Photo Credit: Dane Shillingford
Boy oh boy! Can you believe it? It has been three and half weeks since I completed my Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Hunter College, The City University of New York.
It is still so surreal that I could call myself a counselor and I can finally say that I am done (for now) with school. For most of my life I never thought about getting an advance degree. Most people in my family only really obtain a four-year degree from a City or State University and everything else is history.
Going to graduate school allowed me to grow and develop as a young professional. It helped me self discover my interests and passions as well uncover my deepest fears. It challenged me to be open-minded about my biases and to appreciate the human condition. It was one of the hardest two years of my life but the reward in the end is sweet.
To those who are debating, beginning or continuing their journey in grad, law or med school, this piece is dedicated to you. There will be moments where you want to cry your eyes out because the pain of trying to stay up all night to finish a final paper becomes excruciating. There will be more sacrifices that you have to make along the way but continue to remind yourself of the end goal. Also, please remember to care for your own mental and emotional well-being because in the end if we ourselves aren’t happy, nothing else that we do in our lives will matter.
Lesson #1 – You Got The Power!
If I only knew how much power I had as a young person I probably wouldn’t be so fearful of failure in the first place. Upon entering graduate school, one of my biggest fears was being in a classroom filled with students who were much more intelligent than me. I knew I had the knowledge and experience prior to entering into graduate school, however, I still had this fear that I wasn’t going to make it.
Though my insecurities were valid and understandable, I failed to realize that I had all the power in the world to succeed and that the only person who is stopping me from achieving my dreams is me.
“Grad school helped me see that the only person who is stopping me from achieving my dreams is ME.”
Lesson #2 – Be Real and Your Authentic Self.
I remember always trying to be down with the cause (slang for inclusion or fitting in with the popular crowd) because I wanted to be respected by my fellow peers. But the thing is as you get older, you change, your relationships with other people change and the things you desire most out of life also change.
In grad school we are taught to be our authentic self and to be sincere because our clients can tell if we are being fake. There are no cliques or set group of people you consistently hang out with when you’re in grad school. You interact with everyone and if a person gives you good vibes you roll with it.
No matter what though, always stay true to yourself and be genuine when doing so.
Lesson #3 – Resilience.
I interned at an outpatient chemical dependency treatment program in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a year and a half before completing my degree. The clients there were absolutely amazing. They taught me so much about life and how I can be a more effective counselor.
We would set out goals and objectives for the course of our time together but it always seem as though they would relapse back on their drug of choice. All that hard work and dedication to remain abstinent from drug use all goes down the drain when a client relapses.
My clients will again and again relapse because addiction is a disease but they refuse to give up on themselves and with enough faith and will power they will one day overcome.
“…But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa
Lesson #4 – You are NOT Alone.
A major reason why I survived graduate school was because of my support system which comprised of my family, friends and classmates. I started grad school having friends who I knew from undergrad and by the time I walked at my commencement ceremony, I realize that they were no longer my friends or people who would be there for me long-term.
Having a good foundation of support makes a big impact on your graduate school journey. You support system helps you get through the rough times especially moments where you feel completely lost and unmotivated. But before I continue with graduate school lesson #5, let me take this moment and thank a few people who were there for me and through their words of encouragement I was able to overcome.
Dad, Rosann Santos, Tiffany Onorato, Monika Son, Bettina Murray, Julie Tran, Vanessa Gyamfi, Landy Familia, Christopher Ng, Kevin Weah, David Jones, Will Simpkins, Chantelle Wright, Gerard Bryant, Laura Diaz, Dayanna Torres, John Calero, Jazmin Letamendi, Alyssa Spano, Kiana Foxx, Dane Shillingford, Renee Toney, Anthony Persuad, Andrew Bandini, Alberto Perez, Jeffery Moss, Uzma Khurshid, Clarie Cornelio, Samantha Sampath, Zenia Alturk, Alla Shapiro, Kevin Mendez, Luis Calvo and Stacey Nelkin.
…for your love, support and endless words of encouragement because without you I wouldn’t be Melissa S. Kong, MS. Ed
Lesson #5 – Don’t Let Other People’s Fears Influence You.
There will be people who will put a dark cloud over your sunshine. You will have people telling you that you can’t do it and that you are wasting your time studying to become someone who makes less than 65k a year.
If you let other people’s fears cloud your judgement, you will never begin to live your own life. Despite all odds and the challenges lying ahead of you, things will always get better.
“It’s good to be scared. It means you still have something to lose.” – Dr. Richard Webber
Lesson #6 – Be Willing to Fight for What You Want Out of Your Life.
Many of my learned life lessons began in school. Most of my learning have been in a classroom with dedicated and passionate teachers. I grew more as a person within the last two years of grad school than my four years of undergrad.
If you know what your value and worth is go out and get it and don’t stop until you find it.
There are going to be moments where you want to give up and take the easy road to success but success has no shortcuts. Know that when the going gets tough do not blame other people but try to find your inner strength to overcome the obstacle that is in front of you.