When I reflect on my first semester of graduate school, I imagine myself on struggle bus headed to absolutely nowhere. I mostly say this to be funny, but there was a great portion of the semester when I was clueless. Figuring out what to do with the rest of your life is hard, especially when you were rushed to become an adult so fast.
I am only 21 years old, but I feel like I should have everything figured out by now. However, news flash- nobody really knows what the heck is going on. To someone who has OCD and is a perfectionist, this is a very difficult pill to swallow. However, I am finally at a place where I have come to terms with not knowing what I want to do 100%, and that is okay.
If I sit down and think about the challenges I faced this semester, I would spend hours writing out the list. However, if there is one thing I learned from my time as a Student Affairs major, growth happens when challenges are met with support.
I have to go through cognitive dissonance to develop, and this semester was FULL of cognitive dissonance. I entered a graduate school program with so many false assumptions. This is partially due to being the first in my family to go to grad school, but I also have myself to blame for not doing enough research.
I have always placed great importance on obtaining an education because I have seen how much it can change a person’s life. Learning has always been one of my absolute favorite things to do. It does not matter what class I take, I find myself captivated by knowledge, and the way different fields organize information.
I love school but just the school part, not the social aspect. Therefore, when I discovered that SA focuses on student development more so outside the classroom, I panicked. I hate making the wrong decision because change is difficult for me because I attempt to plan everything out. Sometimes, though, life does not care about your plans.
During class, I would sit in awe and jealousy of my peers’ passion for the field. I wanted to be as passionate as they were about the major, but that is not me. At first I assumed that I was experiencing imposter syndrome that would eventually fade away. However, with each new assignment I have become increasingly aware of my feeling that something was missing.
This is not something I take lightly, and I talked to so many different people that I trust about it. One thing remained the same- I am either really all in for something or not at all, and I did not feel that my heart was in it for the long run.
Well, plan A did not work, so now I have to find a plan B. I tried to pick an online program that would be easy to complete. However, a few trusted professionals urged me not to settle, so I went back to the drawing board.
I took some time to self-reflect, and I found that I really miss the field of psychology. I have loved every single psychology course that I have ever taken, and I miss being so passionate about my major, but I also found myself captivated by learning.
I struggled tremendously with this sort of identity crisis. My mental and physical health crippled to some of the worst pain I have ever experienced. Still, I made it, and I am so appreciative of the support from my family, professors, classmates, and counselors.
If there is one thing that student affairs is definitely doing right, it is that they know how to show a girl some support. Hearing the struggles of others around me made myself more comfortable with my own personal trials.
Some people say “fake it till you make it,” but this can only go on for so long. I have a habit of choosing safer decisions that reduce possible anxiety. This is probably because I have some serious issues with self-doubt, but it only sets me up for more stress in the long run.
Choosing a major in a field that I was not fully committed to only made my first semester of graduate school so much more difficult on myself. I did it again this semester when I tried to join an online graduate program.
I knew deep down that I wanted to do graduate-level psychology, but the classes might be hard, graduate assistantships would be limited, and jobs might not exist close by. I now know that making decisions based on what is easy only makes life harder, so it is better to face the tough decisions head on.
After making my life so much more difficult than it had to be, I finally stopped fighting my inner voice and anxieties of what-ifs. It is such a freeing experience, and you can do it too.
Anyone else feel pressured to have everything figured out? Let me know in the comments. Vent your frustrations.