Monday, January 29, 2007

heartache calls again, dressed in a new suit

I can't remember, but I think it was Cara who said that this whole graduate school application process should be like a dating relationship. Maybe it was Britt or Laura, but whomever said it, I think it was an appropriate metaphor, which I will employ shamelessly in this post. I've put myself out there for several schools, dressed up my assets, in hopes that I can entice them into accepting me. At the same time, as I interview with them, it should go two ways. As they're evaluating me, they should also be wooing me into their program.

Like any dating relationship, rejection is inevitable. I knew it was coming; I just didn't expect it so soon. A couple of weeks ago, a school called me for my first phone interview. You see, this was so early it seemed like really good sign. My undergraduate professors encouraged me that things were looking good. You see, he, this school, was one of my top choices. The moment I went to his website, I felt enticed and excited about being with him. When he called, we seemed to hit it off. I couldn't keep my heart out of it. I started imaging my life with him, even looking up apartments in that town. I knew this was premature, I knew even if he invited me to come see him, there was no guarantee that he would choose me. I awaited his invitation, only to be met with silence. He said he would probably call next Monday, but nothing. (Good Lord, this is all too familiar) Two weeks passed, and I knew that in this case, no news was bad news.

Finally, this morning I emailed the professor I had talked with, to find out my status. The professor promptly replied, informing me that I hadn't made the short list to be invited to the Open House/Interview. While they weren't closing my file and there was a still a possibility of being interviewed, the chances were slim as ten times the number of slots available had applied. My fears were true. I didn't realize how much this school meant to me until I began to feel that I wouldn't be invited. The thought of losing it as a possibility made me want to cling onto it.

Like any heart that's aching, you still hope and dream for the impossible. Maybe that knock on the door is him, returning to you. Maybe the phone will ring, and his name will appear on the screen. Maybe you will bump into one another, in the grocery store, at a friend's wedding, and he will remember what he's missing. But that never happens. This afternoon on my break at work, I saw that I had a call from an unknown number and a message. My heart briefly soared. Maybe, just maybe, I would listen to the message and hear that professors voice, "We made a mistake, we look at your application again, we do want to invite you to come visit!" But instead, I was greeted by my dad's voice, updating me on news from cousins and uncles.

And like any rejection by a potential mate, you begin to wonder if you're still lovable. But as insecure as you may feel and as much as you doubt, you know not to believe lies like that. You know that you are worthy and lovable and that somewhere, is the right one for you. So, today, I will be sad, and maybe again tomorrow, but I will soon awake and look forward to other potential matches. Afterall, I do have a date with another potential in less than three weeks. Will it be magical? Will we be drawn to one another? Will this be it? It's hard to say, but still exciting nonetheless to await my suitors and hope and pray for the best.

It's amazing what a rollar coaster this application process has been and continues to be. One week, I'm stressed and worried that my applications won't make it in alright, and the next week I'm elated to receive two phone interviews. One day I'm relieved and joyous to turn in my final application, and the very next day I'm turned down by one of my top choices. I had no idea how emotional this would be. But I should have known. If it's not a boy, it's this, or a job, or a death, or a friendship, or a fight, or a trip abroad, or an illness, or a child. This is life. My one constant is my Creator and Savior who understands all of this and leads me, despite my fears and doubts and fickleness.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I rejoice as a great weight has lifted from my shoulders

Yesterday, I completed my final graduate school application. This is such a relief, as now I mainly just have to wait, prepare myself for interviews, and pray for wisdom to make my decision by April 15th. It's so strange, in less than three months, I'll be deciding where I'm spending the next four years. Gosh, that sounds familiar! Right now, I can't imagine making a decision like that and I just don't feel ready. But I'm confident that once I visit some of these schools, I'll get more of a feel for what it'd be like going there. Who knows, maybe I'll only get accepted to one place and the decision will be made for me!

For this final application, I had to add a couple of pages to my personal statement. While working on it, it reminded me of what a passion I do have for my chosen career. Here are some excerps from it, for your reading enjoyment:

"My interest in counseling stems from my positive experiences with a counselor during my parents’ divorce. At age thirteen, when most children already feel insecure, I also experienced intense grief and anger. My counselor understood my emotions and taught me about the grieving process that people often go through following a divorce. She encouraged me to focus on the positive aspects of my life. Through her guidance, I found hope and realized my ability to pursue a purpose for my life. Just as my counselor helped me, I wanted to give back by listening to my friends and helping them through their difficult times. In addition, my friends and family always said one of my greatest traits was empathy. Suddenly, I realized the counseling field was an opportunity for me to use the caring side of myself in a professional setting.

I entered college already planning to pursue counseling psychology, but allowed myself opportunities to explore other fields such as medicine and social work. My experience in these fields, however interesting, helped convince me of my original focus. My psychology coursework, volunteer opportunities, and feedback from those close to me have confirmed my original wish to pursue counseling psychology. I want to listen to and guide others through emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually challenging experiences in their lives. I want to gain the skills to identify the sources of my clients’ problems, guide them toward self-awareness, and motivate them to make positive, self-determined changes. My ultimate career goal is to have my own private counseling practice in which I am able to meet the needs of diverse individuals and families. I am thankful to have had many experiences in and outside the classroom that have shaped my goals and taught me about myself, including research, internships, extra-curricular involvement, and study abroad experience . . .

. . . While my interest in research has increased, my true desire has been to work in the service field. Since my sophomore year in college, I have volunteered biweekly at the Warm Place as a group facilitator for a grief-counseling program for children, helping preteens express and process their grief emotions and experiences. As I listen to my co-facilitators and the children I work with pour out their hearts and share their most private emotions, I sometimes find myself feeling their pain. These emotions are often tough, but I do not want to run from them. I want to embrace it and embrace the people because it is a part of who they are, and I desire to understand them. I believe that through this experience, I am learning what it truly means to be human . . .

. . .Even before these experiences, I have desired to reach out and help others in my personal life. As a leader in the Baptist Student Ministries, I was always eager to meet and befriend new students, which led me become a freshmen Bible study leader two years in a row. I felt inclined to make friends with students who others overlooked, those who were shy and unsure of themselves. I believe that everyone has something valuable to offer, and I desired to see these students bloom. . . . In a similar manner, as a counseling psychologist, I will see my job as dealing with the whole person before me. No matter what first impressions my clients give, I will seek out their strengths and challenge them to do the same, as I identify and treat their problems. One reason I have chosen counseling psychology over clinical is its focus on the positive aspects of clients rather than simply their pathologies. . . .

. . . In addition to my involvement with the BSM, another significant undergraduate experience was the five-week study abroad program I attended. My stay in Guanajuato, Mexico was a significant time in my life when I learned to embrace others’ differences. I fell in love with the people of Mexico, their openness, their laid-back attitude, their passions, their smiles, laughter, music, and food. I discovered while visiting a small, poor village in the country that every human being is the same. No matter what we look like or how different our lifestyles are, we still have the same basic needs – to be loved and cared for. Interestingly, I best learned to appreciate diversity from the other American students who were in the program with me. Until this trip, I had never been close to people that were significantly different from me; I had unintentionally surrounded myself with people who looked, thought, and acted like me. In Mexico, I became close to a young gay man, and a young Latina woman from a poor family. For the first time, I listened to the coming out story of a friend, and another friend shared her struggles to balance two distinct cultures. Their views on religion, God, and sex were very different from mine. I discovered that I could completely disagree with someone, but we could still become close and continue to respect one another. Until that trip, I had never met someone that I disagreed with whom I loved and respected so deeply. Since that experience, I have enjoyed befriending others with different backgrounds and ideologies. The openness I learned in Mexico will carry over into my approach as a counseling psychologist, in which I will accept and serve others with a variety of behaviors and beliefs.

I believe I have a spirit of adventure and am willing to try almost anything once. In Mexico, while some of my fellow students picked at the strange food on their plates, I tried anything and everything, including rabbit and cow tongue. If I never try, I will never know what I love and what doors could open. My supervisor at the drug rehabilitation program recognized that I was able to do what she asked without hesitation and was not afraid of making mistakes and learning from them. In my graduate training, I will be willing to try new things, even if I sometimes feel uncomfortable. Experience brings competence. I am enthusiastic about trying new things and adaptable to learn from my mistakes. . . .

. . . I hope to bring my unique personal assets to [your university] and continue its standard of excellence. My strong academic commitment will contribute to the success of your program as I learn, research, and teach. I am an independent self-starter and am able to achieve my goals. My enthusiasm and adaptability will allow me to work in a variety of settings and learn from feedback. My empathic and cooperative personality enables me to connect naturally with others, which will help me during interactions with clients as well as contribute to the friendly environment within your department. Only my fear of failure limits me, which in the past has led me to worry and be indecisive. While I worry more than I should, I do worry less than I used to and believe that I have grown significantly in this area in the past few years. Lately, I have found myself more confident and more likely to try new things even if there is no guarantee for success. I know that I am entering new territory in graduate school and am willing to try new tasks, be flexible, and be open to learning. I look forward to beginning my counseling career and learning more about my passion, and I hope that [your program] will be a part of my exciting future."

Friday, January 26, 2007

venti nonfat no whip white mocha for michelle

This morning we had a customer come into our Starbucks with a card. He told us about a woman, Michelle, who always came through between 8:30am and 9am, and got a Venti Nonfat, no whip, White Mocha. He paid for her drink, and gave us the card to give to Michelle with instructions to tell her that a "handsome, distinguished gentleman" had already paid for her drink. Plus, he handed us a five dollar tip for our efforts :) Well, around 8:30 when I was taking orders, I started asking everyone who ordered a nonfat white mocha, whether it was no whip or grande or whatever, if she was Michelle, but no luck! He came back around 11 and told us that he'd talked to her, and she had come into the cafe with a friend. Woops! At first I thought he was pursuing someone he was interested in, but now I think it may have been his wife, since he talks to her and knows her well enough to know her habits. Either way, isn't that sweet? I thought it was a good idea for a surprise, like something special you could do for someone on their birthday. He said he'd try to do it again next week, since he already paid for the drink, but I sure hope it wasn't her birthday today! I just thought I'd share. Romance is alive and well in the twenty-first century - at least for a handsome, distinguished gentleman and a woman named Michelle.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

the real life adventures of bloggers

I second with Martha, this past Saturday will be a night that I will long remember. This night of Uno's, Styx in concert, clothing and music exchange was significant as the night that myself, Cara, and Christina all met our aptly titled "new old friend" Martha, who's blog we've been reading since this summer. It's funny, because I've found myself talking about Martha as if she were any of my other friends. Also, like with any of my friends, I feel for her when she's hurting and try to encourage her, and appreciate the way she encourages me and rejoices with my celebrations. Before meeting her, I felt inspired by knowing such a beautiful person.

And without knowing it, she is helping me transition through graduation and into the post-college world. That sounds really intense, but I love reading about the life of an older peer (oxymoron?) who had a wonderful college experience, has dealt with many hardships, but is now experiencing much joy and living the full life that Christ has for her. I feel like many of my graduated friends have struggled greatly with this transition or aren't living the life that God truly has for them. Some of these same people discouraged me from graduating early, but I knew this was right for me and I know that life after college with be challenging, but it will be good, and maybe God has sent Martha into my life to remind me of that. I hope so.

So, how to summarize such a meeting? I don't know how to capture and describe the things we shared, the questions we asked, the confessions we made, the stories we told, the music we enjoyed, the jokes we laughed at, the old items we swapped. Instead, I'll share our quest for Styx signatures. Cara, who owns a record collection number about 30, brought her Styx record in hopes of getting it signed. After the show, we made our way first to the front of the stage to ask the crew if we could get signatures, who then directed us to side of the stage. At the side of the stage, Cara talked to an employee who informed us that Styx wasn't coming out for autographs tonight. However, he told her that if we wanted to, we could go around the back of the venue, down an alley, find the tour buses and wait outside to see if they come out. He also mentioned that when we get there, we should talk to a fellow named "Butch." Sweet, we had a name, Butch, we were in like flint (as Cara said). After going back to Martha's orange VW Bug to get coats and gloves, we followed the directions and found the tour buses. Cara found Butch, showed him her record, and explained how we were told to come back here. "Ok," Butch replied, pointing further down the alley, "Go that way." We looked at each other. "That way? Is that where the band is going to come out?" "Just go that way," still pointing. "That way, what's down there?" "Go that way." "Are you asking us to leave?" Yes, in a rude and indirect way, Butch was telling us to get our tails outta that alley. We explained that we came from the other direction, and we'd just go back the way we came. Butch started to follow us, we assumed to escort us, but we told him we'd be able to find our way back fine.

We should have known that "Ask for Butch" was not a good sign.

So, while Cara never left with those Styx signatures, we all left Christina's Sunday morning with new memories, a new mix CD, new old clothes, and most importantly, new old friends :)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

a half pound of breakfast blend

Tonight at Starbucks, we had a really attractive young man come in whom I was chatting with, and I managed to sell a half pound of coffee beans to him. My manager said she noticed us flirting, and I was really tempted to write my phone number on the coffee bag I gave him. I didn't, because I don't like to be forward with guys. Sometimes I am a little too forward, but I've never been that forward before. But after he left, I was really kicking myself for not doing so. I mean, why not live a little? I'd never see him again probably, so why not? What's the harm? But I'd much rather have a guy pursue me than me have to put myself out there like that.

Ladies? Fellas? What do you think? Should a girl help a guy out who might be interested in her? Write the phone number down, or not?

Then, after we locked the doors and were closing, something even stranger happened. The entire front of the store started shaking and the lights started flickering! It was so freaky! My manager and stared at each other, as I asked, "What the heck is going on?" It lasted for about 30 seconds, then stopped. Another partner was in the back, but he didn't notice any shaking. I told them I felt like there was a spaceship hovering overhead, like we were in an X-Files episode. My manager agreed.

What a night!

Monday, January 15, 2007

What is normal?

This started as a comment on one of my friend's posts, but soon grew wings and took off into its own post! In summary, I have a dear friend who has been pretty open about her struggles with depression. She recently posted some information about a mental disorder ending it stating how she wants to be "normal."

And about this definition of normalcy, here is some more information from the NIMH website -

"Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year."

So, yes, normal is a relative term. Mental disorders may be classified as abnormal emotions, thoughts, and behavior, but they are not rare or even uncommon. While we've come a long way from the way mental disorders used to be perceived, there is still something shameful about being disagnosed with one, despite the fact that most of them are as biological as diabetes or heart disease. No one wants to be "abnormal," "unstable," or "crazy." Because this social stigma exists, people don't talk about taking anti-depressives or mood-stabilizers like they may talk about taking insulin or cholestoral medicine. You probably each know a few people a few people who are currently living with a mental disorder and taking medication or going to therapy. You probably know even more people who are taking medication, but not talking about it. And that's ok. Everyone is entitled to their privacy, and no one deserves to be labeled by a disorder or disability. A person with cerbral palsy has a harder time hiding their disability than a person with depression.

However, this silence only supports the stigma. Dear friend, thank you for not being silent. I'm sure there is someone reading your blog, suffering silently, who read that and thought, "I'm not alone. I know how you feel, I want to be normal too." There is nothing normal feeling whatsoever when living with a mental disorder, and writing this probably doesn't make you feel much more normal. You may think abnormal thoughts, feel abnormal emotions, and act out abnormal actions, but you, yourself, are still completely normal.

While in a given year, the majority of the population does not suffer from a mental disorder, its likely that the majority is affected by one. The prevalence of mental illnesses among friends and family members makes them a very normal experience, indeed. I can think of at least three friends and family members currently under medication, and even more previously medicated, and even hospitalized from a mental disorder. Mental disorders are as much a part of the common human experience as physical illnesses, death, and births.

On another note, when the heck did Fountains of Wayne and the Smashing Pumpkins start getting played on VH1 Classic? I feel old. Now they're playing the Beach Boys. I don't know whether to feel better or worse!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

it IS my job to wait by the phone

This evening, I received this email from one of the graduate programs I have applied to -

"I am writing on behalf of the admissions committee . . . We have begun the preliminary screening of applications and were pleased to see yours. We are just starting to make initial phone contacts with applicants and would like to talk briefly (approx. 20 min.) with you, to get to know you and answer any questions you may have about our program. Please let me know when would be good times to call you Monday (Jan. 15 th) through Wednesday (Jan. 17th). . . . After we're finished with this initial round of phone interviews, we will create a short list of applicants who will be invited to visit for an Open House get-together on Monday, February 12th."

Wow! This will be my first phone interview - possibly in two days! I'm so excited, because it's a program that I really love. I'm also nervous because I don't know what to expect. I emailed a couple of professors to ask for advice. I'm still floored just to get this email - imagine how I'd feel if I actually receive an acceptance letter? Wow. I already looked up flights and bus rates to go to the open house, which I'm sure is premature, but it's fun to think about anyway :)

Please keep me in your prayers these next few days. I will definitely be on my toes, awaiting that phone call . . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

hail all, hail

Yesterday morning at work, I noticed a customer’s credit card had a New Mexico Lobos logo on it.

“Oh, New Mexico, are they in the Mountain West conference?”
He gave me a funny look before he answering. Maybe he thought I was trying to memorize his credit card number. Like I could do that, maybe if I were Cara.
“Yes, I believe they are.”
“I thought that sounded familiar. My Alma mater plays them.”

It has not even been a month, and the words just rolled right off my tongue. “Alma mater.” No correcting myself, no stammering, and I did not even have to think about it. There it was. When I first graduated, people kept asking me if I felt very different. I usually replied, “No, not yet, it just feels like I’m on Christmas break again. I’m sure in January when everyone else starts going back to school it’ll really start to hit me.” My prediction was correct.

Some of you had asked me to keep you updated on my poetry entries. A few weeks ago I received an email basically saying, “Thanks for your submission, but this is not what we’re looking for this year.” It was mildly disappointing (maybe a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1-10), but mostly I’m just thankful that I tried something and took a risk.

However, I just let go of another risk I was planning on taking. I was going to apply to graduate school at NYU. I knew it was a long shot – they accept only about 3 a year in the program I’m applying to and most of them already have their masters. But I knew if I were accepted, I’d go there in a heartbeat. This past weekend, I was working more on my application when I discovered in a PDF file a recommendation form that I was supposed to give my recommenders. Months ago, when I was acquiring recommendation letters from professors and supervisors, I scoured the websites of the schools for the specific forms they were to use. Some schools had forms, others just wanted a general letter. I never found a form on NYU’s website, so I just asked my recommenders to write me letters. This discouraged me, but I decided I would wait until Monday and call and find out if my letters were acceptable. On Monday, in that same PDF file, I came across a listing of four reasons why they would rarely invite sometime to interview, and 4 reasons why they would invite someone for an interview. Three of the four negative reasons applied to me. The first two reasons demonstrated that I am not the kind of student that NYU looks for. The final reason showed me that NYU is not the sort of the program that I’m looking for – my career goals contradict what they want from their graduates. It was because of this final reason that I have decided not to apply.

I think this was a wise decision that was made from pure motives. I did not do it because I was insecure and was afraid of taking a risk; I just realized all around, it was not right for me. I just hope I don’t regret it later. I never had my hopes up, I never expected to be admitted if I had applied, but I felt it was just a leap I needed to take, just to see what would happen. Now, I think I know what would have happened. Just to apply, I would have had to alter completely my dreams and goals. For what? To go to a top rated school? To live in New York for a few years? If my heart is really set on living there, I can move to New York after I graduate.

I have several posts rolling around in my head, and I plan on posting more often – as time allows. Sadly, I haven’t written any poetry in a while. When I was writing poetry, it usually just came to me or was something I felt compelled to turn to when going through a difficult situation. I want to continue writing poetry, but I also don’t want to push it. Oye vey. Any suggestions? Also, I have noticed in my verbal story-telling, I have a tendency to give lots of details when I probably could just summarize and tell a more effective account. Did I do that in this blog? In that big long paragraph up there, could I have just summarized generally, or did the details add to the tale? I enjoy writing, but I don’t want to just write for the sake of writing. I want to write when I actually have something to say.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

the great transition

"I'm in transition," is a great euphemism for "I'm an under-employed college graduate."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

There's a hero in all of us

I've realized recently something I love to do almost more than anything in the world - rescue people. Particularly when they're stranded places. This probably sounds odd or overly altruistic or naive, but it's true.

A few weeks ago, late at night, my roommate (who I would fly across the world for in a heartbeat, and might in the next year) was driving to her home an hour away. Not long after she left, her car overheated, and she called me. I immediately offered to pick her up, but she was determined to make it home. After three failed attempts to drive without it overheating, she finally said, "Yes, please come pick me up." I had no hesitation whatsoever. I was eager to help her, to rescue her. It was invigorating. I even offered to drive her home if she'd let me crash at her house, since I knew how badly she just wanted to be home that evening. I felt like I was giving her a special gift that others could have given, but I was the one she called, and I was the one who went.

Recently, this past Friday, you may have heard about all the planes in DFW airport being grounded due to bad weather. My cousin's friend was flying home to Wisconsin, and stuck in this mess, trying to figure out what was going on. After we thought she had things figured out, around 1:30am I received a call from my cousin, "Can my friend come stay with you guys after all?" My family piled into the car and picked up this girl we'd never met. I was slightly more hesitant to go rescue her, but still concerned for her and happy to help.

This eagerness to rescue the stranded doesn't just extend to my friends and their friends. In high school, I would occasionally offer rides to students I didn't know when I saw them walking home in the rain or snow. I was always disappointed when they said "No thanks," and happy the couple of times when they did accept my help.

Maybe Aunt May is right; maybe there is a hero in all of us. Or maybe it's just the rescued longing to be the rescuer in my own, frail human way. Maybe I just want to be needed, to be useful.

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) I don't know if I would give my life for one of my friends. Maybe I would, but I've never faced such circumstances. Maybe most of us are asked to lay down our daily lives for our friends. To sacrifice personal time, sleep, and convenience to offer help to loved ones and strangers. Don't ask me to die for you. But baby, if your car won't start, I'm your girl.