When I think about my life and where I am right now, I realize how I have very few “on paper” accomplishments. I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology and have had a few part time jobs over the past last ten years or so but that is pretty much it. It upsets me to think about it because all of my behind the scenes accomplishments like getting through all of the medical turmoil and dealing with physical and emotional issues is not anything that people would consider “success.” And, clearly not something that any future employer would want to hear or read about on a resume.
The experiences I have had over the past 12 years have been more valuable and useful than anything I have or could ever learn in school. I have unfortunately had to learn life lessons that should never cross someone’s path, let alone be put in front of someone at such a young age. Without going into extensive detail about all that I have learned since I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I am just going to say that I know more about hardships, family, closeness, struggles, adjusting, fears, etc than anyone I know; Even those with a masters or doctorate in psychology.
I really do want to combine social work and patient advocacy when I am finally at a point where I can see myself having a full time job. I am just getting used to little things again so that does seem like a ways away. I can’t even think about applying to graduate school now where I have to study for the GRE’s, get transcripts together and letters of recommendation when I haven’t even been able to set foot at Manhattanville College to get my diploma. It is just really difficult and frustrating for me because I see all of these people who are in positions in the psychology or health care system just because they went through more schooling (even though just graduating from high school and college for me took 10 ½ years). I know how much I have to offer in those fields because I have been on the other side of things. I have been a patient for a long time, and I have also dealt with emotional issues and struggles and just know how to interact with people because I know what I would want to see/hear in certain circumstances.
On paper accomplishments are unfortunately, looked at in higher regard than those who have substantial “life experiences” because on paper accomplishments can be measured. There are schools, tests, and various other things in order to graduate and have a degree. But, what about those people who, instead of spending their time in school, have been stuck dealing with major real life circumstances and situations, and have overcome and accomplished more than anyone could in 50 lifetimes? Doesn’t that count for anything? I have often said that just existing and getting through each day is an accomplishment in and of itself for me. I struggle everyday to exist, I fight every day, and yet, I still feel like I have nothing really to show for it.
My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer about 30 years ago and given a month to live. She is 82 years old now and runs support groups for cancer patients at Montefiore Hospital in Bronx, NY. People identify with her because she is someone who has been there. She is someone who has lived with the pain, the fears, the anger, and everything else associated with being so sick and being given such a devastating prognosis. My grandmother has reached more people and given more people hope than any social worker or psychologist could ever do.
There is no substitution for firsthand knowledge and experience so even though I might think that I haven’t accomplished many things thus far, I am trying very hard to look at all that I have endured and overcome as something that will help shape the person I end up being and look forward to helping those that cross my path whether it be professionally or personally.