There have been a few occasions where I have spoken to someone about my educational background and achievements, and they have expressed surprise and have been impressed. “Wow, already a Master’s Degree and only 25!?!?” I am aware that there are many young 20-somethings who have achieved as much as I have academically; I am not claiming I am some sort of unique case.
What I would like to express is my reflection upon my journey as an academic – dare I say an intellectual – and what I feel it means to my self-identity and general overall being.
I guess the proper place to start is late high school: The typical lost and somewhat unhappy teenager, who doesn’t seem to feel like she fits in with most of her classmates. One thing she knows is that she has a strong passion for a few things and she focuses on these. She has loved the theatre and the performing arts since she was much younger and is always involved in some production or other. She even studies it as one of her subjects. She really enjoys studying psychology and was thrilled to learn she could take it as one of her subjects of study in her last two years of high school. She is an MVP in the varsity volleyball team. She seems quite well rounded, and indeed she is. She knows what she wants and where she wants to go… academically that is.
I believe since the age of 17 I knew I would go to university and study psychology and drama. Somewhere along the way that turned into finding that it was possible to combine these two in a field called Drama Therapy. I vaguely remember finding the Creative Arts Therapies program that was offered in Concordia University in the city of Montreal, Quebec while I was still in my undergrad at Mount Allison University located in the lovely small town of Sackville, New Brunswick. It seemed like this program was designed just for me.
I recall telling myself during my undergraduate days, “The goal is to get my Masters in Drama Therapy”. I had a clear path and I was working towards it quite successfully. I double majored in Theatre and Psychology and was accepted into the Creative Arts Therapies program starting the following semester after my graduation. It was a straight line towards my goal. There were moments before my graduation day at Mount Allison where little swells of anxiety would peak through and bring me thoughts such as, “What about after?”
What ABOUT after?
At that point I ignored the voice, I had two years in the Drama Therapy program to look forward to, and things still felt safe. I had a path… two years is a long time, so I thought!
I had the plan: Achieve master’s degree.
Well here I am. MA in Creative Arts Therapies specialty in Drama Therapy.
“What about after?”
Master’s degree … does not equal to ‘Master plan’.
I had a goal, a goal I was very happy with and worked hard to achieve. One flaw I see now in hindsight is that I had not seen past it. “The goal is to get my Masters in Drama Therapy”. The problem was, that is where it ended. I had no idea what to do next. Get a job? Hard and scary. Am I even ready to work in my professional field? I am 25, with heaps of experience… as a good student.
So, I am now at a transitional stage. Transitions can be uncomfortable and difficult. I believe a transition is when you are given the gift of time to reflect upon yourself. This task can come with anxiety, feelings of being lost, and perhaps even utter confusion about what you are and what you are meant to be and do. I have accepted that all of these thoughts and emotions will come to me at one point during this stage of transition (and so it has!) and I need to continue to embrace it and learn to explore the themes it has brought me to see. I am also learning to enjoy this time I have been given: to enjoy that I have made the decision to allow myself this time to reflect. To not feel guilty about leaving the one-way track that many follow: School – Job – Work – Settle down…
No one is getting hurt from me making this decision. My family supports me and I must learn to stop feeling like I have disappointed them.
This is the first time I have not been in school during a school year and it has given me space to reflect upon certain aspects that make up my whole. The dominant role I have been playing and have been concentrating my energies on has been the role of Student. I now understand that because I have been working hard on this one role, other roles I play (the ones that also contribute to making me “me”) have been put aside and have not grown as equally. I aim to find a way to compress my Student role into a size that is easy for me to still carry in my pocket, but will allow my other roles to breathe and shine just as bright. I hope to allow this time of transition to be a time where I can nurture and grow my other roles – to find a balance between all the roles I play.
So, I am using this transitional chapter to do things I was unable to do while playing Student. I am travelling and exploring South East Asia, re-learning self-care, reflecting on the past two years of hard work and training I underwent during my drama therapy program, and simply enjoying time.
I hope to slowly learn to enjoy moments again, really work on practicing mindfulness and being in the present – all things I have learnt to encourage my clients to do when practicing drama therapy. I am doing all this while enjoying myself, my boyfriend, and the pleasure in not needing to follow a rigid goal or plan that my Student role has always pressured me into following.
I have been on the road with my boyfriend for over two months now. As we travel Asia we are enjoying our time together as well as enjoying the experiences and cultural lessons we have the privilege of being a part of. On our journey we have created a personal project (ilefthome.com) that allows us to show and reflect on the kinds of people we meet on the road. We meet other travellers and ask them to share their experiences and topics that they are passionate about. Every person we have met along the way has contributed to my personal self-reflection as well as helped me continue to expand my worldview.
I am looking forward to a lifetime of travelling and meeting diverse peoples. I want to continue to learn and grow as an individual from these experiences for as long as I can. From what I can see – from merely the two months on the road – I have learnt that travelling and being immersed in diverse cultures and languages is an essential part of what allows me to thrive. I have learnt that a part of self-care for me is giving myself the opportunity to travel. The freedoms travel allows me to have such as a guilt-free time to enjoy life’s natural beauty and pleasures (such as food, nature, a good book), space to self-reflect, and taking time for moments of grace, are all essential parts of the self-care I need. I experience less anxiety (I’m still not completely anxiety free) and as a result less psychosomatic symptoms such as back pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms like negative self-talk, low self-esteem, and so on. I am still working on myself, and working on finding coping skills and tricks to help me through the cloudy days, but travelling has definitely been a natural therapy for me.
So, going back to the point: Yes, I have earned a Master’s degree and have taken many steps towards building the skills I need for work in my professional field; the helping field. As a helper, I understand I need to know how to help myself before having the energy to be a good therapist to my clients. This transitional time has given me the space to learn just that. So, no, I have no idea what my future holds despite achieving my grand plan of acquiring a Master’s degree. Do I regret getting it at such an early age? No, even though going through a Master’s program later would have made the experience different, I don’t regret it. I still believe I am not fully prepared to enter into the professional world as a drama therapist though – I have lots more work to do on myself; more life experience, perhaps more training in the future, more self-reflection and digesting of knowledge. But without my training I would have had a different worldview, and travelling would have taken a different light. I am embracing myself as an emerging drama therapist as well as a young adult still not fully grown into the fully bloomed flower I am to be.
In the near future I hope to find balance between all the roles I play, and find a healthy routine that will incorporate self-care. I want to find a balance between doing things for my well being such as travelling and being with nature, as well as building my career in drama therapy. I don’t know where I will live and how I will live… but I know I want a peaceful disposition no matter where and what the outcome.