Hello again! Not gonna waste time explaining where the hell I’ve been, because let’s be honest: on-again, off-again is just the type of blogger I am. Today I’m gonna stretch my writing muscles and give you a big ole ‘Life Update’ post in the form of stream of consciousness gibberish.
Y’all know that I recently graduated from my Masters program, an achievement that made me feel hopeful and powerful for about two weeks. After that I started getting really bogged down by the ‘now whats’ I kept getting from everyone, mostly because I really had no idea.
I got a Masters because I’m blessed to have access to free education until I’m 26, so I went in with a “why not” attitude. I chose the program I did because I love helping people, I’m passionate about the nonprofit sector, and honestly, because it was online and wouldn’t require me to take out a loan to move somewhere else for a similar program.
Most people assume that my next step is to use my super awesome degree to get a super awesome job and start living like an adult with her life together, but what the fuck do I know about any of those things?
My degree didn’t make me feel prepared to become an administrator, despite the program title. I don’t feel ready to start giving advice to a nonprofit organization about what to do with their money or how to engage with donors. I have more insight than most people, yes, but I have no experience. I’ve volunteered my whole life, but I’m not ready to be in charge of an organization.
Some of that is probably related to my self-worth, or lack there of. I’ve struggled with that my whole life, but I don’t know how to separate out the feelings of not valuing myself or my knowledge and the legitimacy of not having a clue what I’m doing. I’m a student, that’s how I’ve identified my entire life. Never as a leader, never as a mentor, never as a professional. I’m a learner, and it feels like that’s my only strength.
My family jokes about me collecting degrees and putting off being in the “real world” by continuing to study. And of fucking course I am! One, it’s free to be doing so right now and two, my God has it been fun (save my little mishap, aka my big fat F, which we won’t talk about). I love being in school. I love the structure, the atmosphere, the clear objectives: I know what I need to do and what I’m supposed to be getting out of everything I’m told to do, there’s always a very clear goal and a timeline, in the way of small assignments and of larger things like final exams and graduation.
It’s terrifying for me to picture myself in a job with no movement like that. I started my undergrad knowing that in four years I was going to move on to a different degree. I started my graduate study knowing I’d move on after a year, eventually two, but to what? If I start a job, even if I love it, what’s the next step? To stay there? For how long? Forever? I can’t imagine doing anything forever.
And there it is: I can’t imagine doing anything forever.
I guess the way I exist in this world can really be boiled down to that statement and all the repercussions of it can explain a lot about my past: Like choosing a college so far away from home so I got to move every year. Or struggling to commit to relationships because the idea of being tied down to one place, one person, forever was something I just couldn’t fathom- even with friendships.
And what in the world made me this way?
I could write a multitude of posts about that, but really two worlds clear it up for most: Army Brat.
Let’s get back to trauma at hand:
I am massively ashamed of the fact that I have a master’s degree and no direction. I am massively ashamed that I want to get another degree to put off having to make big career decisions. I am massively ashamed of the fact that I wasted time getting a degree when I had no real idea what the hell I was going to do with it. I am massively ashamed that everyone I graduated with has moved onto starting their careers and is doing something productive. I am massively ashamed of the fact that a small piece of my motivation to get another degree was the money- not like future salary boosts, but the stipend the VA gives me for being a student. No tuition and a monthly check for doing something I love that normally puts people in debt? Fuck yeah.
So, I started looking for another Master’s program to deal with all that pesky shame, to have something to say to people when they asked about my next step, to pocket some of my stipend, to put off finding a career, to just be doing something that felt even remotely productive. I was open to anything. I looked for online or local programs because I need to keep my crappy retail job and I need to finish my internship hours. And I don’t want to leave Boyfriend. And I can’t afford to move, honestly.
Nothing I found spoke to me, so I put it on the back burner. I concentrated instead on spending a ton of time with Boyfriend before his deployment and travelling to Ohio and New York for a wedding ( SO FUN). But then Boyfriend left and I got back from my trip and I had to start looking again. Either for some kind of “big girl” job or a new educational avenue.
Nothing was coming to me, I felt like I was just wasting time and again, I felt so much shame. That shame mixed with the lonely feelings and the sadness of leaving my friends after my trip and I just wasn’t productive. I’d go to work, I’d go to my internship, and then I’d hole up at Boyfriend’s house and just feel sorry for myself that I was directionless and lonely and probably stupid and irresponsible for letting it go on this long. I’d talk to my counselor, but my shame kept me from bringing any of this up, instead we’d work through auxiliary problems like my panic attacks.
Then one weekend I went home to spend some time with my parents, because I just couldn’t be alone in Boyfriend’s house anymore and stay sane. While I was home, my dad put on a documentary about PTSD in the United States. It was difficult to watch. Graphic and raw and just personally hard to stomach.
I was messaging Boyfriend while it was on and sharing how disturbing it was, how sad I felt about the treatment of Veterans. Then the narrator started talking about the shortage of mental health counselors not only in the VA system, but in our country. And something stirred inside me. He went on about suicide, about how in 2012, more military members died by suicide than in combat. I was devastated by that, but also suddenly felt driven. I told Boyfriend. He suggested looking into what it takes to become a mental health counselor.
It felt like Divine Intervention, like a huge arrow pointing me in a direction that made sense to me instead of the aimlessness that plagued me with my other degrees. I enjoyed them, sure, but did they ever make sense?
So, that’s the answer. Now I’m going to get another degree, but this time with a plan, with a direction, with a passion that isn’t general to just ‘helping people’ but crystal clear.
And I know I’m going to stumble along the way, probably in the form of self-doubt and fear that I don’t have what it takes to help people- those things already plague me. But I know that this is what I’m being called to do.
Here’s to figuring it out as you go.