A few years ago I was in a completely different place. I was working towards finishing my degree in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and heading towards a future with more school with a side of school and a dash of, you guessed it, school. I was on track to pursuing my PhD in Counseling Psychology and looking towards a life of research, students, and academic writing. It wasn’t until I finished my undergraduate degree, started my first semester of graduate school, and decided to quit that I truly felt like I was making a decision for me.
Making the choice to quit graduate school was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I was essentially derailing any life plan that I had devised for myself up until that point and I put myself in a place where I had no idea where I was going. What I did know is that I was going to protect myself from the years of debt I was going to accrue throughout my many years of education and give myself the chance to breathe and reevaluate what my priorities were. Did I acknowledge that most people who quit school don’t go back? Yes, but I was determined to figure out what the heck was really going on, who I was, and where I wanted to go as the self I was going to discover.
For months I struggled through a bout of depression. I felt like I didn’t have the purpose in life that I once had. I was lost, feeling worthless, and like I didn’t have in me what I had before. What was I doing with my life if I wasn’t going into the psych field? Who was I if I didn’t dedicate my waking moments to the pursuit of psychological research? Did what I was doing with my life actually matter? If I wasn’t doing that, did I matter?
The moment I quit graduate school I fell into an identity crisis, trying to find my worth in the world without the field of psychology and my pursuit of a career in the helping field. Without that part of me I felt like I couldn’t do anything for the world, I wasn’t a good person anymore, and what I was doing in my life didn’t mean anything.
It wasn’t until I started to write again that I felt whole. Almost every night I spent some time writing in my gratitude journal. Instead of writing in a journal to vent about the goings on and pouring out all of the negativity in my life onto a page, I focused. I focused on literally starting every single writing in my journal with: “I am grateful for…” From there I would write one thing after another and soon I found myself pouring my heart onto the page. Grateful for where I was in my life, grateful for the people who were brought into my life, and grateful for the gifts that God had given me to be able to move forward from this with a greater purpose than I had even imagined.
I have an awesome friend. He is one of those guys that everyone likes, incredibly smart, and you can see the love pour from his heart when he talks about his family. One day, I was talking with him about how many of his siblings went into the medical field and they were out saving lives and changing the world and he felt like what he was doing wasn’t as great as what they were doing. That what he was doing with his life didn’t matter as much because of his profession and that he could be doing something more with his life. I looked at him and said something like this: “Now, I’m going to get a little cheesy, but you change the world just because you exist. If you put good into the world, you are making the world a better place just with your presence. Just because you exist the world is better because of you.”
A few weeks later after I had that talk it hit me. I was in the shoes of the hypocrite not even listening to my own advice. I realized that if I go into each day with an open heart I can make the world more beautiful. I can make the world a better place just by bringing my positivity to the conversation. One of my favorite quotes is: “How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it.” Now, I am not perfect by any means and I sure have moments when I need to check myself, but if I go through life trying to touch lives, even without dedicating my career to it, I can still make the world a better place.
In reality, this is why RealLifeImagined got started in the first place. I had tried to blog a few times before and failed. I kept trying to paint myself into a corner when it came to what I was going to write about, just like I tried to paint myself into a corner with my career. I wasn’t giving myself the creative room that I needed to grow in my writing. It wasn’t until I decided that I was going to actually write about my life and how I have embraced the beauty around me that I felt like what I was doing was right.
No, I’m not going into the field of psychology, but I still feel like I am pursuing my passion through a different outlet, right here on RealLifeImagined and in my everyday life. I quit grad school, started living my days outside of a textbook, and found myself instead on the virtual pages of my blog. Today, I have never felt more in my element. Yes, my job isn’t directly correlated to my end goal, but it is completely related, as I am using my job to fuel my goals. Through RealLifeImagined and a daily practice of kindness and patience, I can change the world just the way I have always set out to do.
Sometimes all it takes is taking a huge step back and shaking things up to put you exactly where you are supposed to be. Some of the hardest and most testing decisions I have ever made have given me so much more reward than I thought I could ever be blessed with. The day I quit grad school I changed my life. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t even easy for a while, but today I can tell you that it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. It gave me the chance to reevaluate and rediscover myself in places I had never been before.
I’m not advocating any rash uncalculated decisions, because I prayed long and hard before I crushed the plans I had for myself. What I am advocating for is not pressuring yourself into the path that you always had just because you always had it. I’m advocating for self-introspection and a view into your soul in a new way. I’m advocating for you to take a look outside of your box for something that was there all along that you haven’t acknowledged because you were too scared to look outside.
I am with you. Be brave.