How Did Occupational Therapy Find Me?

Hello, friends! As you may already know, I am currently a pre-OT student who will FINALLY begin pursuing my journey of obtaining my doctorate in Occupational Therapy later this year! (Well, I don’t know if I am still technically “pre-OT” because I’ve already been accepted to and committed to a program, but you get the point)

SO. How did I stumble upon this career?

As a young child, I always envisioned that being a pediatrician was the path for me because:

1) my Congolese immigrant parents highly hinted at the fact that some of the most desirable jobs to have included becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer (it is where the money is at after all, right? Anyone else can relate to this narrative?)

2) I killed it in school, thriving in all subjects including the sciences

3) I looked forward to going to my doctor’s appointments

4) Children were super cute to me, fun to play with, and always keep things interesting

5) Untold Stories of the E.R. and related shows on TLC were always strangely addicting to watch. I truly felt that if I could handle watching these shows, I would be an INVINCIBLE doctor!

However, I had NO idea what the path of going to medical school ACTUALLY consisted of. In high school, it seemed like I was already ‘late’ to start my path of getting into medical school. Compared to the aspiring high school pre-med students at my school, I was not actively seeking hospital internships, connecting and networking with local doctors, or taking a surplus of community college courses to make myself stand out for college admissions. Additionally, I personally did not see myself being content with trading in many years of higher education to pursue a career that I slowly realized I was not actually passionate about, especially considering that I really needed to be ready to invest my time and money.

Now now, no shade to current medical doctors or anyone who is on the pre-med track because all power and respect to them (after all, technically I am gonna be a doctor too, but I digress). However, what I DID know was that that I thoroughly enjoyed learning about all-things human development, education, and psychology. My parents both gravitated toward the social sciences for their college degrees, so I figured that I was bound to become a teacher or a counselor. Yet, these professions also did not seem to quite fit what truly aligned with my passions and my vision for healthcare.

As I meticulously picked out my college major (fun fact: I was a psychology major for the first two weeks of college because the thought of becoming a psychologist crossed my mind for a short period of time), I simultaneously frantically researched other health-related careers on the wonderful world of Google. There, I stumbled across a career that I had never heard of before – occupational therapy! I clicked on American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)’s website for the definition of occupational therapy, and the first thing that stood out to me was: Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” not, “What’s the matter with you?” What the heck did that mean?? I was intrigued, so I began to do my research.

Fast-forwarding to my college years, I finally got my first opportunity to shadow an occupational therapist at a healthcare-related internship. At the first clinic I shadowed, my shadow OTs discussed extensively with me and their patients diagnoses and anatomical terms I had no knowledge of such as carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi radialis. I was astounded by the wealth of knowledge that these OTs harbored and how confidently they did their job. I thought to myself, “How would I even BEGIN to commit all of this knowledge to memory?” Anatomy sounded like a whole other language to me. Though the explanations of the patients’ diagnoses were quite difficult to follow (at the time I did not take anatomy and physiology, so I was really lost), patients continued to rave about the tremendous impact that occupational therapy had made on their lives. The answer to the question What matters to you? now became much more transparent in how I viewed occupational therapy.

Occupations and activities that mattered to the patients I observed included writing, playing the guitar, holding a microphone to sing, and dressing. To me, these activities appeared to be seemingly simple to accomplish. Yet, I learned that being unable to do these ‘simple tasks’ can truly affect a person’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, especially if these activities influence their identities and their esteem. I initially did not understand why one patient I encountered continued to express such gratitude toward what appeared to be an OT merely helping him ‘stretch his hand muscles.’ However, him being able to use his hands to hold a guitar properly meant that he could resume his occupation as a guitar player and compose music, a passion that brought him personal life fulfillment.

So, why OT? Occupational therapy is an incomparable field that empowers people to be renewed physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually by always centering the question What matters to you? in patient care. Occupational therapy interlocks a multitude of disciplines that all excite me – biology, psychology, and sociology, to name a few. Occupational therapy truly gives people hope, purpose, fulfillment, faith, and productivity. With that being said, I personally have a lot of plans within the field of occupational therapy that I anticipate exploring, just you wait!

Peace and love,

Irene

My Mid-20s ALREADY?

Hello, friends! Sooooo earlier this week was my birthday! A family friend’s child came over to our house last week and asked me the popular question: “How old are you?” When I told her that I was 23 years old, she literally did a double-take and cried, “I thought you were 18 max!” As I laughed (to be completely transparent, her astonishment hit me a bit), a few things ran through my mind. 1: My elder years are going to bless me really well, and 2: I really do navigate the world thinking I look grown when folks think otherwise. I thought it was rather comedic that she thought I was so young. But hey, being a tiny person like myself with such a youthful face, I can’t even blame her for assuming I was a high schooler.

After doing my research (a quick Google search), the general consensus agrees that age 24 is considered ‘mid-20s’. It is rather hard to believe that I am here, now officially embarking on my mid-20s. I don’t usually feel ‘the change’ in age immediately when my birthday rolls around. However, I did stumble across this article pointing out some realities that occur when a person processes the concept of ‘being 24.’ Of course, everyone goes through their own journey and experiences at every stage of life. However, some points I found rather relatable and amusing about my new big age were the following:

  1. Wondering how your parents had you around your current age and you thinking that could NEVER be you at this moment.
    • YES, YES, AND YES to this point! My mom LOVES to say, “When I was your age I was married, had two children, and was running this house.” Yes Mother, I totally understand this and all power to you, truly. HOWEVER, times are completely different now and shoot, I still feel like a kid myself! Therefore, this could NEVER be me at this age.
  2. Beginning phrases with ‘I’m too old to…’.
    • I have found that I’ve been saying and definitely feeling this phrase more frequently, particularly with the kids that I work with. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how high-energy kids just are. It has become even more apparent that I am struggling to match their energy when I am trying to catch up with them by jumping on a trampoline for ONE WHOLE HOUR or playing an endless game of Tag. To think that I now have kiddos asking me, “What is an iPod?” just further illustrates that times have truly changed.
  3. Beginning to truly realize the values of your skills.
    • This point has become more salient in my daily life in the last year. It is now during this time that I can admittedly acknowledge that I really do have multiple skills worthy of being utilized! Pinpointing these God-given skills of mine has helped shape the mindset that I plan to embody in its entirety for 2021 (check out my previous post here for more insight).
  4. Growing into your love and connection to music – so much that a childhood classic could have you in tears.
    • Don’t get me started on my CHILDHOOD CLASSIC – the entirety of The Cheetah Girls 1 – 3 soundtrack! It has my whole heart! The appreciation runs way too deep. As I get older, the messages they convey are completely applicable to my interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Side note: When I tell you that I am a Cheetah Girls fan, again, it is not a joke. Check out my tribute to them here.
  5. Noticing changes in your body and realizing that nutrition, exercise, and skincare are actually much more vital than we initially thought.
    • Retweet to the fact that nutrition, exercise, and skincare are more vital to my overall wellness than I previously gave credit for. For instance, I used to eat an entire mug-full of cookies and cream ice cream (I kid you not) EVERY SINGLE DAY when I ran track and field during high school. The wildest part? My body was chilling the whole time! Now, catch me even attempting to eat a bag of Takis an hour before bedtime – it is over. The bag of Takis always wins, and my body and my skin attack me for disrespecting it.
  6. Becoming completely cognizant that you can’t change people so you realize that it is better to direct this energy on investing in yourself instead.
    • The older I get, the more obvious I see this point reign true. Though I can wish, hope, and even attempt to change someone for what I see would benefit them (and I can tell you countless times that I am guilty of this), I’ve come to realize that I greatly need to protect my energy. To give and give to people who merely drain my energy and do not reciprocate is never a productive use of my time. Unfortunately, more often than not, I end up getting burned out or feel that I’ve been taken advantage of. Life is too precious to not invest in myself wholeheartedly. Surrounding myself with people who do not uplift me, challenge me, or contribute to my growth gradually becomes a thing of my past as I grow older and learn the importance of centering myself.

Though I may not necessarily exhibit some of the very ‘traditional milestones’ of 24 normalized in society, the beginning of this new era in my 20s include some major life markers coming up for me:

  1. Moving to a different state.
  2. Beginning graduate school.
  3. Figuring out how to become financially self-reliant.
  4. Transitioning to achieving my actual career aspirations.

Overall, I am blessed to have made it to another year! I am almost a quarter of a century old, ah! Am I ready for these major life events to occur? Time will tell. However, I do look forward to exploring what the rest of my mid-20s has in store for me.

Peace and love,

Irene

2020 Reflections and 2021 Projections

Happy New Year, friends! We are in the second year of the new decade! I’d love to share with you my year-in-review of 2020, as well as how I am feeling about this new year.

I know that 2020, like for most folks, was a difficult year in so many ways. I want to express gratitude for being alive and healthy because many folks cannot attest to the same state of being. My physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being vividly shifted each month. In a nutshell, my 2020 panned out to manifest in the following:

January, 2020: I was sitting on the sand at one of the beaches in Cabo, Mexico completely relaxed and in great serenity. I claimed this year to be ‘my year’ – a year of self-love, self-care, and self-awareness. I felt inspired, confident, and ready to take on this year that I manifested to be my glow-up year. Making my thoughts, feelings, and actions were going to always be my priority.

February, 2020: I underwent a great deal of lingering, unresolved hurt that forced me to make a difficult decision in order to healthily put myself first. Though removing toxicity in my life was difficult, it was very necessary for my own mental and emotional well-being. I learned how to establish boundaries for myself that helped me shed the ‘people-pleaser’ demeanor that I’ve traditionally presented in my social circles. Saying ‘no’ became an empowering word that I could now vocalize confidently.

March, 2020: The beginning of the month was a period of rebuilding myself emotionally and mentally. However, I was put into a sudden unrecognizable state of fear and uncertainty when life became everything other than ‘normal’ with the reality and frightening impacts of COVID-19 to my surrounding community and to the overall American population. The week before everything shut down, I was in Napa, California, uttering the at-the-time common belief that I was ‘invincible to the virus’ and that it was just like the flu (which a lot of people don’t realize can be deadly as well). Ooo, was I ignorant!

April, 2020: This continued fear, uncertainty, and paranoia plagued my mind, my social circles, and my overall community. However, I began to find some comfort in knowing that I was not isolated in my fears and sadness regarding the pandemic.

May, 2020: I slowly adapted to redefining ‘normalcy’ in my life given the circumstances that the pandemic allowed me to. I also began to see people on my social media expose themselves left and right in regards to if they truly thought that All Black Lives truly do matter. I saw a LOT of performative allyship, which felt like a mockery of my Blackness.

June, 2020: I felt more immense hurt, anger, brokenness, hopelessness, and a lack of safety and security as a Black person in this country. I also learned the vitality of conserving and protecting my energy during this month.

July, 2020: I had a deep talk with God and looked within myself to realign my priorities and redefine my goals and ambitions. Eliminating distractions was necessary, especially since I was shifting into a new chapter of my life that would require focus, dedication, and faith to succeed. I worked on becoming remotivated to rechannel my January state of mind.

August, 2020: Nervousness and self-doubt crept in as pivotal life realizations became more apparent each day.

September, 2020: I rebuked the spirit of self-doubt and exchanged it with increased self-confidence and optimism.

October, 2020: A disciplined mindset shift for myself resulted in finally seeing some personal accomplishments come into fruition.

November, 2020: Feelings of burnout and stagnancy began to manifest. I began yearning for the next big move in my life.

December, 2020: Though still dealing with some burnout, I became reinspired, reawakened, and most importantly grateful that I made it to the end of the year.

Overall, I have grown and developed in so many ways that I did not anticipate in 2020. I feel that I have redefined purpose and have tapped into other callings shown to me. At the beginning of the year, I scribed in my passion planner some of my most important personal goals that I had for my immediate future. I didn’t know at the time whether or not I would achieve them in 6 months, 1 year, or 3 years (as it is laid out in the planner). However, I want to highlight a few of the most important goals that I’m happy I was able to achieve:

  1. Traveling abroad again 
  2. Getting into occupational therapy school 
  3. Paying off the entirety of my college student loans 
  4. Exploring photography more 
  5. Connecting with folks and building relationships beyond my spheres of influence 

Now, for the year 2021, I don’t necessarily feel as if I have any concrete “New Year’s Resolutions.” Sure, I aim to survive and hopefully thrive in OT school, continue to save money, and exercise more. However, I am actually focused on claiming words and attitudes that I hope to embody and exemplify in all that I do. I project that for 2021, my words will be the following: intentionality, purpose, and self-elevation.

I aim to be intentional in my relationships and my actions, purposeful in the way that I use my energy and how I navigate my surrounding community, and elevate myself by continuing to discover and utilize my multiple passions, talents, and gifts.

I anticipate 2021 being a year of change specifically for me, for I will be going through a LOT of new life changes. However, I believe that being intentional, purposeful, and elevating myself consistently will keep me grounded during these changes.

With all being said, I hope that y’all claim, manifest, and speak into existence blessings for your new year as well. ✨ 

Peace and love,

Irene

HELLO – New Blogger Alert!

Hello, everyone! I am SO excited to finally be achieving one of my many goals for 2021 – starting a blog! I have been feeling in my spirit that I need to start documenting and reflecting on my life through some sort of media, yet I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to do so. I thought about a vlog (which I am still not opposed to starting up but I would need to become an expert at video editing software), and I thought about a podcast since apparently I like to talk a lot! I even took to Twitter a few months ago and created a poll to help me decide what I should use to reach folks. I THINK that podcasting might have won, so I will surely be revisiting this soon. However, I always had a passion for writing. I always wrote too dang much in school and in my free time, whether that was creating fictional stories as a kid or going pages past the page limit in my school essays. I actually attempted a blog once when I was in high school, but I believe that I quickly quit my blog because I felt as if I was too busy to continue it (to think that I didn’t have time to write in high school, what a time). But I am BACK on this platform – grown and more interesting than before (at least I’d like to think I am).

I want to preface my first post with the goal of my blog. I am merely a Black gal out here wanting to share with you all my life adventures, reflections, thoughts, and vibes. My original plan was to begin this blog right at the beginning of my journey as an occupational therapy student, which I will be embarking on in mid-2021. However, 2021 will be my continual journey of self-elevation, so I figured, why not start now?

I hope that by reading my words, y’all are able to connect with me in different facets of your life, laugh with me (or at me, lol!), and reflect with me. I don’t necessarily have a particular topic as of right now that I will continuously be writing about, but who knows what I will decide to hone in on in the mere future.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words!

Peace and love,

Irene