When I attended high school, I wanted nothing more than to be done with school on the whole. I was lucky to have graduated and by graduation day I was living in my own apartment, waiting tables for rent money, grown up without the process of actually growing. I wanted the independent life and I had achieved it. For almost six years this satisfied me. I progressed from waiting tables to working as an administrative assistant in several departments of a defense aircraft manufacturing plant to being an accounts payable representative for a major lighting company, finally settling at making a living as a legal assistant in real estate for four years. During my time at the law firm, I reassessed my position in life. I could easily continue with the job I had, increasing in salary annually for several decades, but I would ultimately be miserable. So I asked myself the age-old question to a happy, successful career: What could I do that was something I was passionate about?
The answer came quicker than the flash of a light bulb, as absolutely no thought was required. Psychology. I had been spending a decade of my life trying to understand people; how could it not be something I absolutely adored?
In truth, it was. I spent a vast majority of my high school career speaking with the teachers — I preferred conversation with them over the petty details of teens’ lives. There was not only a great deal more intelligence in my educators, but more depth. I was certain my relationships with age-matched peers were superficial at best, as most lived through fleeting moments in succession, with no real commitments, organization or responsibilities. Each day of my life since has been one of analytical thought processes.
When I found myself pouring over contracts and riders and loan documents, I took a step back and looked at what I had become. I knew I was unhappy, but it gave me common ground come happy hour, when hordes of office workers gathered round a pitcher to complain of their places of employment. I fit in with the rest of the crowd, but my own well-being suffered. Rather than stay within my comfort zone, I began taking night classes at Hunter College.
As far back as I can remember, I could “read” people, as it’s commonly referred to. Not necessarily everyone, and not always accurately, but it was still something I was fairly good at. I carried, as I still do, an unlimited capacity for empathy. My heart would break with the hearts of others, and knowing how horrible that feeling was, I wanted to change it. People found themselves drawn to me, able to open up to me. They believed that the feedback I had provided was intelligent and beneficial. It actually felt like I had a calling. So I tried my hand at my first psychology course.
After two part-time and one summer semester at Hunter, my fear dissipated. I was sure I was on the right path. Not only did I experience a sense of wholeness from what I took away from my psychology classes, but I also found I enjoyed learning far more than I ever thought possible. Suddenly, conversations with friends turned from what went on over the weekend to what was going on in the world. I fed off of the educational high; I craved more information, more knowledge. I took classes in everything that had ever interested me: geography, political science, writing, literature. I soaked up everything that was presented to me and I let it make me a stronger, wiser person. I applied to Stony Brook University full-time. When I was accepted, I quit my job and started the serious journey to a career I would enjoy.
And that journey has led me here, to deciding my educational fate. As I submit applications to various graduate programs, I am absolutely certain that I am doing what is best for me as well as best for the others’ I might someday help. I remind myself that realistically not every story can have a happy ending, as not every patient can be cured, but I am blessed with optimism. I have no doubt in my ability to succeed both academically and professionally, and look forward to wherever the next step in the journey of this process should take me.