Coffee and Perseverance

The last year or so has been a challenging one.

First there was this:

g life.png

As you may or may not know, in March of last year I got two sets of awesome news – on the same day. First, I found out I had been accepted to the University of Ottawa’s Clinical Psychology program. I freaked right out, had to pull over to call my boyfriend, and jumped around the house with my mom and my dog once I got home.

Then, on a celebratory trip to Walmart (I’m sure my obsession with Walmart will become abundantly clear if you keep following my blog), I got a phone call. I had been accepted to the University of Toronto’s School and Clinical Child Psychology (SCCP) program. At this point, I was firmly going to uOttawa and this call from U of T was more of a “hey, you’re awesome – high five!”kind of thing. My parents and I went out for dinner that night to casually celebrate over some chicken wings and I maintained that I was going to uOttawa. I think somewhere deep down I was wondering what it would be like to go to Toronto, and say I was at the University of Toronto. But I didn’t admit that to myself or allow that thought to come to the surface.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I had a “decision” to make. I was sure it should have just been a quick ‘yes, I accept!’ to uOttawa. But for some reason, I hadn’t sent in the forms yet. My mom convinced me that going to check out U of T would be a good choice. This way, even though I wasn’t going there, I would never wake up and wonder what it would be like if I had gone away.

One short week before I had to choose a university/the next half decade or so of my life, my boyfriend and I went to Toronto. I was, quite possibly, the most closed minded person…ever. We got off the train, and Union Station was/is/will always be under construction. I distinctly remember the first thing I said when I got off the train being “Nope. I hate it here.”

My boyfriend convinced me to at least pretend I was open-minded. I grudgingly agreed. We met up with his cousin who was living in the six at the time. He took us out to this yummy deli sandwich place. But, they were re-doing the streetcar tracks in that area – so more construction, more noise, and more lung-restricting dust. We joked about how these were the worst possible conditions for keeping an open mind.

I met with my potential supervisor and attended one of her research project lab meetings. This meeting was super long and pretty boring (because I had absolutely no idea what was going on). The supervisor was very nice, though, and kept trying to bring me up to speed. After the meeting I texted my boyfriend saying the people were nice, but I didn’t think I’d like it here. He knew I had coffee plans set up with one of the senior PhD students, so he texted back saying to just enjoy myself, and to have no expectations. Always such a wise man.

After my coffee date, I met my boyfriend in the common area of my campus building. I had a very…let’s say upset…look on my face. His face reacted to mine, “It didn’t go well?” I remember dropping my shoulders and hanging my head and saying, “It went too well…”

In that moment, I knew I wanted to go to U of T. I don’t know exactly what changed during the coffee meeting, but something did. And now I had the U of T bug. I don’t know a time I’ve ever been as stressed as I was in that moment. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to leave home. I spent the whole night crying about how I’d miss my mom. #MamasGirl


Anyway, fast forward a few months. I’m moving to Toronto soon. I won’t detail the emotional and material challenges I came across and dealt with along the way – just know there were lots. Next up on the menu, finishing my Master’s degree. Oh, that.

Due to various personal and administrative challenges, I was not able to defend my MA thesis until the middle of September. I was moving to Toronto August 1st, to start an RA job in my new lab. I tried to do as much as I could on my thesis before leaving the Ottawa, but I still ended up pulling double duty for the first 6 weeks I was in Toronto. I worked all day in the lab, went home, and worked all night on my thesis.

The worst/most entertaining part of all this shit show was that I wasn’t a real student at U of T until I had graduated from Carleton. This meant no student card, no student benefits, no student email address, no ability to register for courses. Ya, it was a mess. I didn’t exist in the system for about 9 weeks. I still went to every single class, and had every class email sent to me by a classmate – but it was a mess.

I missed the second week of classes to go and defend my thesis. Sorry, Prof, I just have to Via back to Ottawa to get my Master’s degree. BRB.

Gabriella Thesis.png

I would attempt to convey the amount of chaos that this defence was, but I just can’t put it into words. The projector didn’t work, we started 45 minutes late, my notes got cut off, I had to wing the  majority of my presentation. It was definitely a nerve wracking experience, even more so than a thesis defence already is. Yet I remained STOIC. Why, you may ask. Because I would tweeze each individual hair off the legs of all my committee members if that’s what it took to graduate. I was already in a different city, at a different university, doing a different program, and pursuing a different degree. In the end, it all worked out. I defended my thesis, got it printed, graduated, and attended an awesome surprise party in my honour.

I went back to Toronto and had one heck of a year. But, here I am. I finished the first year of my clinical PhD program, and in two short weeks I will be starting my second year. The most exciting part is that pretty soon i’ll be able to start counting in terms of years left rather than the year I’m in! E.g., “I’m in my second last year of university”. Oh Lord, and won’t that be exciting.

Sometimes when I think back to the amount of time I’ve been in school, the amount of time I have left, or the number of hurdles I’ve jumped all in the name of becoming a clinical psychologist, I wonder to myself:

How the hell have I done this?!

The answer is simple: Coffee and perseverance.

coffee

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