New Year, New Me (academically)!

how life is supposed to beMy life update: I graduated from college! I’ve earned the right to update my short bio widget on the sidebar to say “Currently, I hold a 2:53:30 marathon PR and a Bachelor’s of Science in Community Health Education.”

Fall term 2014 ended on December 12th and it’s officially noted on my transcript (unofficial screenshot below) that I was awarded my degree the next day from Portland State University, specifically the college of Urban & Public Affairs. I even went out with a bang, and made the Dean’s list for my final term…I used to be an over-achiever! (I was my high school salutatorian and graduated in 3 years.) But still, my first 2 years in college weren’t stellar, I believe I received two ‘F’s and too many ‘D’s and ‘C’s to count before I transferred to PSU from Oregon State University.

Incredibly, it’s been exactly four years since I began college. I was admitted to OSU for the Winter term starting January in 2011, and now I have finished in December 2014. But guess what I am starting next? There’s no rest for the weary, and I was officially accepted into the Graduate School of Education’s Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling program at PSU last week…school starts like it never ended, the first day of Winter term 2015 is January 5th.

degree

To be clear, it’s not a Master’s program, but I am applying for the Grad School of Ed.’s Master’s in Counseling program with the hopes of beginning in Fall 2015. I will have to choose a specific track, and currently I am leaning towards Marriage, Couple and Family counseling to become a licensed LMFT. I will be able to complete both the grad certificate and the Master’s degree at the same time, and it’s designed to take three years.

Where will I be in three years? What do I want to be doing? I don’t know. Four years ago I had just moved to Oregon and when I reflect upon all the things that happened between then and now, there’s no way I could have predicted where I am now and all that brought me here. It’s true, but worth saying again: Life is unpredictable. I have also heard, and find this to be true: People are very bad at knowing what they want.

things will work out quoteI believe both. In the past 4 years I’ve come close to suicide and been depressed; lived in hovels and homes and moved multiple times; met amateur drug dealers, a homeless teen mom, and the most wonderful family who saved me; attended counseling, group therapy, and saw a psychiatrist without my parent’s knowledge; tried drugs, got blackout drunk too many times, and ended up with alcohol poisoning in the ER with a hefty fine and a court summons from that ill-fated night; almost moved to Hawaii; almost lost my marbles and went insane…at least that’s how it felt. I over drafted my first bank account, I had my first credit card debt turned over to collectors…I made too many bad decisions. I had no idea what I was doing.

Somehow, good things happened too. I went to India for a month, I moved to Portland, I met people who cared about me and my running. I made better choices, I learned a lot. And now I’ve graduated, I’m running 80+ miles a week on a healthy, whole foods vegan diet chasing the qualifying time to the 2016 Olympic marathon trials. I’m going to grad school!

Am I a good person? Or a bad person? I don’t know. Have I been “successful”? That depends…

There will be new experiences, opportunities and obstacles in 2015. I don’t know what will happen, but I can handle anything. So bring it on. Below is my personal statement essay that I needed to include in my application to the addictions counseling program: (I’m verbose…and the 500 word limit was a challenge!)

sinner-pastGraduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling: Personal Statement

I lived through addiction and managed to climb out of the dark hole alive and in one piece. Now I have a moral imperative to help others avoid the same suffering. From adolescence, I would read autobiographical accounts of addiction and mental health journeys of others. I understood that every individual’s circumstances surrounding their addiction was different, and I needed to read them all. In my late teens, I suffered from an eating disorder. I was addicted to food: I isolated and daily activities became impossible. I became a person I hated: a liar, a thief, depressed, angry, guilty, and suicidal. I sought counseling and treatment for my problems, and now that I am recovered I know I need to help others avoid the crippling grip of addiction.

My early exploration of human experiences via literature and my history with food led me to study health. I will receive a BS in Community Health Education by the end of Fall term 2014 from Portland State University. My health education and personal recovery journey have taught me of the important connection between the mind and body in health. Physical and mental/emotional health are inextricably intertwined, but I have education in only one side of the coin. I know that true health cannot be achieved without understanding of both. I want to help others achieve total well-being. To fulfill this goal, I need to learn about the other side of the coin, mental health.

My life’s purpose has evolved as I’ve sought to be of service to others. During my disorder, my dominant feelings were of guilt and worthlessness. I believed that I was a waste of space and so my desire to refute those feelings through service to others bloomed. I wanted to be useful. I volunteered with Portland’s New Generations Rotary Club, at Oregon State University, and at a low-income childcare center in Corvallis. Recently I interned at Friends of the Children, a life changing mentoring organization serving children which was founded by Duncan Campbell, whose childhood was characterized by alcoholic parents. Duncan’s childhood motivated him to help at-risk children with experiences similar to his own. Like Duncan, my experiences have left me with no choice but to help others avoid the same pain and misery that I know addictions can bring.never-be-afraid-to-fall-apart-rae-smith

I would be an effective addictions counselor because of my personal experience and my health education background, to better understand the physiological components of addiction that accompany the mental and emotional aspects. I know I can relate and inspire sufferers to overcome their addictions. Mirroring my philosophy about physical health, I believe in self-empowerment. Self-work is imperative to total well-being of the mind and body. It’s a lifelong process, not an end. I will be there for anyone who has made the decision to get help. It is my calling to help others get better and get healthy.

A New Year, A New Me? 

Every day is a new day and I am an accumulation of all of them! Stay tuned for a post about my blood test results! You will be in for a surprise… 😦 or 🙂 ???

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3 thoughts on “New Year, New Me (academically)!

  1. Your personal statement is faultless. You completely nailed the art of being concise but also detailed, something that always eluded me (I always had to edit a ridiculous amount of drafts to get anything down to the word limit and lost a lot of depth as a result – I definitely understand the potential problems with being verbose).

    You’ve been through an incredible amount in your life, and it makes all that you’ve achieved even more impressive. I hope 2015 is a great one for you, and reflects all of the hard work you clearly put into everything that you do.

    Like

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