Times are hard, but one must do their best to face them with confidence and positivism. This has been a hard motto to live by for myself during the last two years. I can roughly estimate that the time I started losing motivation was around graduation from college. I had worked very hard to get good grades and learn everything I could so I could get into graduate school. I applied to numerous schools and was offerred an acceptance to each one that I had an in person interview with. So mission accomplished, or so I thought.
There was one school that I had a very strange feeling about. The school itself was focused more in social activism than by following any up to date research. However the campus was beautiful and resided in a forest just outside of Portland, Oregon. The school had a group interview and it was not a pleasant experience. The questions were hardly related to psychology, and were mostly framed with privilege and racial injustice. Now there is nothing wrong with having an education that works around these topics, but it was not apparent that they focused on anything else.
Being a minority myself, it was easy to speak about racial injustice and how it can affect one’s mental health. My work in social work later on only showed me how racial inequality plays such a major role in mental health. But I wanted to learn therapy techniques, study the DSM, and about general research and experience in the therapy field. I was the only minority and the only male in this group interview. Needless to say, the interviewers honed in on me and anything I said they nodded along in agreement. I honestly think I could’ve said anything and they still would’ve agreed. It felt very disingenuous and I knew half way through that this was not the school for me.
Meanwhile I could see the other applicants metaphorically dying, and praying that they would be allowed to attend this school. One poor girl next to me wanted to be a good applicant that when she tripped over her words, she could not stop herself from crying. I saw no sympathy or empathy for the girl coming from the interviewers. Not a great quality of people who are supposed to teach others how to listen and help those dealing with difficult emotions. Ultimately I turned down the program’s offer.
The school which I chose was in an art therapy field. The interviewers were some of the nicest people I have ever met, and genuinely seemed like they wanted to make the world a better place. Unfortunately the school itself had found itself in tremendous debt, and not long after my acceptance did I receive a letter saying that the school was closing. After a summer filled with anxiety, I had a glimmer of hope from the program director saying that she was trying to move the program to another institution. She was successful in her attempt, but wouldn’t you know which school it transferred to, the school I had said no to just a little bit earlier. After some weighing of pros and cons, I dropped my dream of being an art therapist.
Today, part of me is grateful that I didn’t go to grad school because the mental health field is one of the most emotionally demanding fields one could enter. Take it from me, after 1.5 years in social work, I was drained beyond belief. That isn’t to say that I did not feel good about giving back to the community. I had strong bonds with the kids I worked with and it was heart wrenching to say goodbye. However, I do not think that social work is for me. Counseling on the other hand may be an area I still want to pursue. So here I am, essentially lost with no real direction to work towards career wise.
This feeling of working so hard to only feel miserable in the end is depressing. I was always a strong believer in that if you work hard you’ll feel accomplished and happy. It now seems to not be that simple, and the daily grind just has ups and downs. It was kind of naive to think that you can always feel satisfied or happy 100% of the time. I could easily see that in the kids I worked with, but for some reason didn’t think it applied to myself.
But overall I am tired of feeling sorry for myself, and I want to move on. The only concern I have is, where do I take my next step? I may never truly know the answer to that question, but I do know that I have to keep pushing on and I need to cherish and appreciate the things I do have in my life. My fiance has been a great support for me throughout all of this, and it is her that gives me the drive to keep searching. One thing to always remember, life is short, we must do our best to learn and grow while we are here. Try and enjoy it, otherwise what’s the point? It’s never all good, but it’s never all bad.