I've wanted to write this post since last Friday, but...[fill in the blank lame excuse for not writing]. But I'm making myself write it tonight. It's had nearly a week to simmer in my brain. It should be good and acquainted and flavorful by now.
See, as of last Friday at about 2:46PM, I am a licensed psychologist. I have had quite a few celebrations between then and now, and too many "congratulations" to count. It's a big deal. Yes, yes, of COURSE it's a big deal for everybody. It's important. But...it's a really big deal. I cried when I passed that last test. I cried when I got the official letter in the mail today. I will probably cry when the official license comes in a few weeks. I cried when I got mail from another organization saying "congrats, you passed it, now join our organization and give us money." And yeah...maybe everybody cries about these things. Maybe licensure just turns us all into blubbering messes.
When I talk to others, I'm not really sure what to say. Yep, I passed it. Yep, it's exciting. Yep, it feels awesome. Yep, I'm really and officially done. Yet, as I say these things and have these conversations, underneath of the excitement and the happiness is something else. There's something else burbling there, and so far, when I let it up to the surface, it just comes as tears. Happy tears. Relieved tears. Overwhelmed tears. But tears nonetheless. What's with that?
Passing that last licensure test feels like the closing of a door. A big, heavy door. On Friday, I let it slam with a really big, resounding BAM. In the silence that is left after that soul-shaking slam, I feel lighter. I feel like it indicates that I finally ran faster than those demons that have been chasing me. For once, I ran down the right hallway, I closed the door, and the entire limitless world is in front of me, rather than a dead-end, or a cliff, or an ocean I need to swim.
How are you liking all these metaphors? Are they working for you? I don't think they're working for me. I thought this post had already had time to simmer? Let's try again:
Grad school was rough. In fact, it was pretty awful in parts. In other parts, it was just flat-out, downright awful. I've realized lately that, sometimes, awful happens so slowly that you don't realize it's happening. Sometimes, awful runs you over like a semi hitting a squirrel on the highway. Sometimes, when awful creeps and rolls and flattens you, you kind of forget what "not awful" is like. The work of grad school was part of it: I dare you to find someone who says their clinical comprehensive exams or their dissertation was "fun." (Actually, my dissertation was kind of fun. It was work, but it was good work....it was a little bit fun). The actual work of grad school, though, was not the majority of the awfulness. The majority of it was the extremely unhealthy environment The Program created. The majority of it was the finding and losing of friends. The majority of the awfulness was bullying. The majority of the awfulness was sexual assault. It was harassment. It was the brushing of issues under the rug. It was no support from The Powers That Be. It was lies, and it was fear, and no one to trust, and anxiety, and most of all, it was the feeling of No Way Out. It was feeling that The Program and the Bullies and the Powers That Be were omnipresent and ubiquitous.
There were good things, too. There were friends, and there was church, and there was meaningful work, and there are people I love there who love me back. But when you're in a place of No Way Out, it can be hard to feel that and believe it. It can be hard to feel worthy of it. It can be hard to feel that it's real.
When I moved for my internship (which occurs prior to graduation), I wanted to feel closure...but I didn't. The Program, the Bullies, the Powers That Be all had power over me. The Program and the Powers That Be had legitimate power. They could still prevent me from graduating. The Bullies--that power was all in my head. I had nightmares and day-mares on the regular about all the myriad ways I imagined The Program preventing me from graduating.
But then I did -- I graduated -- and again, I waited for and looked for closure. It came to an extent, but I still felt they had this power over me that I couldn't name. I still had to pass the national and state licensure exams. Somebody could still find me, hear some version of lies from The Powers That Be in The Program, and prevent me from ever being licensed (so I told myself). I believed that I could still fail. I could still "prove" the people right that I felt were trying to tear me down. They could still win.
The national licensure test and the state exam were the last hurdles. The very last hurdles. After that, I would be on my own: nobody else would hold that power over me anymore that I felt would stop me or prevent me from achieving my goal. I imagined my school refusing to release my transcripts, being unable to get documentation of my hours of clinical practice and supervision...I pictured bridges being so burned that I could not get what I needed to finish the last step.
Miraculously, none of that happened. Documentation was provided. With much studying and anxiety, I finished the two tests. It's done. It's over. I did it, in spite of The Program, in spite of The Powers That Be, and in spite of The Bullies. I no longer need to rely on them to provide me with anything. The people I work with now will gladly provide anything I need. They like me and the work that I do. I feel that they value me, and they respect me. I get to engage in work that fills my soul and is deeply meaningful. In spite of everything, I get to do what I set out to do. I saw that goal through to the very bitter end, and it feels as though a weight has been lifted. The axe is no longer hanging over my head. The door is closed, and my body is turned out to the world with my face towards the sun.
I am also realistic: there may be strong winds that blow that door open a bit. There may be times it gets stuck and I need to figure out how to push it closed. It could fall off its hinges. The locks could break, the handle could fall off, somebody I need in my life could be on the wrong side of the door. Anything is possible.
But for right now, the door is closed. The weight of those years is packed away somewhere safe. My body is turned out to the world. My face is turned towards the sun.