After submitting 15 applications, traveling to a new state every weekend for a month, and taking a lot of time to deliberate, I have accepted an offer to attend a renowned Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in the D.C. metro area! I almost cannot believe that I started this blog as a sophomore in high school, and now, seven years later, I write this post just a few months before graduating from William & Mary and beginning a doctoral program in August. In addition to sharing this good news with everyone, I also want to reflect on a few ideas inspired by the film Before I Fall, which I saw a few nights ago and loved.
This intense application process and film both made me ask: why do we do what we do? In the film, our main character, Sam Kingston, acts as a spineless member of a fearsome foursome of girls who bully their peers and make several bad decisions. Sam does not question her place in this group until she dies and is forced to re-experience her last living day over and over. Then, she starts to question: why do I tease these people? Why do I spend time with these three mean, obnoxious girls? I appreciate how the film portrays Sam not as an innate devil of a character, rather, it shows that she, like so many of us, get stuck in our day-to-day, to the point where we cease to question why we do what we do.
This emphasis on the “why” made me think about the grad school application process and my undergraduate career overall. So many students, throughout their education, just go through their routines without really pausing to consider the implications of their actions. Why do so many of us bend over backwards to secure a high GPA, when that number will mean nothing to us in a few years? If today were our last day, would we really spend it stressing over X assignment or Y task, or would we try to spread love to our friends and close ones? Of course, unlike the movie, we have to consider our futures within the context of a capitalist society – but I wonder how much happiness and fulfillment we would feel if we stopped to reflect on our values and if what we do really brings us joy.
Another amazing scene in the movie: Sam confronts her savage friend, Lindsay, and asks her: “why didn’t you tell me about your parents’ divorce?” Sam, in a moment that showcases her newfound maturity, understands that Lindsay’s meanness and cruelty stems from her own internal pain. She sees past Lindsay’s tough facade and acknowledges the frightened, insecure girl underneath.
Sam’s moment of understanding speaks to so much of the pain I have encountered and seen in my own life. Some of the competitive, not-so-friendly attitudes of those vying for prestigious positions or awards comes from an internal insecurity that longs for an external source of control, of power. I have observed otherwise kind people stay silent about wrongdoings so that they could remain part of a group, because they felt afraid to speak up and risk their membership. Those who join white supremacist groups often do so after being bullied or indoctrinated by their families, and men who abuse others have often been conditioned to do so because of toxic masculinity. Of course, none of these factors justify horrendous actions like physical assault or emotional mistreatment – but they help us understand the roots of these people’s pain, so we can work toward healing, progress, and prevention.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have faced some awful challenges in my life. At a younger age, I used to worry if experiencing these challenges would make me look weak or damaged or incompetent in some way. But now I see: if we learn to live with our values, embrace our scars and vulnerabilities, and commit ourselves to self-care, anything is possible. I hope I can help others on this journey in this exciting new stage of my career.
How has everyone been doing with grad school apps/the job search process/life in general? I hope that after I finish up this school year I will have more time to blog before I begin grad school. If anyone has any recommendations about apartment hunting (e.g., what features to look for, how to make effective use of a tour, etc.) please let me know. Until next time!