02 September 2009

The Second Go-Round...

We've all been there, and we've all thought we needed to know the answer right away. It seems that now, high school graduates are supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives well before the time they graduate. By the time they enter as freshmen in high school, it appears they're expected to have a whole course mapped out for their future lives. My question is how can they possibly know how they will want to spend the rest of their lives? They don't even know themselves well enough by the end of high school to know the answer to that.

I must admit that there are a small number of children who, apparently, emerge from the womb knowing what God's plan is for them, but I'm not one of those people, though I thought I was for a very long time. There's no denying that a great number of high school graduates believe that they know what they want to do. They want to change the world, they want to be a teacher, they want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist. It seems, however, that all too often, we hear of those great aspirations turning to a life of mediocrity and discontentment.

Then, there are those people who happily sacrifice aspiring careers to have a less exerting career for their families. Those who do this are brave and wonderful people who are willing to accept those sacrifices in order to spend time watching their children grow and spending those all-too-important formative years with them. To those who choose this, I applaud. That life is not a life of mediocrity, as any mother or father who has raised a family can vouch for.

How is it, though, that we can know by the time we are 18 years old, only barely old enough to cast a vote, how we will spend that time between graduation, college, and family until we do eventually find the right person with whom to begin a family life, and what do we do after for those of us wanting to be working parents? I thought for a very long time that I knew the answer to that question. I thought I should know and had to know and DID know what it was I wanted to do to support not only myself, but also my future (and existing) family.

I wanted to be an astrophysicist. From the time I was in 9th grade, I wanted to study the stars and the celestial beings in the sky! Naivety is suiting for a high-school student, but for an entering freshman at Louisiana State University (who is prepared to take a heavy load of classes to attain that goal, I might add), it isn't such a good trait.

I began my trek into physics and astronomy at LSU the fall of 2002 sauntering into my first Astronomy class full of self-importance and confidence, thinking I was starting on the path to my brilliant career in astrophysics. Wow, was I ever wrong and ill-prepared for what I was getting into. I did extremely well in all my classes, but the lab was a killer. Inputting data into an excel spreadsheet in order to make advanced calculations that would probably take an hour manually, I realized, "This is not for me!!!!"

All at once, it came crashing down upon me that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do now! I had spent the past 4 years planning my life around being an astrophysicist. How on Earth was I going to choose something else? Then, an epiphany! I'm going to be a child psychologist! That's the ticket! I'll do that, and get to study the brain and processes of thought and function and all these good things that you learn in psychology, and then people will pay me to help fix their problems! Yeah...

Long story short, I spent the following 3 and a half years taking Psychology courses, enjoying them fully, planning for a history minor and Italian minor. It was wonderful. Until my final semester. I don't want to go to graduate school for child psychology! All the education and time and financial aid came flying through my head. Oh, we'll make this work, alright. I'm graduating in 4 years...I'm not going to waste all of this money my parents spent, all the time and effort and energy I put into school for the past 4 years. I'm going to USE this degree darnit if it's the last thing I do!! So I chose Marriage and Family Therapy! I'll help families stay together, that's what I'll do!

Despite my excellent GPA and decent GRE score, I didn't get into LSU's Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program due to an oversight. So I did the next thing...I got a job. This job, I loved! I became a Polysomnographic technician at Louisiana Sleep Foundation. I worked with great people, I got to work at night (to which I was already accostomed, what with being at a party school for the past 4 years), and I got to work with patients in a hospital setting. I watched EKG's and EEG's all night watching the varying stages of sleep and watching as someone finally is able to get a decent night's sleep because their sleep apnea is "cured" so to speak because of a CPAP or BiPAP.

After a short six months there, I got into the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's School of Social Work. I was excited! I was moving out on my own and was going to get to experience life in another state, get another perspective AND get my MSW so that I could become a marriage and family therapist! Wouldn't this be great!!! Sure, right...since I still had absolutely no idea if that was what I should be doing or not.

Needless to say, after a year in the program, I decided that Social Work wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be. I was quite disappointed in the lack of empiricism involved in Social Work, and, though it is a great career for those who want to help others, it just wansn't for me. I was trained for four years in the empirical method. Evidence-based Social Work, just doesn't come up to par when the "Scientific Method" has been drilled into your head for over 8 years.

I, thankfully, had a wonderful little job that I enjoyed. I had great bosses and fellow employees, but it just wasn't where I needed to be. However much I enjoyed working there, my soul knew I was made for more...I knew that allowing that to be my stopping point was selling myself short in the long run, despite the loyalty for and obligation to the company for whom I worked. It was a job to help me on my way to wherever it was I was headed. I learned invaluable lessons having worked there and made wonderful, life-long friends there as well.

Fast-forward to today. I am now twenty-five (and a half), working for my cousin, which I love, but I still know that settling here in this job will be settling for mediocrity. After some soul-searching, getting lost, being found again, and lots of thinking, I've finally decided on the correct path for me. It's something I've often thought about over the past fifteen-years or so, but something I never thought would be either plausible or practical. Lo and behold, I've found out that it is not only plausible AND practical, but also attainable!

Looking back now, I was completely and totally unprepared for graduate school the first time around. I should have stayed where I was until I had made a final decision on what it was I wanted to do and should do, instead of just jumping out at the next thing that I thought I HAD to be doing. I have a sort of history of rash behaviour, the details into which I will NOT delve.

Despite the misdirection and rash decisions, I don't regret that decision I made almost three years ago, now. Had I not decided to move here and attend school, I would never have met the wonderful friends and family I have here in Little Rock nor would I have found out just exactly what I'm supposed to be and just who is supposed to be with me on the journey to that point and all points thereafter.

After all, it is in making mistakes that we learn, in loving the wrong people that we appreciate the right ones when they come along (or never left), and in weakness that we truly find our strength.

Thank God for rash decisions. Thank God for second chances. And thank God for the everyday problems we find that bring us closer to Him and each other.

This time, I'm prepared. I'll do it much better this second go-round.

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