A Defeat, A Detour and a Grand Adventure: Part 1

So what do you do, when you can’t do anything?

Me? I plan an Adventure.  

There was a time, back in the day, when I dreamed of becoming a psychologist, which actually meant I’d have to have a Ph.D. to get a job.

No worries! I finished up my undergraduate studies and happily mailed off applications to graduate schools all around the country.

Just the thought of going away to school was intoxicating, so I applied to great schools that were close to all the prettiest mountain ranges in America.

Well heck, how do you pick a school?

I entertained myself while waiting for the invitations expected from those schools. I imagined a new life in beautiful, far away places like Colorado or Oregon. Being a child of the Great Smoky Mountains, I couldn’t wait to explore even greater heights.

Academically, and literally. :)

So I waited. And waited.

And waited.

But those letters never came.

That was okay, I told myself.

Being a hard-core optimist, I did what they’d told us to do in those “How to Get into Grad School” seminars I used to attend.

I got a job in the field with an entry level position at a psychiatric hospital. I made minimum wage – $4.20 an hour – doing work that was fascinating and fulfilling. For the first time in my life, I had paid vacation, insurance and other (amazing!) benefits.

I was in heaven. I loved my job, and with a little experience under my belt, I knew I’d be okay. Soon I’d try again, and this time, it would work.

So, a year later, I applied again. Just like I was taught to do.

And this time, I was more of a realist. I sacrificed my dream schools, and applied to those that best fit my strengths, including some in the middle of the flatlands, like St. Louis, or in rolling hills, like Georgia.

This time, with real world experience on top of good grades and solid test scores, I knew I’d be fine. This time, I’d get in.

Only… I didn’t.

In fact, I could hear the laughing before I even got to the mail. Holding my breath, I’d open the mailbox, slowly reach in for the envelopes stacked there, and hear – in my mind at least – a shrieking witch’s cackle.

Imagine, say, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Or, worse, a Harry Potter Howler. :)

SOOOoooooo….You want to come to OUR schooooool??? I don’t THINK so! HA! Hahahahahahaaaaa!!!!

It was just like that, in one rejection letter after another.

And another.

And another.

Until I’d been rejected by Every Single One.  

NOW what would I do? You see, an undergraduate degree in psychology is essentially worthless. You can’t do anything with it, unless you have at least a Master’s, and preferably a doctorate, or Ph.D..

If I couldn’t get into graduate school, I had no idea what to do. I wanted to be a counselor, a psychotherapist, but without that extra degree, I was stuck. Suddenly, that cool job I loved was a trap, with no way out.  

And, I was alone. I was only 22. And although I didn’t get to move far away like I’d dreamed, my family actually did.

My dad was unexpectedly transferred by his employer, and my parents moved halfway across the country to Dallas, Texas.

Most kids grow up and leave home (you hope). In my case, home grew up and left me. And all of this was happening at once.

It was a hard time. For the first time in my life, I was up against a wall I couldn’t find my way around. And for the first time in my life, I was really, really, on my own.

Unless I wanted to move to Texas, that is. And that, I refused to do.

(No offense to my Texan friends, but have you seen how FLAT it is out there?)

As my coach says, there was no cavalry coming.
It was up to me to figure something out, to find a way forward.


But I felt so defeated.

And my confidence was at an all time low. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. Anything. At all.

My mom and dad always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. With their love and support, hard work, faith (and sometimes just plain luck), I’d generally done pretty well at most anything I’d ever tried.

But not this time.

To be so rejected in such a complete way, to be told no at every turn, was a painful new experience.

So I began to doubt myself.

Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this kind of career after all.

Maybe I wasn’t smart enough. Strong enough. Clever enough. Competitive enough.

Good enough.

Who was I kidding? Maybe I should just hang it all up.

Maybe I should just quit.

Not. On. Your. Life.

I’d figure something out.

But first — I had to find something I could control. I needed something I could MAKE happen; something Big…Something that would help me get my confidence back.

I needed a way to climb back up
on the horse that had bucked me off.

So I planned my own, first, (Secret) Adventure. I decided to go to Switzerland.

And next week, I’ll tell you the REST of the story.

Photos by -Ebelien- and loop_oh on Flickr


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