Helloo friends! It has been a while, eh? I wrote the first part to this series last year in July!! You can find that HERE – Holy.. Its been a long time, right. Oops – life got in the way! Since I wrote that last post, I moved to Vancouver for residency, defended my dissertation, went through a period of living away from my daughter for three months (read about that HERE), and SO much more!
Lets get started shall we. Last, I talked about my trajectory up until my undergraduate years. Today, I am going to tell you about my failures.
Lots and lots of failures.
Rejections to be exact. Remember, last time, I talked about the successes and how I had all this wonderful experience in my undergraduate career, and my eyes set on this degree and I knew I was going to get it.
Well, my 20-year-old self had no idea what I was in for. And guess what, no clinical psychology program wanted me. The first year I applied in 2009, I received multiple rejection letters.
I was crushed.
Here I was, an honor’s student from one of the worlds leading universities, with solid research experience… and no one wanted to have me as a graduate student?
Have you ever heard the saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time with more intelligence.” I hadn’t either! But reflecting back to 10 years ago, that is precisely what I did. I went back to the drawing board. I recall looking at my CV and saying, “If I was person X, what would I be looking for”. I made lists. I emailed friends who knew others who had been accepted to programs. I emailed other friends who maybe knew of someone who could get me some experience. I tried to approach the failure with a problem solving mind set, which is very accurate representation of how I approach life.
The key lesson from this is to network. Do not underestimate the power of having a closer knit, but also a wider knit network. Time for some nerd talk (because lets be real – I AM a nerd, and proud!). In neuroscience, scientists have studied the power of networks in the brain. The bottom dollar is that networks get work done. There is a concerto of brain regions working in harmony, syncing up and unsyncing, depending on what you are doing. There is a network of brain regions working right this second, helping you read this blog post, make meaning of it, process it. Oh wait, you just got a notification on your phone. Yup, another brain network (or related one.. it gets a bit tricky with distractions), came online to help you focus your attention back to this blog post 😉
Bottom line – a network is important. Be a part of one, and use it when you are stuck. Theres some great new research that shows women who succeed professionally have two kinds of networks – a closer knit one, and a wider knit one, as compared to women who do not succeed AND men who do succeed (Yang, Chawla & Uzzi, 2019). Obviously, 10 year ago, I didn’t know if this scientifically proven fact (albeit one study.. but interesting none the less).
This is how I got a volunteer position in a research lab at St. Michaels Hospital. I met some incredible people there, who are now doing amazing things in academia. That volunteer position, turned into a paid position where I worked for almost a year. The same year, I applied a second time for graduate school.
Guess what? I was rejected AGAIN.
I recall, crying for days on end. I am not kidding – it was a truly devastating time in my life. This was something I had wanted SO BADLY, had worked for the past 6 years at this point.. and to no avail. At that point, I was THIS close to giving up. I said okay, well if a clinical psych program isnt going to take me, then I will apply to social work, occupational therapy, physio therapy, speech language therapy. I kid you not, I started to fill out those applications. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with those professions, they did not feel like my calling. I loved research and clinical practice, and the prospect of a PhD that let me do both thrilled me like nothing else.
But, here we were, summer of 2011 – no acceptance in sight, and no motivation to apply.
Two things happened that summer – I decided I was going to get in to this program if its the last thing I do. We were poor and broke after being newly married, and my husband had just started his first job. The fact that I was volunteering wasn’t helping our finances at all.
So I turned to what I knew best – talking to people. I reached out to my network again. Two things came from that summer in 2011. First, robin, my undergrad thesis supervisor, asked me to present some research at a local conference. Second, I met and started to volunteer with Dr. Mary Pat McAndrews (or MP as those who know her call her).
Both of these together, changed my life.
I presented at the conference in October 2011 – where my future graduate supervisor swung by to ask some questions about the research I was presenting. We started talking (its really a strong quality of mine this talking business), and he told me he was recruiting students in the clinical psych program at York University for 2012, and he asked me to apply.
Second, I worked with MP for that whole year and learned whatever I could about Neuroimaging. Here is the thing about MP – she is not only a brilliant scientist, but also a top-notch clinician. She see’s where you are in your training, and not only meets you there, but challenges you to think on the spot and about things you may not have considered.
Winter 2011 rolled around, and like clock work for the third time, I applied to the same programs again.
And this time…
Just kidding.. that is how I started a 7-year-long program in Clinical Psychology in the fall of 2012.
The journey of that program.. coming next. I promise I won’t take 8 months to write about that.