I opened our post box yesterday (yeah, we have a little post box rather than a letter box) and out it tumbled. The application pack from the clearing house for clinical psychology courses in the UK.
Ever since I have had my nose in the course guidelines book trying to work out which courses I want to apply for. I think I want to do them all, except the one at the ominously named Institute at Psychiatry (two words - institute, psychiatry - I don't think so.) Unofruntately I can only apply for four.
I have very mixed feelings about it atm. On the one hand it is desperately exciting to finally feel as though I am in a position to take a decent stab at the course I've been wanting to get on for about 7 years. On the other, it is unsettling to be trying to find a course, and really not having any strong feelings about which course I would like to do. Having to balance courses that value research experience (which I've got), courses that take a more pluralistic approach (which is what I'm interested in more than anything else), courses located near city locations where partner dude can find a job and courses located in areas where we could feasibly afford to buy a house (I resent giving all my money to landlords who can't be bothered to fix dripping taps) is going to be difficult. I don't want to take out a mortgage for a chest freezer-size flat in London when for the same money I could have a mansion (ok a 3 bed semi) in another part of the country. And call me crazy, but I'd like to live somewhere pretty, with lots of fresh air and green stuff. It will be good for the old stress levels, as Post Liberal will no doubt confirm ;).
Then here I am, thinking about all this, with the heady dose of realism that only 28% applicants are successful in any given year and it is not unusual for people to make 3 applications. So at the end of the day, I could get rejected and be out looking for low paid assistant psychologist posts where I will doubtless be condemned to doing someones statistics (read percentage equations...yawn yawn yawn) with a doctorate in my pocket. :( I will give it my best shot and see what happens.
I am reminded of Parker Palmer's words in 'Let your Life Speak',
"Running beneath the surface of the experience I call my life, there is a deeper and truer life waiting to be acknowledged."
In a sense the career path aspect of my vocation has not been a difficult one to find. I naturally gravitate towards people in distress, I naturally gravitate towards rigorous academic thought and an intermingling of science and philosophical pondering (sorry, "critical and reflexive thinking"). Clinical psychology combines those in a way that excites me and the whole area feels comfortable and natural to me.
On the other hand, there are many hoops to be jumped through, boxes to be ticked off, application forms to be written, buzz words to mention and a way of putting them across in a way that fits with the course selection criteria. In the muddle, it is easy to forget the 'deeper and truer' life, that is simply who I am.
It is the true me that needs to be trained and begin on the path towards this elusive profession. I am not a list of buzzwords, nor even an impressive showcase of "extensive research experience within a clinical setting" nor I am a"solid understanding of theory-practice links and the challenges of applying this to individual cases" and not even, "a breadth of experience in the NHS which has enabled me to appreciate the value and importance of multi-disciplinary team working and the challenges of providing a high quality clinical service in an overstretched health service." It is me who is going to be working in a team and me who is going to be working with clients and it is the true me that will fulfil my potential to care for others, be they clients or colleagues in this setting.
I will have to spend some time reflecting on how to express and acknowledge the truer and deeper life within steering me towards this career in my application. Because really, this is what motivates and stimulates me and this is who I am.