The Future Awaits

So many decisions to make, and so very little time to make them in.  I have 2 semesters left in my undergraduate career.  Two semesters in which I need to make straight A's to bring up my dragging GPA.  I like to joke that falling in love messed up my GPA, but I think I can honestly say that I would not have gone to class the first two years of college even if I had not met my then-boyfriend now-husband.  The first two years were Grade 13, and they were entirely pointless to the furtherance of my education.

That said, my GPA is floating around a 3.45, and I'd really like to see it bumped to at least a 3.5 before I start my applications.  This is where making a name for myself really comes into play.  I need to study hard for the GRE (I just registered for it!) to show that I am more capable than my GPA would have the reviewers believe.  I need to make nice with my professors so that they know my name and will be inclined to write me a few letters of recommendation.  And because I'm tired of being the quiet girl who makes A's on the tests but never wants to say anything out loud.

But there are bigger battles than the GRE and my current grades.  I have to decide Big Things, like where I want to live and what I want to do.

Sure, I've gotten by saying "I'm going to be a clinical psychologist!" for a while now, but I haven't been able to answer the question, "But who do you want to counsel?" Because it's hard!  I've grown up as an overweight, middle class white girl who got a full ride scholarship to an okay school.  I know I deal with anxiety and depression, and my sister has autism, but overall I haven't been exposed to a great deal of psychological variety in my life.

Part of picking a graduate school that is crucial is finding a school with faculty that have similar interests to yourself.  Well, what are my interests?

I talked a lot about studying autism as I was growing up, but I think I've come to realize that I am too close to the issue.  I don't know if 17 years of dealing with an autistic family member would help me  or hurt me when it came to helping families deal with these issues.

I probably would not deal well with autistic children on their own.  I could probably assist in helping families deal with autism, in helping them understand that it's not their fault, and they should not feel guilty for being overwhelmed by the disorder sometimes.  That would be nice.  But can I make a corner market on that?  Or should I focus on something more vague?

My current drive is helping people feel okay with themselves as they are.  That sounds fruity and vague, but I think I can boil it down into more scientific terms.  I'm probably the biggest fan of cognitive-behavioral therapy.  I believe what you think about yourself determines how you feel about yourself, and informs how you act.  I believe anxiety and depression are rooted in self-destructive thought patterns that are self-reinforcing.  I believe that some aspects of yourself are unchanging, and some aspects are completely within your realm of control.  AND I believe that adolescents in particular have an absolutely terrible time picking out what they DO have control over and what they do not.

I think I could do the most good reaching out to the "forgotten" class of adolescents.  There are degrees for child psychology, and adult psychology, but few seem to focus purely on that transitional period where multitudes of problems seem to either begin gestating, or fully blossom forth.  Eating disorders, self-injury, depression, anxiety, suicide, additions, sexual promiscuity, bullying, sexual questioning and shame at the answer, overly risky behaviors all over the place.

My heart goes out to gay or questioning kids who can't find a safe haven to accept themselves.  I cry for girls like me who can't figure out what to do with their bodies, so they let them lapse into obesity or work them to frailty and death.  Social injustice makes my head and heart hurt because I know it's more than just a societal problem.  It hurts every single person in the neglected, prejudiced, hated categories, and they are all PEOPLE who deserve the same rights and respect and chance at happiness that everyone gets.

So... maybe that is where I want to focus.  But how do you quantify that?  "At-risk youth" is probably a good term for it, I guess.  There are so many layers in each of these though.  There's depression, anxiety, poverty, personality, age, developmental psychology, etc.  And faculty at these schools tend to focus on narrow targets within these realms.

But if I'm honest about my passions, and I try to match with different topics the faculty study, I should be okay.  That's just where my Personal Statement (how do I write that? Argh.) comes into play the most, I guess.

So I'm working on it.

I'm deciding to work backwards.  Instead of finding schools in places I like, I'm looking over the list of schools that are APA certified, going through the faculty and the funding, and the programs and everything I can get my hands on, and seeing how the schools sound.  Then we'll look at locations.

Unfortunately, that means I may have to move away from my family.  Which is something I haven't even tried thinking about.  I used to strive to get out of Texas ASAP when I was a kid, but I never stopped and thought about the guilt and difficulty that would go into leaving the family behind for a while.

And thus, the future awaits, and I just have to figure out how the heck to get to it.