Hi! I have not posted in quite some time, although it wasn’t without good reason! I was finishing up my last two years of coursework, research, and clinical work while pursuing my PhD in counseling psychology. The past few years felt like a whirlwind and a lifetime all at once. Now, I find myself sitting in a small house in the Bay Area with my fiancé, coming close to defending my dissertation, and working as an doctoral psychology intern at Stanford University.
For those who have used this blog as a tool for navigating grad school applications, I hope to write a blog series about the process of applying for internship in the coming months. For those of you here to support me (or find #strangebutgood receipes), thank you for continuing to show up and being patient through the radio silence of the last few years.
2023 has come with many exciting opportunities and I find myself feeling immensely grateful for all that’s to come. That being said, I’d be lying if all the changes have been a breeze. Like most of us, change can bring up my own anxieties, and there has been a picture of excitement and anxiety. A new mentor of mine has coined this feeling as “anxcited” and I think that might be the word that sums up 2023 so far.
I’ve been on an audiobook since the pandemic started. I have always loved reading, but since starting graduate school I’ve found it really difficult to sit down and read for pleasure. When the pandemic hit, I couldn’t move my body in ways I was used to (like going to the gym), so I started walking a LOT. Walking helped me get out of my head, get rid of anxious energy, and kept me feeling strong. What I loved about walking was that I could listen to an audiobook and just appreciate the beauty around me as I listened and learned. All that being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite books that I read during 2021.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: This book absolutely blew me away. There were some evenings where I could not stop listening to the book and had to find more things to do around the house so I could keep listening to find out what happened next! The story is beautifully written and captivating. It melds the joy and grief of human experience, art, and the painful history of the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the U.S. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and have to thank my mom for sharing it with me!
Untamed by Glennon Doyle: I have been dying to read this book since it came out in 2020. Both this book and Glennon Doyle’s other book, Love Warrior, feel so raw and I felt like she let me into her inner world. There are few times when we get to feel like we are a part of someone’s best and worst moments, and this book was one of those times. This book is great for those of us who feel shame about some of our mistakes or choices; Glennon Doyle shows how those very low points can lead to us to our best moments and our authentic selves.
More Than a Body: Your body is an instrument, not an ornament by Lexie Kite and Lindsay Kite: I have followed Lexie and Lindsay’s instagram page for a few years and have admired them and their work. I decided to take the plunge and read this book for myself and for the work I do with clients who struggle with body image. I loved that this book doesn’t take the stance of body positivity, which is a concept that does not resonate well with me. As someone who has had a complicated relationship with my body, especially while struggling with IBS for years, body positivity has felt far out of reach. The book talks about the idea of body neutrality and body image resilience, which feels like a concept that can serve us all well.
The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.: This book was incredible, even if most of the deeper meaning seemed to go right over my head! Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors and this book was one of the first books to remind me of her beautiful approach to storytelling. This is not a book you can miss a few pages of–every page and element was important. This book is about many things, but I particularly loved the LGBTQ+ love story that runs through the book. An important note: there are scenes of sexual violence in the book that some might find triggering.
The Guest List by Lucy Foley: This book was pure entertainment for me. If you want to get sucked into a different world and a mystery, this book is for you! There were elements of this book that I did not love and it felt predictable at times, but it did not disappoint. This is a great story to listen to while doing mindless tasks (cooking, laundry, etc.) because you can miss a few sentences and, frankly, you likely won’t miss anything too important.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: This book was AMAZING! It might have been one of my favorite books of 2021. The character development and resilience displayed by the characters in this book were phenomenal. I loved the strong female lead and her growth and development throughout. The book brings in so many interesting themes (sexism, classism, etc.). I can close my eyes and still vividly imagine scenes from this book months after reading it.
Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle by Amelia and Emily Nagoski: I read this book as part of my own therapy work! Burnout seemed to be a theme of 2021 for almost everyone I knew. I learned so much while reading this book. It is educational, but it also provides some very practical skills and worksheets to use to manage stress and decrease feelings of burnout. I love that this book does not place all responsibility in the hands of the individual, but also talks about the sociopolitical context that leads to burnout, especially for those who identify as women.
Have you read any of the books from this list? What were some of your favorite books from 2021?
I have talked about SMART goals on my blog in the past, but I think it is a topic worth revisiting! SMART goals have gotten relatively popular in the past few years. You might’ve heard of SMART goals before, but they are: 🔹Specific 🔹Measurable 🔹Achievable 🔹Reasonable 🔹Time bound
You can see in the graphic below that sometimes different words are used, but it generally has the same meaning!
I love talking about goal-setting and intentions at different points of the year. There is a narrative that we set goals on January 1st and stick to them all year, but how limiting is that? It is always a good time to work toward a change you want to see in your life. Some 80% of new years resolutions fail. I don’t say this to deter anyone from their goals, but it is important to get real about what’s possible for you and when is a good time to start. Maybe January 1st isn’t a good time for you, but maybe today is a time when you feel ready, willing, and passionate about making a change. Changing behavior is hard work, whether you are trying to floss more, become more self-compassionate, or train for a triathlon, and timing is an important factor to consider.
I thought it might be helpful to share how I used the principles of SMART goals to set my own intentions and goals. I see intentions as larger ideas, hopes, or aspirations. One of my intentions is “Put more energy into healthy friendships.” This intention feels hard to measure and it’s difficult to know where to begin—that’s where SMART goals come in! So for each intention, I came up with 2-3 SMART goals. For the intention I shared above, my goals are 1) Call a good friend at least once a week 2) Reach out to an old friend once a month.
While the goals I listed above are SMART goals, using the SMART acronym as a guide rather than a rule is great. Make it work for you! For those of us who are results-driven, it can be very helpful to choose goals that are measurable. With measurable goals, you can look back at your progress and feel proud of your accomplishments and look back and see where you have room to improve.
I also want to highlight that it is important to practice self-compassion while working toward any kind of goal. Life hardly ever goes according to plan, so it is important to remain flexible and be gentle with yourself while pursuing change. Celebrate the little victories of making baby steps towards your goals and intentions!
Ok, so the logistics of interviews were a nightmare for me. I know this year has looked very different due to Covid-19 so many programs are offering interviews virtually. This change has come with a lot of pros and cons.
Pros: Cheaper, easier, safety of being behind a screen, access to notes or other resources, down time
Cons: Unable to see campus, unable to spend time much with students, can’t get a sense of the grad school’s location, limited opportunities to see your potential mentor and other students interact
Thinking back to a time when I have three interviews within four days, I can’t say I’m not a tiny bit jealous of applicants interviewing in 2021. I remember almost missing a flight from Oklahoma and landing in Knoxville before preparing myself to fly to Boston a few days later–talk about exhaustion! To be frank, I would estimate that I spent upwards of $1,500 on travel for interview (planes, ubers, hotels, etc.) not including food. I also traveled from San Francisco to the East Coast and some remote locations (Stillwater, OK; Knoxville, TN). While it was really expensive and took a lot of time, I prefer interviewing in person. It’s also important that I acknowledge that I have many privileges that allowed me to afford to travel to so many places. I had a well-paid job with unlimited time off, which made it possible for me to visit so many schools.
While this year has been different, I still want to share some of the ways I made the interview process more affordable. First, I would recommend starting or using a travel friendly credit card (I use Chase Sapphire Preferred) in order to maximize points for airfare and hotel stays. Second, book your flights as soon as your full itinerary starts coming together. I found this part to be very stressful! You hear back from different schools at different times–and sometimes you don’t have that long to plan. If you can choose flexible, no change fee flights, you should do that! Third, stay with students when you can. Most programs have graduate students who let prospective students stay with them. I know my program goes to great lengths to make comfortable matches by asking about pet allergies, gender preferences, etc. I stayed with current students twice during the interview process, although I wish I did it more. It was a great opportunity to get to know a student well and get the inside scoop on a program! I did not stay with students more often because I was afraid it would feel draining and I wouldn’t have time to decompress; this is a completely valid reason to stay at a hotel or airbnb! I stayed at hotels using credit card points and I found an airbnb for $40/night in Oklahoma (I have some regrets about this choice…sometimes you get what you pay for!). Take care of yourself, but it is also a good opportunity to push out of your comfort zone and get some extra time with students. I also know that the feedback of the student you stay with carries a lot of weight; they don’t care if you go to bed at 8pm or wake up right before it’s time to leave, but they will take note of whether you’re interested in them, are polite, or write them a nice thank you note. Those little things go a long way!
Logistically, interview are stressful. Think about your priorities and what you are able to do time-wise, energy-wise, and financially.
A friend and colleague of mine recommended this talk to me during a meeting about a week ago. I watched it and it has really stuck with me. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t take things personally; I think some of it is human nature, but some of this thinking can change. As a student clinician, I liked how the speaker discussed his own experience and how he provided easy ways we can begin to view interactions with others through a less negative and less self-focused lens.
What did you think of this talk? Were you surprised that the speaker actually became a referee in order to work on taking things less personally?
I had the opportunity to write a blog for the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP) a few weeks ago on healthy media use and wanted to share it with you! Here is a snippet of the article:
Although social media and the 24/7 news cycle are not new, they have become much more pronounced as much of the U.S. has engaged in social distancing measures. In recent months, the role of the media has been amplified for those of us living in the U.S. who still seem locked in an enduring and grueling election cycle. Even those of us who used to rely solely on standard news outlets may now be scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram to stay up to date on current events (often alternating between two platforms at any given moment).