Going Back to School, Quitting Your Job
& Not Being Good At Everything.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I've been struggling - really, really struggling - and I am happy to report that things are about to change.

After I was offered two jobs that I considered to be of the dream variety last year, I was told I had to go back to grad school for a quarter. (If you read my blog every now and again, you probably already know this.) Now if you have finished graduate school, you know there is serious celebrating involved with reaching this milestone. I'm talking going out to dinner with your family to your very favorite, and most expensive in town, sushi restaurant while throwing back saki bombs. You may have even thrown yourself a party because, and let's be honest here, there were moments you thought you might never get that degree, moments you almost threw your hands in the air and marched to the nearest Arby's to fill out an application. People can say what they want, but graduate school is hard. Hard to start and even harder to finish. Compounding this difficulty is the fact that most of us have full time jobs by the time we embark on this journey and it's a lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you any different; it's a lot of work.

When you are informed that you have to go back to school once you have already finished, celebrated and told everyone who will listen that you never, ever, ever have to write another research paper for the rest of your life, you may kick and scream and and cry and try to fight this. However, at the end of the day, you chose this career and you worked this hard because it's the one thing you can't see yourself not doing. If you were a cheesier person, you might say this is the job you were born to do, but since you're not, you won't.

As much as I hated having to go back and write more research papers, I was in this position because I fell in love, threw caution to the wind, without a second thought to how it might affect my licensure requirements as a therapist, and moved to the desert. And you know what? It was worth it. Even with all the extra work and hoop jumping and struggles, I would do it all the same. Time and time again, I would do it over.

So, during the fall, I went back to school. I also had knee surgery. Those two dream jobs were a distant memory and I was a girl on crutches in need of a paycheck. Thanks to the help of some very lovely people, I was offered the weekend graveyard position at a psychiatric hospital doing intake. I didn't know the first thing about intake or the fact that working the graveyard would make me actually want to bury myself in one, but decided to give it a go. And I did. I gave it my very, very best. At four in the morning, I faxed and compiled, called insurance companies and held the hands of parents who had to place their children in our care. It looked nothing like therapy and utilized almost none of my skills, but I put as much heart as I could into a job that didn't always care how much I cared. (This is not to imply that my workplace is an uncaring place. Not at all. Intake is just not therapy and therapy is my way of helping people. Period.) And as much as I tried to convince myself that I didn't, I hated it.

On Saturday, after coming home in tears two days in a row, I quit. I quit thirty minutes after receiving an email (at 9:30 on a Saturday night) from one of those aforementioned dream jobs offering me a position out of nowhere. I am very happy to tell you two things. 1) In a few weeks I will be going to bed at midnight - instead of just starting my shift and 2) in a little over a month, I will be what I think I may have always been meant to be - a children's therapist.

This whole experience has been really hard on me, but it has also taught me so much. Do you remember Amelia Bedelia from the children's books? The housekeeper who got almost everything wrong? Well, that was me in intake. It was a whole lot of data entry and paperwork and I somehow managed to fail miserably at almost every task I attempted. Because I am a pretty sensitive person who doesn't like to screw up, I took this failure to heart and thought it was a reflection of me.

Then it hit me. We don't have to be good at everything. We just don't. We have to roll with the punches and make the most out of the times we have the least. We have to try our best. We have to be kind. (And, yes, these are the rules according to me.) What else do we have to do? We have to try and find a way to be happy in times that are sometimes anything but. We have to try to be the best versions of ourselves even during the worst of times. More than anything else, perhaps, we have to discover what we're brilliant at and find a way to give that gift to the world. For me, I have always been great with children. After almost 15 years as a nanny (to over 21 children), I can't wait to take my strengths with kids and parlay that into a career as a children's therapist. Life is too damn short to be miserable and to only focus on what we aren't good at when there is so much we excel in.

I hope that whatever it is you're good at, you find a way to do it. You deserve to be happy. We all do.


  1. Wow, SO happy for you! The path can be long and hard but you can reach your dream!

    I've had ups and downs with a career switch (or may go back to the old field) but it is nice to know dreams come true and I should keep going for it. That and also be happy. I deserve it.

  2. Great post. I'm going to finish my masters this Spring after quiting a job that made me feel like I wasn't good enough. It's a great feeling to know that you've made such a hard and important decision for YOURSELF. Congrats and goodluck! I'm about to embark on having to re-enter the grownup world BUT it was worth it. It has to be.

  3. yikes! as someone who's working on my master's in counseling, i can imagine that would be a nightmare! congrats on getting your dream job. i am so happy for you! XO.

  4. Fabulous post! I'm going through a bit of a life shake up at the moment, and frankly I just needed to read this. I'm so happy for you!

  5. :) i am so happy for you.. it really does give me hope!

  6. Oh, my gosh. I'm absolutely head-over-heels happy for you! This post really touched me (mostly because I'm struggling with my current profession). I love how you said that we don't really have to be good at EVERYTHING. And also, that we all deserve to be happy. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and it's nice to have that reminder sometimes.

    In any case, I'm thrilled you are going to have the chance to fulfill a dream - and, most of all, be at a place that feels RIGHT.

    You are a gem. But you already know that.

  7. Congrats on your dream job what an absolutely thrilling way to begin the new year! I love your advice at the end of this post, as someone who is hardest on myself I can take that to heart.

  8. as a fellow children's therapist without a therapy job, i am so so SO exciting for you!! you have been through so much, struggled so hard, and the universe is finally giving back to you. you are such an inspiration, and i truly appreciate how ridiculously awesome this turn of events is for you. hooray!!!!

    and it's definitely a helpful reminder as i search for a job {even in the state of my licensure}. i see so many social work, case management, and intake jobs and it's so tempting to apply, because hey, i need a job! but i know i wouldn't be happy because none of it is therapy. it's so hard starting out, but i'm going to look at your experience and be patient for that day when i actually get to continue doing what i love. thanks for that!

  9. i'm really happy for you, kathleen.

    yes, grad school is SO hard. i was nearly at the arby's point last spring! i'm super happy (and inspired!) that it's working out for you.

  10. I've been in a hole and just now catching up on Reader/twitter. Congrats Kathleen, I'm so stoked for you!