Diary of A Young Pro: Jasmine
2) How old are you?
3) What is your job title?
I guess I have a few job titles: doctoral student, student therapist, researcher, and fitness class instructor. I am a graduate student in clinical psychology, which means that I balance my time (and my title) between school, research, and clinical work as a therapist in an outpatient mental health clinic. Plus, I work as an instructor at a boutique fitness studio, which I do because it’s fun, keeps me feeling strong and capable, allows me to be a part of an awesome community of people, and provides me a little much-needed income.
4) How has the transition been from backpack to briefcase (college to adulthood)?
Trading in backpack for briefcase was the easy part. I had a job lined up as an early childhood educator at a fancy preschool straight out of college. I settled into being a young professional with an 8-5 schedule, a savings account, a group of work friends, and a 401k. My favorite thing about the transition from college to working was that weekends were suddenly a real thing! Work was going extremely well – I learned how to be a professional and how to learn and develop in a workplace. I got a big promotion and I got to present at a national educator conference in front of hundreds of people. However, the most important thing I learned from my first job was that I didn’t want it to become my lifelong career. I struggled with this knowledge for a year – weighing the risk of giving up a good, stable job against the value of pursuing the promise of an undefined dream career. As a teacher, I loved working one-on-one with children experiencing social, emotional, and behavioral problems. The other teachers used to joke that small, troubled boys always found their way to me. My excitement for working with people in distress percolated around in my brain – shaped by experiences, conversations, and off-handed thoughts. Over time and through a process I still don’t completely understand, I started to identify a path forward for myself. I decided to apply to doctoral programs in clinical psychology. This decision was exciting and terrifying. My entire first year of graduate school was a huge question mark in my brain that kept asking, “Are you sure you did the right thing? Are these 5 intense years of school and mountains of student loans going to give you what you want?” I stuck it out. I’m now at the end of my second year, I have a year of clinical work with real patients under my belt, and I am now so excited to keep moving toward a career as a psychotherapist. Life is a series of decisions. Decisions are hard and scary and you don’t always know how they’re going to turn out until weeks or months or years later. My journey has been about empowering myself to choose my own path forward and to walk it with enough conviction to keep going and enough confidence to know that I’ll make it through.
5) When you were in school, did you imagine your life the way that it is?
At the time I made the transition from backpack to briefcase, I was in a long-term relationship with my college boyfriend. I moved in with him, started feeling like a grown-up, and saw the future unfolding in front of me. We decorated an apartment, bought plants, had friends over for dinner parties, and visited each other’s families for holidays. There was a lot of momentum moving the relationship forward toward an elaborate proposal, a big wedding, a nice house, a two-car garage, 2.5 kids, and all the things I thought I wanted. The future ahead seemed clear and I saw myself in it. Over the course of several years I began to realize that the clear, straight-ahead future made me feel scared and trapped and unfulfilled. But, with momentum moving me forward, it was difficult to see alternatives. All the other possible paths looked dark and blurry and I had no idea how to choose a different way forward. Then I took this amazing trip. I went to visit my close college friend in Ethiopia where she was living. It was the first time I had traveled alone. I found that I could be by myself, that I could traipse around the streets of Addis Ababa independently, and that with my friend by my side I could make an excruciating climb up a mountain in the middle of nowhere and find my way (with the help of some guides and the most delicious bottle of water I’ve ever tasted) back to tell the tale. When I returned home, it would have been easy to get swept back up in the momentum toward that predetermined future. But I now knew I had the strength to go forward alone. I took a step off that clear, well-lit path and found that I could illuminate an alternative future for myself. As I continued moving forward (into an online dating marketplace and then back into a committed and loving relationship), the outlines of alternative futures became clearer. The future I see for myself now is vastly different from the one I saw for myself when I graduated college and it is nowhere near as as clear and well-defined. But it allows me to be myself and find myself with the support of friends and family and a partner. And even if the future is still a little blurry at least it’s the same kind of blurry I am.
6) What is the best advice you have received from a mentor about adulthood and/or careers?
I’m a pragmatist. I tend to think in terms of what is realistic, what is possible, and what I know I can actually do. One day I was speaking with a mentor and describing possible career paths and goals. I shared a big, dream idea and then an immediate caveat: “but I know that’s not realistic because…” My mentor stopped me as I started listing all of the reasons why my idea wasn’t realistic. His advice to me was this: “Don’t temper your aspirations now. Now is the time you get to dream big. There is plenty of time to scale back your plans and ideas later, but don’t scale back before you give yourself the chance to try.”
7) What advice would you give a young professional?
I have two pieces of advice. One – It’s okay to take time to figure out what you do. In fact, it’s super important. Aside from a few outliers, most of the people you look up to as accomplished and inspiring professionals probably spent many years of their lives building their careers. It’s okay to take years to build yours. Taking time to decide how to move forward in my professional and personal lives allowed me to find a path that is more fulfilling and meaningful to me. Two – Even your dream job is going to feel like a job. I think our generation is the first generation to view work as something that should be enjoyable. When my parents grew up, they were expected to get a good job, start a family, and then just keep chugging along. Not surprisingly, many people in their generation ended up with jobs they didn’t find fulfilling. When I was growing up, my parents told me over and over, “you have to spend so much of your life working, so find a job that you love, find a job that makes you happy.” I’ve had countless conversations with friends, peers, and acquaintances who followed their passions, found careers, and then discovered that they were disappointed by how it felt. At the end of the day, a job is a job. If you depend on your job for financial stability, it’s going to feel like work. There will be days when you don’t want to wake up to go to work and there will be times you wish you were independently wealthy so you didn’t have to have a job. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Find a job you love. Find something that excites you, something that fulfills you, and something that makes you feel that you’re doing good in the world. And if it feels like a job, that’s just because it is.
8) What is next for you and the next 12 months? Do you have any goals you would like to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish them?
I am finishing up my second year of graduate school, pushing forward through classes and clinical work. Within the next 12 months, I have two big comprehensive exams and if all goes well, I will receive my Masters degree and then continue along on the path to my doctoral degree. My two main professional goals are to pass my comps and to adjust to my new practicum site working with young adults. The comps will take a lot of studying (aka memorizing the DSM-5) and adjusting to my new practicum site will take openness, humility, and readiness to learn. In my personal life, my goal in the next year is to start cooking again. This past year had been so busy for me that I’ve completely neglected home-cooking, which I love and which makes me feel healthier and more connected to caring for myself.
9) What makes you special?
Despite being incredibly busy, I try my hardest to be a strong and caring friend. I deeply value my small circle of close friends, and they are very important for my happiness and wellbeing. Relationships need connection and care and love to stay strong. I try to make time to check in with my friends, sometimes squeezing in tea or just a hug between teaching and taking classes, homework, and commuting. I have a really good memory, so I make an effort to remember little factoids and stories my friends tell me, which (I hope) makes them feel valued and heard. Whenever I can, I invite my friends to my home to share food, wine, and companionship. My relationships are incredibly important to me and so I prioritize nurturing them and then they continue to nurture me in return.