What Matters

Oh my goodness screaming: I matched at H*rvard Medical School for my final year of my Psychology PhD program! The email arrived in my inbox at 5:06AM yesterday, right after I rolled out of bed and brushed my teeth in my Seattle hotel room. I feel excited because this position focuses on conducting therapy and research related to serving marginalized and vulnerable populations in the Boston area, which aligns so well with my values.

I visited Seattle so I could spend the days before and after match with my bff Bri! Here is the fantastic dinner we had the night before the Match results.
Also omfg there’s a cafe that sells acai bowls within walking distance of my hotel room and I’m LIVING. I’m fruity and so are these bowls and that’s why we stan (feat. a random meat bun).

In some ways this match process reminds me of when I graduated from undergrad in 2017. The psychology department at my college gave out three different awards. That year, no one won the award about community outreach, two students split the award for overall outstanding Psychology major, and I won the third award for academic excellence in Psychology.

I remember standing on the stage as one of my professors talked about my accomplishments. My college had a ton of Psychology majors so the auditorium had been packed with people’s loved ones. When my professor read aloud her kind words about my high GPA, research productivity, and extracurricular involvement, I remember thinking to myself: none of this matters.

Looking back, of course the accomplishments mattered given how much my mentors invested in me so I could achieve. These accomplishments improved the material conditions of my life as well. At the same time, they felt meaningless in contrast to the internal work I had done throughout my undergraduate years, where I spent over two years in ongoing outpatient individual therapy, struggling and recovering from PTSD. At times, I felt like my brain had been literally set on fire due to the intensity of my flashbacks and the emotional overwhelm of it all. While I invested myself in my academic and professional roles, I really threw my whole heart and soul into developing my internal self into the person I wanted to embody: someone self-aware, kind, and willing to work through their issues. On the auditorium stage, though, no one knew about what I felt most proud of other than me.

I feel similarly now. I worked hard and matched at this pretty prestigious pretty site. While I appreciate the flourishing of my clinical and research skills, my internal growth matters just as much if not more – learning to relax my tendencies toward control and perfectionism, recognizing that just because someone has a stated commitment to social justice does not mean they will necessarily enact that commitment to social justice interpersonally or to those with less power than them, and further refining what I value in friendship. Also, I accomplished all of this without a male romantic partner, so Thomas: 1, amatonormativity and heteronormativity: 0.

I will move to Cambridge/Boston in late May or early June and I do feel a bit intimidated because I have not moved across multiple states ever in my entire life. However, I can worry about that later, so right now I’m sitting with a lot of gratitude. I feel grateful to my grandmother who passed along her compassion and nurturance to me, and I even feel grateful for the positive traits my other family members gave me, minus the trauma. I feel grateful for writer Caroline Knapp for inspiring me to live a life where I prioritize self-awareness and self-insight, genuine vulnerability, and challenging the status quo. Right now, I feel most grateful for this blog and my 1.82 readers, for giving me a space to share honestly about my life for over a decade now. All these elements of my life remind me of what really matters.

Excited to move to Cambridge/Boston so I’m closer to the Charles River where Caroline Knapp rowed her way out of anorexia! If you hear or see a Gaysian with colorful hair screaming pop song lyrics near the Charles River from June 2022 to June 2023, it’s most likely me. (Image by John Burk.)

How do you remind yourself of what really matters to you in your life? Any tips for moving long distances to help prevent me from shaking, crying, and throwing up the entire time? Yayyyy I’m so glad the waiting process for residency is over and I know where I’m headed next yayyyy. Until next post!

21 Comments

Filed under Personal

21 responses to “What Matters

  1. Thomas – congratulations on your match! I’m so happy and proud of you. You’ve accomplished so much while facing so many challenges in your life. You’re just incredible.

    • Awww thanks so much Matt! Your support throughout the years and the ups and downs has meant so much to me. Here’s to continued blogging and sharing!

  2. Amy

    Congratulations, Thomas! You deserve to be proud of your hard work!

    • Thanks so much Amy! Yes, doing my best to honor this accomplishment while at the same time knowing external accomplishments do not determine my or anyone else’s self-worth. (:

  3. OH MY GOSH CONGRATS!!! You so deserve this amazing development! I get what you mean about your inner growth feeling like the biggest accomplishment. Those other accomplishments are so amazing and impressive as hell, but the fact that you continue to look back and see how much you’ve grown in positive ways is priceless. You fought like hell to be here, and you inspire me so much! I haven’t moved across the country, but I had serious anxiety moving cities and the best thing I did was go outside and find a scenic place to read, and then when I starting experiencing symptoms of a panic attack I listened to music and colored lol. So excited for you and can’t wait to see how far you go, both in your healing journey and academic journey. I’m going to go listen to Twice to celebrate Thomas style 😎💜

    • Awwwww this is so sweet Emilie thank you so much ((: So appreciate your support throughout the years and how you honor both the internal and external growth! That’s helpful your sharing about your moving cities – I feel like I’ve been approaching it in a super Type A way which is backfiring a little bit so I think I’m going to continue engaging and calming and meaning-centered activities to help me destress. Um also yes at listening to Twice we love that for you stan Feel Special I Can’t Stop Me and More and More! Woo!

  4. Manaal

    this post makes me so happy! I love how you’ve come so far professionally, yet are always prioritising your internal development over all else.
    We need more people like you in the world ❤
    sending lots of warmth your way!

    • Awwwww so sweet thank you so much. So honored that you’ve read my blog for at least a little while now. I do my best to prioritize the internal development because that matters to me a lot and appreciate you highlighting that. Sending warmth your way too! (:

  5. WHEEEEEEEE! Okay, now, with the screaming. I just needed to read one more post!! I’m very happy you know where you’d headed now and it sounds like you’ve done some initial surveying and found even more reasons to be excited! Yay, double yay!

    • Awwww yes thank you for your screaming, it’s much appreciated! That’s helpful what you wrote about knowing where I’m headed – I think I’ve been so far in the planning process for moving that I’ve gone a bit astray from appreciating the present moment in what it offers. Your support means a lot to me. (:

      • Hah! That’s true! We have to remind ourselves, as busy notebook scribblers and energetic planners, that planning isn’t being and it’s worth celebrating when we have good news…if we just allow ourselves a moment to do so (or many moments in a sequence hehe)….I’m going to try to apply that as well. ::chuckles::

  6. It’s so exciting and you should be very proud of yourself. And you will accomplish your move with the aplomb with which you accomplish everything. I feel honoured to have witnessed your journey so far and can’t wait to hear about the next stage.

    • Awwwww Liz thanks so much for your kindness and support throughout the years, I’m touched you’ve stayed the course with this blog for so long. Much love to you my fellow bookish blogger!

  7. Kartavya Ratate

    Congratulations, Thomas!! You deserve this success! And I hope you find enough opportunities in the future to take values-oriented actions both inside and outside of academia, and that you grow in healthy, meaningful ways that strengthen your integrity. Wishing you all the best for everything that is to come. Let Caroline’s legacy be felt as you visit the Charles River and be your guiding force through it all! Take care 🙂

    • Awwww thanks so much for this well wish! Yes I’m excited to take values-oriented actions and to bask in the Charles River once I arrive. Appreciate you taking the time to read and to comment.

  8. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!! CONGRATSSSSSSSSSSS how exciting!!!!!

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