Life after graduate school; it does exist!

By Steven Parks           Steven blog2013 pic

So I graduated on May 10th, 2013.  Although it has barely been a month, it feels like years have passed already.  I strongly encourage all of you hopeful graduates to gather your coping skills now.

Prepare first, for closing out of your internship.  It will be many painful farewells.  I had only a small caseload, but each goodbye brought feelings of grief.  I am not a highly religious person, but farewells in a counseling field are all about faith.  Faith that the client will be okay without you.  Faith that you accomplished something good and powerful in your work together.  Faith that another professional can pick up where you left off.  Faith that the client will remember you.  And most of all, faith that someone else will see the strengths and beauty in the clients that you have come to see so clearly as you shake their hand a final time.

My last month of school was a blur.  I had no more workload than any other final month of a semester.  However, each paper or project due at end of my final term held a special significance: it held the power to bar me from graduation.  Thankfully my professors accepted my 3 a.m. freakout “please don’t fail me!” emails graciously.  Do not worry, you will graduate.  One grade on one paper will not bar you from that stage.  As one of my favorite professor’s said, “I’m not gonna run down the aisle as they call your name and shout ‘Wait! Wait! He forgot to turn in his final policy paper!”

After you send in that final draft of the paper (for the third time) and realize your time is ending, the world moves even faster than before.  It is as though you have taken your foot off the gas but you can feel yourself still hurtling through space and time.  It’s suddenly your last day in this class, then it’s your last day of any class, then it’s the last time you are in the building, the last time you are gathered around a table of classmates laughing…

Before you celebrate and mourn that, graduation is upon you and family in all its’ glorious drama barrels into your life.  There are flights to coordinate, beds to be made, dishes to be washed, and cheeks to kiss.  Everyone is there to tell you what an amazing thing you accomplished, though few know the full extent of hardship and sacrifice.  Then it is graduation day and there are a million things to do and a thousand smiles surrounding you.  It is love and light and laughter and pride and cheer and hope and tears and its over…

Please take my recommendation and take as much time as possible for yourself following graduation ceremony.  Give yourself time to say goodbyes, time to spend with family and friends, time to do all those things that have been put on hold, time to grieve, time to hope, and time just for yourself.  The entire month of May was one long vacation for me.   It took all of that time to process what I had been through, what I had become, and what to do next.

In that time I did look for jobs.  I will not rant and rave about the job hunt now: that could fill ten more blogs.  For now I will only put out numbers.  I did NOT graduate with a job offer in hand.  I applied to at least 30 positions, interviewed with 6 agencies, and was offered 2 positions.  Of the two opportunities I had to choose from, one came from my internship site and the other through a professional connection.  My advice: keep those professional connections and always honor the values of social work with everyone you interact with to the best of your ability.  People really do take notice of your character.

I chose to take a job Child Advocates of Fort Bend.  I am now in my second week of work as a full-time Therapist.  I absolutely love my job, my coworkers, and my ever growing caseload of clients.  Life is very different now.  It is no longer racing from one thing to the next, from work to class, to a meeting etc.  Now I get up early, go to the gym, then go into work, then I go home and have dinner with friends, family, or just in front of the t.v.  There are books to read, but no deadline by which to have them read.  There are things to do, but when I go home, they are done or left to be done another day.  Life is peaceful on this side, with space for all those people and things that I missed during the years of graduate school.

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