Trying to find your place in this world is hard… but sometimes things snap into place when you least expect them.
So I’ve been super sick since Monday. I was sitting in my favourite class, and then suddenly my heart starts racing, I’m out of breath, and my limbs are tingling. Thankfully the class was ending, and I was able to keep it in until the prof was done… at which point I ask for an ambulance.
Anyway, long story short, they couldn’t find anything immediately urgent with me but I can barely manage to get showered, do dishes, or generally being out of bed for more than 20 minutes. Still not sure what’s wrong with me but I have been resting, by force honestly. I’m seeing my doctor on Tuesday, when hopefully she will send me on a bunch of tests to figure out if I have cancer, heart disease, or something else just as terrifying. Or not.
So yesterday I decided to do literally nothing. I put on American Dad on Netflix (thank god there are like 11 seasons! Binge watching paradise!) and just tried to relax. I stopped thinking about school, about the pressure to get into honours, about the difficulty of getting into clinical psychology. I have been doing rather badly in one of my courses, and I have been worried that it will completely screw my chances of getting into honours–and therefore into psych grad school.
It’s been a difficult semester trying to make decisions about my future. Being a freelance writer, although fun, is just not fulfilling enough intellectually. But the thought of sitting and listening to people, day in and day out, just… doesn’t quite fit either. I’m more of a loner. I like to read, analyze, synthesize, and communicate. I want to make a difference, but maybe there’s another way to achieve that, a way that’s more suited to my personality and skills.
When I decided to go back to school, I had a couple of requirements for choosing a profession: that it would allow me to keep writing, that it would not depend on academia for survival (a bad, bad idea given the current academic market) and that it would help me improve sexual and mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA2+ communities.
My work needs to be varied, involved, and interesting. It needs to demand life-long learning and to contribute positively to the world, not just in a pure research way but in a visible, actionable, direct way.
My writing lately has been focused on sexual health issues, and about the inequalities that women and queer people face when trying to access sexual health services. Why are women dismissed when complaining about sexual pain? How can we improve STI outcomes for people with barriers to accessing traditional health services?
In the past few weeks I have briefly flirted with entering medicine (don’t have the science, will never have the science). I also revisited the possibility of law school (too restrictive and competitive for my tastes). But yesterday, as my mind wandered more freely than usual, I started researching nursing, mediation and conflict management… and eventually I ended up on UVic’s Public Health department website.
And then things clicked.
First: Any degree is fine for getting in. No honours required. Not that I can’t do the honours, but honestly I could take it or leave it given that I already have a graduate degree.
Second: It leads to direct professional outcomes (median income around 75k). I CAN do a PhD if I want to, but it’s not required to actually work. I could do a PhD while working. I could get my employer to help fund a PhD.
Third: It’s a field with growing demand, as health needs change and evolve with globalization and demographic changes.
Fourth: It’s a multidisciplinary field that can satisfy my need for wide-ranging intellectual work.
Fifth: It’s directly informed by the needs of the community.
The other day I was talking with someone about my need to balance intellectual work with directly contributing to making the world a better place. Psychological research is too theoretical for me; I enjoy its findings but don’t see myself being interested in doing it for a very long time. Clinical psychology just doesn’t totally fit my need to work on a more intellectual level. Also, I question my ability to actually do therapy work. I find people fascinating but from a distance.
For now it seems like an interesting avenue to explore. I’ve declared a minor in sociology, which I’ve wanted to do since the beginning but had to give up because of the demands of the psychology honours. But I could just as well finish the major in psychology (which requires only 2 more classes in psych) and just take a bunch of social sciences classes based on my interests for my last year.
I don’t think I’ve felt that excited about a career option in a long time. I’m seeing a career counsellor on Monday (hopefully if I can get out of bed), so I’ll be able to discuss this idea and how it fits with my Strong Inventory profile. (I think it does.)
For the past month I’ve been stuck in the “I don’t know what to do” limbo. But now, I think I know where to stand… and what to stand behind.