It’s been a really long time since I last talked about my grad school journey on here. So much has transpired. So many things have changed: 

Myself. 

My interests. 

My ambitions. 

My plans.

My life purpose.

Perhaps this is what has changed the most over the last year or so—my purpose. Or is it that I was never all too sure what my life purpose actually was?

To have finally stumbled upon it is indeed a change, but it’s not an evolution of what already existed. Instead, it’s a gleeful discovery of that which previously went unnoticed, and was thereby assumed to simply not exist at all.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I realize that I never finished telling the story of how I landed in this place. It’s possible that I may revisit it again, so that I might encourage someone else who has had a similar experience. However, there’s no time for that now. 

Now, I must chronicle the current moment, my present path. A path untraveled.

Last year, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and apply for grad school once more. No, no, no. I say that as though the inspiration came straight from me, but this is hardly true. It actually occurred by “accident”.

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Though I had an idea of where I wanted to study and why, my certainty surrounding a specific discipline within the field of psychology was desperately blurry. However, this had nearly always been the case. 

Although there have been many valid obstacles preventing me from continuing my education over the years, I strongly believe my failure to push back more than I did stemmed from a lack of confidence.

By the time I finished college, I felt burnt out and disillusioned. My lifelong intent to complete medical school and go into psychiatry had well and truly died, but not without first dragging my sense of self and direction right into the grave with it. 

If not psychiatry, what else could I do? Who else could I see myself being within the field I’d passionately loved since I was a child? What route could I now take? What made sense? How could I be used? What could take the place of the only career path that had ever fully resonated with my soul?

For awhile, that answer was nothing.  

Over and over again, I found myself grasping for single hairs in the pitch black dark. Nothing felt right. Nothing fit. And yet, I continued to draft, half-execute, and then blatantly erase numerous plans of (in)action. 

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Sometimes I stayed within psychology, but mostly, I’d flirt with the idea of furthering my study in completely unrelated fields. This was partially due to my desire to express and satiate my wild, creative notions that were continually shoved aside to make room for psychiatry.

More often than not, I failed to pursue psychology programs due to the unspeakable disappointment and guilt I felt for not believing in myself enough, for feeling unable to follow my heart. I maintained this love-hate relationship with psychology for years upon years; so much so that I had convinced myself that I no longer liked it.

Lies.

Let’s fast forward some, shall we? After all, my life moves so fast at times—I scarcely remember the details anyway. 

Sometime last summer or fall—I forget which—a seemingly innocent and casual pursuit of knowledge landed me in a class. It is hard to now recall why I even chose to take it; it certainly had nothing to do with my day to day life. Although the study of how health professionals might utilize integrative care for a physically ill patient with co-occurring mental concerns appeared to have nothing to do with my career ambitions, there I was. 

Truth be told, I greatly enjoyed the class, as well as the discussions that took place in it. It was very insightful and considerably fun, but the real benefit didn’t have anything to do with the class itself. Instead, my entire life trajectory was altered by an inconspicuous informational “advertisement” that crossed my path as I reviewed one of the class lessons for the week. 

At first, I just glazed over it. Blah, blah, blah, neuroscience. Blah, blah, Masters program. Okay, that’s nice, whatever, I thought, carelessly.

When I think back to this initial moment, I remember having a slight jolt of interest upon reading the literature. There was just this nonchalant hint of curiosity that peaked within me, but it was so very brief.

More than anything, I recall feeling inexplicably annoyed by the advertisement. 

I know this must sound extremely strange. How could I become irritated by a harmless digital flyer? Well, I’m an odd bird sometimes. My reactions to certain things are still beyond my own comprehension, but I understand them to a point.

Sometimes, when I am confronted with something that I recognize—even unconsciously—as something I need to pay attention to, but perhaps don’t want to, I instantly become annoyed by it. This was definitely one of these times.

When I first saw the advertisement, it did grab my attention, but part of me was equally turned off as well. It was as though I wanted to show more interest, but felt far too stupid to be bothered with it. LOL. How can I explain this properly? I guess I was quick to reject it because neuroscience was just “out of my league”, according to yours truly. And because of that, I wanted no parts of it.

Throughout my time studying psychology in both high school and college, my least favorite topic was neuroscience. If it specifically had to do with the brain itself, the nerves, neurological disorders, or anything else remotely related, you could not talk to me about it. Whenever lectures came up regarding the structures and functions of the brain, synapse this or neuron that, I would just… check the heck out. 

The same was true of anatomy class as well. When it came to the skeletal or cardiovascular system, I was all ears. When it came down to the nervous system, I was suddenly bored beyond belief. It’s not as though I didn’t understand it either; it just wouldn’t hold my interest. If you had asked me my least favorite part of psychology, I would have nominated the study of the nervous system each and every time, without so much as flinching.

Perhaps now you can imagine my aversion to the thought of someone getting a Masters in Neuroscience. And now that you have that mental picture in your head, imagine my horror when I sensed that this was exactly what I was being led to do.

Even in the first moment that I read the notice about the program, something inside me knew that it wasn’t just another advertisement. This advertisement was for me. Despite trying to shake it off and ignore it, I recognized that I was seeing it for a reason.

When I came across the advertisement a second time, I immediately folded. My heart softened just enough to read through the entire document and actually poke around the department’s website. Sure enough, by the time I was halfway done, I knew without a doubt that God was telling me to go into neuroscience: the very last thing I would have ever wanted to pursue on my own.

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A month or so later, I selected a program and applied. I didn’t apply to multiple schools either—just one. Much to my surprise, the application process was ridiculously easy and stress-free. If I hadn’t known that God was literally busting down doors to make it impossible for me to disobey Him, I would have been flabbergasted by the ease of it all. There were one or two hiccups during the process, but in comparison to other application experiences I’ve had, it was a walk in the park. 

Despite being nervous and apprehensive about the subject matter itself, I was confident that I’d be accepted because I trusted the direction in which I was being led. Sure enough, I got in. However, that’s when things got super weird. Well, weirder.

Once I applied to the program, I knew when school would start, so I started trying to save up for it. At first, it seemed as though I would have more than enough time to get my finances together, but things didn’t go according to plan at all. 

For months, I just kept running into situations that required me to dip into what I’d earmarked for school. I was constantly watching my savings drain like:

No matter how careful I was, my bank account hemorrhaged funds to pay for everything but tuition. Nervous that I’d eventually run out of time and wouldn’t have enough saved, I deferred my admission, not once, but twice.

By this point in time, I was really, really confused. In my heart, I knew without a doubt that God had led me to neuroscience. Goodness knows I sure didn’t pick that discipline on my own! Based on the circumstances and the initial ease of everything, I knew I was doing the right thing, but then again, I didn’t understand why I was having such a hard time actually paying for it.

I knew something was amiss, I just didn’t know what it was, so I started praying about it.

At first, He ignored me. Lol. I mean, God obviously doesn’t ignore people, but His silence in conjunction with impending payment deadlines made me feel as though I was being ignored. After awhile of asking Him what was wrong, I got this sense that I hadn’t followed His directions properly.

Of course, I was shocked by this and was quick to be completely confused. How had I messed up and not listened to His direction? He told me to go into neuroscience: I did it. He told me to apply to school: I did it. How on Earth had I been disobedient?

Well, a few months went by and I was no closer to keeping my money in one place than I was in understanding what I’d done wrong. Many different things transpired during that time (mostly in my personal life), and for a moment, it seemed as though all focus on grad school was shoved onto the back burner. I mean, it was always in the back of my mind, but definitely not a main focus in comparison to things that needed my immediate attention and consideration. 

Even though it didn’t seem as though the events that took place during those months had anything to do with grad school, many of them had everything to do with it. From debating whether to move to being presented with seemingly random opportunities, my life entered a state of option overload. Though overwhelming at times, I was able to explore a lot of new avenues that I’d never considered, as well as put some long-term goals to bed—for good.

It was through one of these random pursuits that I discovered what I’d done wrong. As it turns out, I had not only been disobedient, but I had also failed to receive full direction before acting.  

For one, I had originally planned to go to school out of the country. But did I actually apply to a program outside of the US? 

Nope.

Did I wait for clarification about the specific area of research I should study before I applied to a program? 

Nope.

Now, I don’t know about you, but to me, this seems to be a significant oversight. 

For awhile, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Considering I had already applied to a program and gotten in, the last thing I felt comfortable doing was correcting my mistake by applying to yet another program.

Not to mention, the specific area I was now being led to research was really not my cup of tea. Everything about it has always made me uncomfortable, to the point where I didn’t think I was going to be able to answer that call. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to.

Still, I knew what I had heard.

So many things started whirring through my mind. To say that I felt completely out of my element and anxiety stricken would be a mild understatement. For as much as I have prayed to finally find my purpose in life and feel as though I was certain about it, nothing could have prepared me for what my path would be revealed as. 

My initial response (for about two weeks) was, “This can’t be right.”

Even though I started going through the motions of trying to figure out what it would take to get into the “right” program, I continued to be bewildered by everything that had been presented to me. Everything God was telling me to do was the antithesis of what I’d thought I’d ever want to do. In no way, shape, or form was I interested in pursuing the research area I’d been led to. At first glance, it looked like a total mistake.

However, within a month’s time, all of the missing pieces started to fall together. Memories of experiences long forgotten began reemerging. Chance encounters with seemingly random people (all with similar conditions) now ceased to look so random. I was starting to develop interest in something I’d never paid much attention to before.

It was scary. It was weird. It was awesome.

Photo Credit: Daria Shevtsova via Pexels

Knowing what I know now, it’s mind-blowing to look back throughout my life and see so many signs that point in the direction I am now going. Even my initial distaste for the subject matter ended up being a significant clue. 

So… where does that leave me now?

I now understand that my subtle lack of peace had been an indication that I’d gotten close, but hadn’t chosen a research area specific enough. Likewise, my deferment was necessary. After all, if I hadn’t delayed my admission, I would have missed the opportunity to realize my mistake– and correct it before officially enrolling.

At the present moment, I am preparing to apply for the new program. I’ve spoken with my school of choice and have researched pretty much everything there is to know about it. Overall, I’m extremely excited.

I can’t say I necessarily felt excited when I got into the first program. Though I was happy, something seemed “off”. I guess I should have trusted my intuition, huh?

This time around, I feel so… happy. I mean, just thinking about being apart of the research they are doing brings tears to my eyes because it feels like the ideal fit.

Of course, this is really weird coming from someone who hasn’t always felt this way about it. Yet, I have this burning excitement coursing through my veins because I’ve finally found my place in the field I fell in love with decades ago. 

Even though I hate how long it took me to reach this point, the irony is downright hilarious. God definitely has a sense of humor because how sick and twisted is it that I’m getting ready to do something I once upon a time couldn’t stand the thought of? 

I love it.

This isn’t to say that my venture down the path untraveled comes without fear of the unknown. Actually, it comes with an almost crippling amount of fear. Even though I know what I’ve been told and I have faith that I will land exactly where I’m supposed to, God’s plan is twenty times scarier than the plan I was trying to pursue. I have no idea how I’m coping.

First of all, the new plan requires me to temporarily move halfway across the globe. I will be all by myself in a land where I know no one… except for my ex, who conveniently refuses to speak to me (and the plot thickens). 😂

Although I am motivated to involve myself in the goings on of the school as much as possible so I can meet lots of new people, I do worry about potentially feeling homesick and lonely. I’m used to seeing my family on a regular basis, plus my beloved pets must be left behind while I’m away. 😭

There is also the need to conjure a stunning statement of purpose about a subject I’ve only recently developed an interest in. Although I’ve spent the last three weeks feverishly studying all I can about my chosen area of research, I still feel quite dumb.

It doesn’t help that the research community doesn’t really understand it much either, so I’m constantly trying to make sense of their confusion in hopes of greatly diminishing my own. Yikes.

To make matters worse (as though added complexity was necessary), this program is going to cost twice as much as the first one.

Now, I know I was never a math genius in school, but I know a conundrum when I see one. How on Earth am I supposed to pay for a “Mercedes” when I can barely scrape together enough for a “Kia”?! 🤣

Though I’ve suddenly been able to save more in the last two weeks than I could in the six months before it, I’m still a far cry from the sum I’d need. This is especially true since I’m still refusing to borrow a single dime in loans.

I think I’ve lost my mind. 🤪

As I close this post, I just want to repeat something I said not too long ago:

If you get lost in life, start walking in a completely new direction.

It is amazing that I had started telling myself this months before discovering just how true this tidbit of advice actually is. Sometimes, the things we seek aren’t going to be found where it makes the most sense to look. 

In my case, it ended up being the one thing I thought I didn’t want to do. And for as much I didn’t like it in college, that’s precisely the issue: I didn’t like it in college. Do you know how long ago that was? Ten years ago.

I would shudder to think I was the same exact person I was a decade ago. It would be a crying shame for the woman I am to have the same likes and dislikes as the girl I was, as it would suggest that I hadn’t lived a single moment in between time.

But the thing is, if you’re truly living, you’re changing—that’s a guarantee.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this amazing life update with you guys. I think it’s a very interesting testimony of how the Lord can reveal His will and instructions for us through the seemingly mundane and inconsequential details of our everyday lives. 

Hopefully, this can help one (or more) of you to view your triumphs and perceived failures in a totally different light. Everything that happens in our lives—both good and bad—can be used to groom us and better prepare us for a life we might not have expected. 

I genuinely hope all of you are currently walking towards or walking in your own uniquely divine purpose, but if you’re not, I pray that you are able to find your way as I did. 🙂


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Featured Photo Credit: Kaique Rocha via Pexels

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*All written content is that of yours truly. Plagiarism sucks. If you “borrow” something from someone you should always give credit where it is due, so please be sure to do so. Karma will thank you.*

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Written by nellsinaeternum

Just a girl lost in a daydream who is trying her best to color inside of the lines like everyone else, but is finding the act of smearing watercolor outside of the lines much, much more enjoyable.

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