The biggest news in my life right now, other than the tatt and what’s going on every week in Season 4 of “Fargo” (Timothy Olyphant 😍…that’s pretty much it), is my quest to study psychology in grad school.
We’re officially in Phase 2 of that quest; I just received an email from the admissions office saying they reviewed my application and they’d like to invite me to a formal interview with the program director and other high-ranking school officials.
I learned a few things during Phase 1:
- Openly identifying as an addict isn’t a professional death sentence;
- My GPA at Northwestern was lower than I thought;
- Probably the best decision I made in my (pre-sobriety) life was to move to Bucks County, PA, to join the local newspaper community.
Like most things you’re immersed in day after day for years, I didn’t really appreciate what — and who — I had in that community until I left it. I had a surrogate home/family, both in the company buildings and out on the sports beat, even if my loner personality made me, like, the distant third cousin twice removed in that scenario.
(Here’s where I am obliged to mention that I met my husband at the paper back in 2002.)
Most of us who moved on from the Bucks County Courier Times/Doylestown Intelligencer in the Gatehouse era did not do so voluntarily, so we didn’t really get to stop on our way out the door, look around and get proper perspective on our careers there and all the relationships we built over the years.
Maybe we kind of stormed out in a “I don’t need YOU, either, you 🤬-ing 🤬-ety 🤬s!” huff, and celebrated the “exciting new life” we were about to embark on by stopping at the liquor store for a giant bottle of tequila to drown in for the next 6 months. Maybe we took that same scorched-Earth, drink-up approach to every touchy situation or interpersonal association we encountered, to cover up our own insecurity and fear, and to protect ourselves from pain.
Or, maybe that was just me.
Of course, now that I’ve kicked it around in the marketing world for two years, bent over a laptop, alone in a cubicle, in office environments where no one really knows me, experiencing actual growing pains with no easy means of self-medication, I do sometimes long for the camaraderie, collaboration and face-to-face, hands-on experiences of my reporting life.
Now that I’m in recovery from alcohol addiction, I better understand the importance of community, and I truly appreciate the special brand of esprit de corps that filled the newsroom, and the journalism profession in general. It really was a (somewhat 🤬-ed-up) family-like atmosphere where even the most stand-offish, chip-on-her-shoulder black sheep could find support if she sought it.
I needed to seek it a few months back, when I decided to go back to school.
I needed THREE recommendation letters, in addition to a personal essay, professional resume and undergrad transcripts, to apply for the MA in Counseling Psychology program at one of our area universities.
Nothing about the application requirements worried me — hell, I was born to write personal essays, I got great grades at NU, at least in my head, and even if my resume didn’t scream “PERFECT FIT,” I didn’t think it would detract from my candidacy — but then there were those letters.
Who the hell would write me a recommendation NOW? I was way out here, out of touch and isolated on my island, two months into my third post-journo job in two years (yes, I’m counting the three-month retail experiment), with the person who recruited me for my current position having moved on before I’d even settled in (am I even settled in? 🤔). My only recent close associations have been with women in recovery meetings.
I didn’t think asking my AA sponsor to vouch for me would be appropriate. For starters, they would have to put their real name on the letter. And I literally could not recall the name of a single professor from college; there was no way any of them remembered me.
The only people I could think of in the world to reach out to for help were my former colleagues at the paper.
Those people came through for me, in a big way.
They could’ve ignored me. They could’ve declined. Instead, they took the time and spent the energy — hell, they must’ve summoned some amazing creative brilliance, because whatever they said was complimentary enough to help boost me to the next level.
If it seems like I’m making too big a deal of this, or poor-mouthing myself too much (me? Take something to an extreme? 😏) you have to understand the fragile confidence and boundless anxiety of a woman in her 40s trying to overhaul her entire existence all at once.
A little bit of kindness goes a long 🤬-ing way.
So, with sobriety and the support of my community (and family) as the foundation, it’s up to me to build the house. Phase 2, next steps…I have to take it from here.
If you’re wondering, yes, my admissions essay was an open book. I laid bare my battle with addiction. I told the truth. Truth is the bedrock of this new sober existence — the foundation under the foundation, if you will — and if there’s one thing that doesn’t scare me about this reinvention process, or the rest of my life in general, it’s what people will think of me when they know my truth.
The admissions committee seemed to think I’m worth their consideration, warts and all. That said, I absolutely need to prepare for my big grad school interview, and if anyone out there has been through it and wants to share advice, allow me to kindly point you toward this blog’s “Contact Me” button.
My dad’s helpful suggestion was to avoid using 🤬 in all my sentences, so I suppose that’s a start. 🤣
All my thanks to the people from my former life who were kind and generous enough to help me get a leg up in my new one. To protect your anonymity, I’ll just say, you know who you are, and you’ll always have a special place in my ❤️.