I meant to write this a while ago, but life picked back up again and I haven’t made the time. I guess it is a good sign that I’m still on the right track. A while back, I shared on social media that I was studying for the GRE in preparation of applying for the doctoral program in my field. I reasoned then that I should pursue this because I was finally ready for it, I had the time in my schedule, and I had support from my Dad to get through the financial barriers. I wasn’t really sure where God weighed in on the issue, so like I do with most major decisions in my life, in absence of any clear sign that this was a terrible idea, I decided to give it a shot and see what God did.
God left hints along the way that maybe I didn’t need to do this right now, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking the easy way out and giving up on something He might have wanted me to actually fight for. So I did it. I studied for and got decent scores on the GRE. I kept dreaming about my research goals and interest area and wrote a heartfelt and honest letter of intent. I went through the whole rigmarole of getting transcripts, getting letters of recommendation from former professors and bosses, and ensuring that they all arrived safely. I went to the interview and gave it my best, answering questions honestly and to the best of my ability.
I really don’t have any regrets about the experience, as far as I know, I did a pretty good job. I mean, I didn’t wear a black suit like almost everyone else there, but I dressed professionally and with my own personal style. I suppose it could have been a mistake to wear orange and blue Johnston and Murphy oxfords. I can’t bring myself to believe that a program would reject me because I didn’t blend in with the standard attire.
I don’t know know why I didn’t get in, exactly. It could be that my research interests didn’t align with those of the faculty. It could be that my emphasis on Marriage and Family didn’t align with their program’s emphasis on Mental Health and School Counseling. It could be that I was longer out of school than every other applicant in my group interview and that wasn’t what they wanted. It could have been my Gator colors shoes.
I wrestled a lot with what might have caused the program to deny my admission all at the same time I knew in my heart of hearts that God was letting me know that this isn’t my path right now. Especially in fact, since that is what I asked of Him in the first place, to give me an answer. I knew that He was telling me, “Keep going. You’re doing well. Just don’t stop. You don’t need to do this extra thing to be enough. You are already enough the way that I created you. Focus in on where you are. Grow, strive, thrive!”
You see, God knows me better than anyone. He made me. He knows that I don’t like having open time in my schedule. He knows that I tend toward feeling lost and purposeless if every hour isn’t filled with some meaningful experience. That’s why I am a therapist, because at all times, while working, I am doing something meaningful and potentially life-changing. That sounds like a lot of pressure, but God created me for this role. He created me especially to handle this specific kind of pressure. He created me to thrive under pressure, being needed, and having to pull too many things off in a short amount of time. That’s why I have a category on my Wunderlist entitled You could always work on this… and another called Fun things you could do…, because I can’t stand wasted time or not knowing what to do with my time. I’m special, I know.
I am able to deal with this “No” because I understand that it is “Yes” to what God has planned for me. Remember the signs I said God left along the way? Well, my counseling business had been trucking along slowly, that’s just the way it is when you’re building a private practice and you don’t mess with the insurance side of things. It’s been doubling every year, but when you start out with one or two clients a week, it’s not as impressive as it sounds! Right about the time I was to turn in my application, my counseling client caseload grew by 50%. All at once. And it has remained at this level for the last five months. It is pretty typical for it to get busier this time of year, but this was a huge increase. This growth was also due in large part to word-of-mouth referral, which was another clear sign that my business was starting to grow in ways that were reflective of the five years of work I’d put in so far. A “Yes” to let me know that I’m on the right track. A “Yes” that made me wonder how I was going to have time for school with the schedule filling up like it was. I started to second guess my choice to go back to school.
This was my big clue that no matter what, I was going to be ok. I’d be taken care of. God always takes care of his children. It doesn’t mean we won’t fight for things sometimes just to see if that’s how God wants to bless us or lead us. There is always something to learn. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. That’s right, His purpose. Because, honestly, I’m done chasing my own ideas. What God has for me is always always always better than what I imagine or try to accomplish for myself.
What did I learn though this? Well, for one thing, that math is harder 10 years after the last time I took the GRE and 15+ years since I’d learned it in the first place! But I still got it! The old brain still works. I also learned that I believe in myself more now. To even apply to the program took a lot of courage and confidence that frankly, I didn’t have several years ago when I could have applied straight from my masters program at UF. I learned that I can work hard, give it my best, and not achieve something, but that it doesn’t mean I didn’t succeed. I also learned that right now, God wants me right here, doing what I’m doing. And I learned over again that I am loved, I am valuable, and I have worth, even as I accept rejection.