Diary of… a doctor in training

I never wanted to become a psychologist. I was an athlete, a musician and a social creature — anything but a scholar. I had played in Carnegie Hall and been on a national soccer team; how important was school? After all, my sister was the smart one in the family. Why aspire to be second best? I was going to be a fireman, a rock star or a professional athlete. I wanted to do something new that I could call my own. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out exactly as you plan.

Being diagnosed with major medical problems means little for an 8-year old. For me, it was nothing more than a temporary hitch in my struggle to the top. It wasn’t until I was discharged two years later that I decided a change was in order. The star athlete could no longer run as fast he used to, the musician could no longer read music, and whatever social life existed had dissolved with my absence. It was time to reboot, return to “start”, “do not pass GO and do not collect $200”.

There was little for me to turn to except for books. I would read when I got home from school, and I would bring a book to the dinner table. I would wake up early, just to read a little bit, and I would forget to get off the bus when I was lost in a book. I felt like the next time I looked up from my reading, I was sitting at my own high school graduation, draped in a black shower curtain and wedged between hundreds of other equally bored students. Then, they called my name.

My grades somehow turned around in high school, and I found myself at the top of my class. I was told that I could go to any college — as long as it was an Ivy league, and I could major in whatever I wanted — as long as I became a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Instead of going to the Ivies, in 2004, I got into one of the best engineering schools in the country: Lehigh University. Four years and a few bad professors later, I decided that I didn’t want to do math for the rest of my life. So, since I had a bunch of psychology credits from my elective courses, I graduated at the end of that year with a degree in psychology.

Getting a doctorate degree in psychology wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Many of my applications for the programs were turned down, but Fairleigh Dickinson University offered to reconsider my application if I enrolled in a master’s program with them. I spent two years studying and doing research on forensic psychology, before I learned that the degree was useless. Sometime between folding clothes at a department store, and pushing paper at Staples, I realized that I still wasn’t a doctor.

Nova Southeastern University accepted me into their clinical psychology doctorate program in 2010. I have left behind the years of book learning, and entered a completely new field. I did not expect that I would already be seeing clinic clients and doing research in forensics and neuropsychology.

Of course I am overwhelmed with work. But what student isn’t? Any undergraduate at NSU could tell you that their life at school is hard, and any graduate student would tell you theirs is harder. Any doctoral student wouldn’t have time to answer your question.

I am a doctoral student in my second year of a clinical psychology program, and I am learning that sometimes you just need to slow down to appreciate how far you’ve come.

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