Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Becoming a psychologist

On July 12, 2011 I finished a journey I started in April of 2003. This eight year commitment is so far the longest single commitment of my life. (Though I'll be married 7 years this year so that's getting close.) When I started this endeavor I was 21 years old and just about to graduate college. At that time I was eager to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had been plotting, planning and praying that I would get into graduate school.
Then I did.
I thought getting in was a big deal. I remember getting the letter offering me a position in the doctoral program. I was so excited that I ran across the quad at IWU to find a few friends to announce the news. I was so excited to be an undergrad going right into a phd program.
Let's be real here, I had no idea what I was getting into. None.
I started graduate school in 2003 and somehow became a pyschologist by the time I graduated in 2009. Along the way I learned a lot about how to understand human behavior and emotions but mostly I learned about myself.
I grew up in grad school. Some people spend their twenties exploring the world, having kids and building their careers. I spent mine taking evening classes, having supervision sessions and teaching undergraduates. It was a lot of school. And there were plenty of times I wondered if I was spending my twenties in the right place.
When I finished each step of grad school I felt so accomplished. But before each step I also felt as though the process would never end. Particularly during the dissertation process I battled a feeling of despair that I would forever be in graduate school. From my anecdotal research this seems to be a fairly common feeling among doc students.
The day I defended my dissertation was a good one. My family attended and for the first time I was able to show them my grad school world in a really authentic way. They also got to hear the supportive and encouraging comments my faculty members offered. I simply remember feeling incredibly relieved after the defense was over. That feeling most characteristic of my experience throughout grad school!
The last leg of this journey was the part I blocked from my mind the longest. I always knew I would have to take a final licensing exam but I managed to put off thinking about for as long as possible. I got a job and even had a baby before I was finally recovered enough from grad school to think about taking the next step.
So I started studying and generally freaking out about the test. I took practice tests and tried to drill myself on random psychology facts. I really hate studying for multiple choice tests. I went through a cycle of emotions ranging from anger to hopelessness.
I was pretty convinced that I would fail the test the first time. But I went ahead and took it despite my doubts. After a grueling several hours I left the testing center feeling as though I had most certainly failed.
But I passed. And I'm told that my license is in the mail.
So there it is, eight years later and I'm finally a licensed clinical psychologist.
So now on to the next adventure!

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