April is Stress Awareness month! Which is perfect, because it’s also the season of decisions. Decision to accept or reject. Or possibly even more stress-inducing, decision to waitlist. Whether you are reeling from such decisions made about an undergraduate, graduate, or residency / practicum / internship program…know that you do have options. There is always another way. If it is important enough to you, you will find a way to make it happen. More often than not, you will find yourself not going down a straight path but instead a winding, sinuous one. Take those twists and turns as they come.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Stress is very much a silent killer that one can’t just be rid of with the flip of a switch — especially that stemming from academic and professional affairs. It seems like world is crashing down, that this is the end all be all. It can feel as if you’re in stuck in a huge hole, and everyone else making leaps and bounds over you.
As for me, I’ve been studying for the MCAT on and off for the past six months, after rescheduling my test date now twice. I berated myself for not being more on top of it. That critical inner voice crept back in and just laid it on: lazy, selfish, unmotivated, stupid. Then came the steady stream of anxieties: I need to get my personal statement and letters of rec requests together right after. I’m not going to be ready to apply. I’m not going to have a competitive application together. I’m not moving forward for another year. I’m going to get stuck in a rut. My two-year gap plan is turning into three years. *commence panic attack*
It can be hard to convince yourself otherwise, especially when you are faced with updates from social media. I know I have friends around me who are getting into professional schools in addition to gaining well-earned opportunities in scholarships and internships. I’d feel like I’m getting left behind, that I’m not starting my life. But I have to remind myself that I am living my life. Right now. I also don’t know the other side of those stories. I don’t know about their struggles and what they went through to get there.
Be kind to yourself, and try not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is on his or her own journey. You may just be starting yours, while others are a little further along. This does not make you any less accomplished than that next person. Realize too that you still have so much ahead of you.
Part of my own re-framing process has involved being okay with taking another detour. Now my thoughts are a little kinder. I can take the time to work, and start paying off loans. I can do the things I still wanted to do and see. I can continue to develop myself and work on weaknesses. I’ve had a lot to deal with in my personal life. I’ve had to be accepting of that and not be so hard on myself.
As you’re taking the next step, don’t be afraid of the free fall in between milestones. If you stumble, keep on going. If you end up on your knees, take any hand that is offered to you. If you land right on your face, let yourself lie there for a moment. Breathe. Then slowly but surely, you can push yourself up and get back up again.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean