What school has really taught me.

Whether it be the nature of year 27 or the fact that I’m trying to start up a career a little later in life, the past 3 years as a college student has changed me in so many ways. I only have 4 short weeks of classes left until my last phase of the program begins (Level II Fieldwork). This minuscule amount of time left in the classroom has left me super reflective on what all this has meant to me.

I have learned so so much. Of course I have learned the awesome, more practical stuff. (i.e. how to rehabilitate a stroke patient or work with children with Autism…I know, OT is the coolest.) But under the surface there is one big lesson I keep coming back to.

Waiting for the “thing” to fall in your lap is a big fat waste of time. 

Growing up, a lot of the messages I internalized about deciding on a career involved words like “gifts” and “calling.” And while there is definitely something to be said of those things, what I didn’t realize was that being “called” to something didn’t mean it would come easily. So I waited…And waited…And waited…And sure, some of the natural gifts I came into this world with are actually very useful in the career I chose. But there are 1000 other things that just weren’t there.

When I started school, I was almost crushed by the weight of fear around not already having all the qualities of a successful clinician. I compared myself to others who seemed so far ahead of me. But as time went on, I gradually let go of the idea that any one job will be a perfect fit. At first, each time I received constructive feedback or a not-so-stellar grade would kill me. I would doubt the rightness of my decision to pursue this goal. I would wonder if my calling was somewhere else where I felt more comfortable. Nothing felt right about being in the program…because nothing about it was easy.

But good news! We aren’t meant to wait around for a perfect job or opportunity that feels completely right. All we really need are a desire to grow, the ability to reflect on and respond positively to failure, and the faith to believe that the long and arduous road will lead somewhere amazing.

If I could travel back in time 10 years and talk to a high school senior named Caroline, I would tell her to stop waiting, and to do the work. Do. The. Work. It is much harder to fight the uphill battles of change, wake up early, decide to go after the qualities you want to possess. The easy way out is sitting on your hands, praying that the small amount of paint on your palette will be enough to create that beautiful picture. Get off your butt and GO GET MORE FREAKIN PAINT!

If there’s anything I regret about the last decade of my life, it’s not understanding this truth sooner. My shortcomings aren’t barriers to success, they are opportunities for growth. And in all the growth, there’s more joy than I could have ever imagined.

If you are someone who discovered this much earlier, I sincerely congratulate you. It may seem like common sense to many out there. But to me, the news that I don’t have to have it all together has been so freeing. I still don’t enjoy failing. Criticism is hard. But day by day I’m learning how unbelievably rewarding it is to experience fruit from difficult labor. I’m choosing to accept the  hard work and the failures as part of the process. I’m learning to appreciate the people who invest in my life through offering me difficult feedback. I suspect this part comes with age, but I would like to think learning this a long time ago could have saved me much heartache.

I’m forever grateful for the people along the way who helped assure me of my own strength, and breathed life into my weary bones month after month I desperately wanted to give up.

Forgive my uber-cheesy, self-helpy post. I love putting into words the ways God has been growing me, and I appreciate you listening and experiencing them alongside me.

Hope your February has been as beautiful as ours has been in Austin. Henry is soaking up all of the tolerable sunshine he can before summer melts us all like popsicles. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!