Hellooo friends! It has been a while since I published my last post about this topic – to be exact, it was almost a year ago now that I finished residency and wrote the last post!
To recap you can read the previous posts here:
So the last time we chatted, I was finishing up my residency, and moving back to Ontario from BC. For those you have been around on Instagram, know that I took a few months off (4 to be exact!) and started work part-time at a Private Practice clinic in January. Soon after, COVID-19 hit, and I began working from home. I started a new part-time job, in addition to the private practice job, at a local hospital. So currently, I work 5 days from home due to COVID-19, but three of those days are spent at the private practice, and the remaining two days are dedicated to hospital work. Both jobs are very different, and I am certainly learning alot.
I have also been completing my licensing examinations since I started work. While I was off work, I decided to write the first exam which is undoubtedly the hardest exam. But guess what. I failed on the first attempt. I was incredibly demotivated and discouraged, and doubted this whole process so far. It made no sense to me that I could fail, given the level of success I had had so far, with 8 publications, multiple scholarships and awards to my name… I even hid it from everyone until I actually passed. I shared that story here and went into what I learned from that failure.
Shortly after I managed to pass that exam, I started studying for the second exam which was literally a few days before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. Alhamdulillah, I passed that exam on the first try. Phew!
Now, I am working away and waiting to write my third and final exam required to practice in the province of Ontario which is an oral examination with a panel of psychologists. At this point, I think that I will be eligible to write it in December.. but I am still awaiting some details about that.
Today, I wanted to reflect on some of the struggles that I had and how I overcame them while I was in graduate school. I talk about this from time-to-time, but thought a longer post may be more beneficial for those reading.
As many of you know, I got married in 2011. I wrote my GRE’s which are required for entry into the clinical psychology programs in Canada in the first year of being married. I had a part-time job as a research assistant before I started graduate school in the fall of 2012, and my husband had started his first ever job as well. We have always lived with my in-laws, and we were living with them at this point in their house. To say that this whole dynamic was difficult with adjusting to newly married life with in-laws, understanding the expectations of my in-laws and my husband being a 21-year-old, while still pursuing my dream to become a Clinical Psychologist was no easy feat. Needless to say, this whole struggle deeply impacted my relationship early on with my in-laws. Looking back, we sometimes reflect as a family now how difficult that time was, and how we grew from it.
Struggle #1: Dealing with the following question, as a newly married girl who was pursuing school after marriage especially as a south asian woman, was fielding the question “when are you giving us good news”
I found this question to be thrown at me at literally EVERY occasion, get together, family event by someone or the other. The assumption always was, that even though I had declared BEFORE we got married that I would be doing a PhD and it is 7 years (yes, I stated that up front when my rishta/proposal came from Shafi’s family), I would flake on my dreams and “change my mind” and “start a family”. I found it to be so discouraging, that I actually remember applying to different post-graduate programs which were not clinical, and considering even accepting them. That was when, Shafi put his foot down and told me that I should NOT settle for those programs, and instead focus on the goal. The man is GOLD – he even had a talk with his parents who also were very confused about why I was going to be pursuing such a long program. Because, to be fair, the concept of Clinical Psychology and the fruits of completing a PhD are not fully understood by many. The important thing was that my husband was in my corner, and 1000% supported me.
Struggle #2: Once I started school, the questions changed to: “How much more school do you have left?”
This one is particularly tough to answer – because truly, the program I am has an average completion time of EIGHT years.. with sometimes even 10-12 years, depending on how long one takes on their dissertation piece. I found that, I would field this question by saying a generic “a few more years”… and often found myself really struggling with motivation in completing the program.
Struggle #3: Dealing with wavering support
Since my program was a Masters + PhD program, once I convocated from my Master’s… the questions/comments about whether I really wanted to continue on started. It is like only myself, and Shafi, believed in me and everyone else was almost waiting for me to drop out or give up. This was particularly amplified, when I finished the first year of my PhD, and we decided that this was a good time to have our first child. Shafi and I both felt ready, and from a program completion point-of-view, I was done all my major requirements, except for one clinical rotation and all the data for my dissertation was collected.
After we had Liyana, I took an 8 month maternity leave, during which I actively focused on studying for a clinical exam we have to pass in our program before applying for residency. In fact, I applied to residency earlier than half the folks in my cohort/program who started at the same time as me because I was SO laser focused on FINISHING. This motivation primarily came from this WAVERING support, and I was hell bent on showing everyone I COULD do it. I also found Liyana to be hugely motivating… because I saw that I had to finish as soon as possible to be there for her financially and support my family. I saw that when she is younger, she is not fully aware that I am missing while I am at school.. but when she’s older i.e. now, she will ask more and more questions. Luckily, my profession has a lot of flexibility and I am able to set my own hours once I am out of school. I focused on this goal.. and basically finished at the same time as some of my peers, even with a maternity leave.
Struggle #4 Moving across the country to finish residency
My latest struggle was finishing my program and matching into a residency program. You all have figured out that when I want something.. I chase it doggedly until I get it. My heart was set on moving out of the province to do residency. There were a few reasons for this, but the main reason was to experience a new system and get some diversity in training. In Toronto, particularly in my profession – everyone is trained by the same people. This can sometimes be limiting in your learning. I wanted to grow significantly in this year in this perspective, and get a particular kind of experience. Within the sites where I got called for interviews, Vancouver Coastal Health was the ONLY site that offered me what I was looking for. So, I ranked it first after much discussion with Shafi about how this would work in terms of our family, childcare, finances. We asked my mom, if she would move out to Vancouver with them should I match there, and help with childcare for a 2.5 year old Liyana at the time… And I MATCHED! And then we flew out to Vancouver!
And honestly, the most difficult year of my training became the most incredible learning experience. I met AMAZING friends in my residency program who are my bestest friends now, and we took several trips together.
I also went through an incredible struggle when my Mom got sick 7 weeks after I started residency, and had to fly back to Toronto.. which meant Liyana went back to Toronto too to be with Shafi. My in-laws stepped up and took care of her while my mom recovered. This meant, I lived long-distance from not only my child but also my husband for THREE months. I shared more about that here.
And somehow, through all of these struggles.. I have come out on the other side. Fairly unscathed, and with a PhD in front of my name. I convocated last fall, and had a huge wedding style party because heck I deserved it!
It has certainly not been easy. I wouldn’t say it’s been harder than someone elses struggle, but it certainly has been a difficult decade of life for me.
I have learned some invaluable lessons, and honestly, all I can hope now is that this hard work will pay off, and I can help Shafi and our daughter in supporting them not only financially, but also in being a role model who pursues her dreams literally NO MATTER WHAT. I get this drive from my dad, who also has the same approach to life. I grew up watching him pursue what he set his heart on, and I learned that from a young age. I hope to pass on that same passion to my daughter, who I hope will grow up to be an empowered, fiesty young woman. Also, I absolutely have to acknowledge my husband who gave me UNwavering support and dealt with all the drama that comes with graduate school and Areeba haha! And of-course, my whole village of support from my mom who was a champ, my in-laws, and my siblings!
If you made it till the end of this blog post – God bless you!