a social worker.  I convinced myself this was going to be the perfect pathway for me and I was going to find a job and help people.  The thing is, I actually hate social work.  Most of the social work classes I took were heavily psychology based and I convinced myself from this that I wanted to be a social worker.  I have many wonderful friends who love social work and will be great social workers (shout out to Tristan) but it's not for me.
   Social work is not all about therapy.  Social work is like this giant puzzle involving social policy, and justice, and a variety of issues including therapy. I realized I want to be a person who spends their entire day listening to people's stories.  Listening to what they have to say and guiding them to empower themselves.  This is what counselling psychology is all about.  I want to be able to handle mental health issues like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, this is where clinical psychology comes about.
   And once I realized this is where my passion lies, I became inspired to find a grad school.  I'm not talking Google search: APPLYING TO GRAD SCHOOL IN PSYCHOLOGY, I'm talking buying a 980 some-odd page book and reading it four or five times to bring it down to 10 grad school choices among Canada and the USA.  I met with multiple professionals who have gone to grad school and picked their brains about their application process and kept finding out information.  When I became inspired, I worked my butt off to get to my goals.

What I found out about me #2: I am inspired by hard working, humorous women.
  I never really had a mentor in my life from the university stand point of my life.  My mother has raised me to be a hard working, humorous, hard headed lady but it's always good to have more than one person to look up to.  On a trip up north, through many tears, I poured my heart out to someone for the first time in my life about how frustrating it is to have parents who don't understand the academic world as badly as they want to and about how nobody ever says their proud of me.  In the course of 15 minutes a person who barely knows me was able to highlight all the ways that I reminded her of herself.  I became inspired, that if someone has gone through these things and has come out of it to be a badass female, then I must be able to do it too.
   And then I have a mentor who has been in charge of a big volunteer group I worked with last year and now is one of my bosses.  I admire her hard work, her hilarious personality, and her ability to be an ear and empower you.  She doesn't solve your problems for you, she gives you ways that you can move forward and coaches you to how you can be better. She is adventurous and the lessons she has comes from years of being an amazing student life professional who has travelled and embarked on many adventures. She helped my confidence grow over the last year, and every conversation with her ends with me hoping that I can be as amazing as she is some day.

What I found out about me #3: I have the ability to change the world.
  I never knew that I inspired people until someone told me they looked up to me.  I never thought people could see me as a counsellor or going to grad school until I asked someone.  I am a listener.  I am someone who will take the time out of her day to hear your story and not talk over you.  I will provide you with a hug when you need it and give you the tough love you need.  I am empathetic, not to the annoying point of "I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL BECAUSE THIS ONE TIME I..." but to the point I can assure you that I hear what you have to say.  I have the ability to pick up my bags and move and get an education with an adventure attached to it.  The little things I do inspire other people now, and will continue to inspire and empower people for as long as I can.

Discovering myself is painful at times.  It means breaking down the tough walls and having sensitive moments.  But it's worth it.  It's so worth it to finally discover things that make me happy and that I find myself wanting to work towards.  I know as far as theories such as Erikson is concerned I'm way behind on the development scale.  I spent my adolescent years trying too hard to grow up and handle problems too big for my age then discovering myself.  This is my time to do it.  Where I'm as free as a bird and as willing to learn as I ever see myself being.