Hello, friends! WOW, I haven’t chatted with you all in a while, I apologize for that! We are taking a mental health break for the rest of the week, so I have today off, whoohoo! Today I went on a run in my new neighborhood, took a nice shower, washed my dishes, completed my morning skincare routine, and listened to a great podcast. Self-care is the best care, and my mental cup is currently full. I miss you all, Renrenspeakers! Life has been chaotic as usual in the life of this grad student. I want to briefly share with you how I have been doing for real.
My mind at a glance this past semester:
July: Second year – lightweight, a breeze. No more neuro, thank God, so it is much easier, and we have so much TIME. #occupationalbalance.
August: Oh shoot, it is starting to pick up but I’m still chillin.
September: Dang, things are starting to hit the fan, as all these assignments and sudden expectations for shifting our way of thinking have been sprung upon us.
October: Yeah… it’s kinda rough out here.
All this to say, I realized several things so far this semester. First, I don’t think the word “easy” should be used to describe grad school at any stage because that is a façade – at least for me, lol. Sure, there are different levels of busyness that I think my first year and second year demanded, but the more I go through school, the more I realize that nothing should be easy for me. If so, I am doing grad school all wrong because I personally invested my time here to be challenged and to become a better critical thinker, even if it is hard and it sucks. Second, and honestly, I think this is my biggest revelation – I think that suddenly being challenged to think like an OT is a very uncomfortable way of feeling. I believe that this year feels harder than last because, for 25 years, my mind has been trained to study hard, take tests, and repeat. However, being asked “How would you go about this?” and having to critically think while considering the psychosocial components of an individual, their client factors, their environment, AND individualizing it to the person AND always being alert AND practicing a therapeutic use of self AND taking into account barriers to care whether that is through insurance AND so many other nuances is quite difficult. This is a novel way of thinking; my neuronal connections haven’t developed appropriate pathways to readily retrieve these connections. I totally understand that I must trust the process and I do believe that I will make it out victorious at the end of it all. However, I think facing the fact that I really am more Type A than I thought makes thinking like an OT or a healthcare provider, in general, a struggleeeeee.
One of my professors sent out a check-in email last week to see how we were feeling as OT students during the semester. One of the questions that they asked was three words to describe how we are currently feeling, and I included overwhelmed and stressed in the mix (which is typically standard), but the word that I was brutally honest with which made me a bit sad to admit was incompetent. I am not sure if all the life transitions I have been going through also informed my choice of this word, but it was very fitting. That was one of the few times I’ve recently viewed myself as so because I generally feel like I have mostly worked through my imposter syndrome. At that moment, the word incompetent signified that I felt like I was not completing assignments to my full potential and that I was actively skipping opportunities to fully immerse myself in the grad school experience through networking, professors, events, etc. I went home that day and honestly did not really do anything else because I felt the need to reflect on why the word incompetent ground my gears. It is unlearning the perfectionist, people-pleasing complex that I have been conditioned by for so many years now that I believe made me feel extra vulnerable that day. I find that I am hard on myself for not knowing how to solve these case studies immediately and for second-guessing every thought that I have to offer, which is ridiculous because of course I should struggle through it. Weirdly enough, I also felt like the word incompetent was validating because I was able to pinpoint exactly how I felt particularly this semester of grad school. It made me realize that it is okay to feel incompetent sometimes. What matters is just how I proceed to work on that insecurity. That is what I believe will make me a better student, clinician, and person in the future.
I will also share one thing that I feel reinvigorated my momentary weaning passion for the field. Last week, I attended an event regarding pelvic floor therapy, and though this is not a particular niche of OT that I am super interested in, I thought it would be valuable to get a break from the traditional ways of classroom learning and to connect with current practitioners not in academia. I am so glad that I went because it resparked the possibilities of starting my own practice, but it also taught me that I could advocate for myself, market my worth, and make a difference in people’s lives without being bound to the not-so-glamorous side of healthcare such as strict insurance regulations and reimbursement policies. It was just motivating to see another self-starter previously feeling burnt out and taking action to change her life around to do what truly makes her happy. I am sure that at one point she also felt incompetent and hopeless working under someone controlling her opportunities to provide care. Again, what was inspiring was the action she decided to take to change her trajectory. And that, I believe, is what made me accept and normalize feeling incompetent for myself. There is always a way to rise above incompetency, and I have complete power to do so.
Yes, I acknowledge that my thoughts are kind of all over the place because it is reflective of how my semester has been – all over the place mentally and academically! But overall, I can say that I am feeling more refreshed now that I blurted all my thoughts here today, and that I am optimistic that I will be able to overcome my feelings of incompetency as I progress through grad school. Thank you for reading and checking in with me, and for the love and prayers you all send my way continuously. I so appreciate them, and I hope that this word touched you a bit!
Peace and love,