Life as a Graduate Student and Mental Health Provider ~ The Learning Never Ends

April 18, 2020

Since moving to the Bay Area in February 2018 and moving in with my boyfriend, life has changed a LOT. Ever gone through a period in your life where it was an actual big transition? Yup, that was the time period in which I found it to be the most stressful. From getting my first big girl job at a small ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) agency to work with autistic children after just graduating with my bachelors, adjusting to living with my boyfriend and managing how to “adult,” it was all super new to me. Did I mention at this time I was adjusting to traffic? Coming from a small town in the Central Valley to San Jose, California, that was a HUGE transition! I got into two car crashes with my first two years of learning how to drive in the Bay Area lol (yes I know, its horrible, trust me, I’ve learned a lot since then!) I had the WORST time learning how to adult, and I am not exaggerating. Work/life balance was difficult, learning how to live with your partner is different, and learning how to do things you’ve never done before is a challenge. At 23, there was still a lot for me to learn. I never truly lived on my own before, let alone living with a partner. I have to say friends, I lived a very sheltered and privileged life, I was blessed to have a lot of financial support from my family and they did many things for me. Of course, I knew how to wash dishes and do my own laundry, but my cleaning and cooking was not up to par when I first started living with my boyfriend and since then we have learned how to work together. Just a few years ago my boyfriend was helping me with taxes, how to apply for jobs, how to do a lot of things in which my family or college did not necessarily teach me. My boyfriend Aaron has been so patient with me, and for that I am so grateful. Because my boyfriend is 7 years older than me, he is more mature and at times made me feel like I needed to hurry up and “grow up.” In the beginning of our relationship I worried what family and friends would think, given our age difference, but I am happy to say that my family and friends love and adore him as much as I do. (Future blog post to come on A and how we met). It’s weird how life completely changes when you drastically change your environment, but also amazing once you physically and mentally adjust to a new place and phase in your life. Fast forward to today, April 2020, I work for a non profit mental health agency that works with at-risk youth and I am a graduate student at Santa Clara University, where I am in training to become a licensed therapist (on track for my Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist licenses). Now, at 25, I feel thankful for this time period in which I felt lost. Gone were my sorority days and fun times at the castle (our sorority house at Fresno State). I am now having 10-12 kids on my caseload, I’m learning everyday how to be the best future clinician I can be and loving the best man that loves me back. I honestly couldn’t be more thankful for how things ended up. There of course have been challenging and stressful seasons in my life, but whose life doesn’t have ups and downs? I have tried my best to trust God through the process and acknowledge that His plan for my life is greater than my own.

Life at the moment is stressful, given this COVID-19 crisis that has affected all of us in one way or another. Aaron has been laid off my one of his jobs, an ambulance company, however he has two other jobs that are secure for now. My work is secure given we are an essential service, however we are moving to tele-health services given the current situation with social distancing. Working from home has been yet again another transition that has been difficult, but in the way that it requires a lot of self-discipline. Ya’ll, I don’t know about you, but COVID-19 and this period of quarantine has made me look at life from a new perspective. Despite things changing at work, I still have a job. I still have consistent income and health insurance. I never take these things for granted, and given that living in the Bay Area is not the cheapest place to live, I am grateful everyday for these opportunities. If your life has been greatly impacted by this crisis, please know that I am praying for you and I hope that things get easier. We will get through this together.

I am doing my classes virtually online through Zoom, and although it is not the same as in person classes, I am happy my university is following precautions and still offering classes. Everyday during this “quarantine” period, I am thankful, grateful and blessed that I still get to provide mental health services, even if it is virtual calls or over the phone and I still get to help make a difference. I am thankful for my education that is not put on hold. This period we are going through has taught me the importance of time management, planning your days out and even more organization skills. It has taught me to value in person sessions more, once we are able to do so, and to truly value the time you have with the people you love. Now, managing school work on top of regular work has been tough, not gonna lie! My master’s program is not necessarily difficult, but it is a lot of reading that is time consuming, so balancing work, school work, plus my relationship is hard. But scheduling everything ahead of time, making time to work out, getting a bible study in and doing things I enjoy throughout the week help me keep sane! 

I feel like I am living in a dream, working at an amazing agency that has great benefits and going to one of the best private universities in the Silicon Valley. I am BLESSED, and I do not take it for granted everyday. In July, A and I will have been together 3 years, and as I look back on the biggest transition in my life, moving to the Bay Area, I am really proud of how much I have grown as a person and I am even more excited where we are going from here. If you are personally juggling school and work, or multiple jobs like my boyfriend, first of all, I know the struggle. It is hard work that requires self-discipline, hard work and commitment. Oftentimes, it is overwhelming, exhausting and mentally and physically draining. Know that your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, and if you feel that way, know that you are doing God’s work and He is humble of how far you have come. Practice self-care, do fun things throughout the week for pure enjoyment, and know that your hard work, in whatever field you are pursuing, will be worth it in the end! What I’ve been learning along my journey is to not need validation from anyone else. This is still something I am learning and struggling with, but do things for yourself and not for validation from others!

I encourage you to think about your life and think; am I reaching my fullest potential right now? Am I fully enjoying and living my life, or am I settling for “okay?” If you chose the settling option, know that there is SO much more to life than just an “okay” life. Take a risk. Apply for that job, apply for a university, master’s or PhD program, save up for that dream car or home. Start a dream or side hustle or business you’ve been putting to the side for fear of others’ opinions. Do not put your life on hold for others or out of fear. Take that risk, take that chance. I know for myself, moving to the Bay Area was one of the scariest changes in my life, but also one of the best things to happen in my life. I hope today you think about where you are in life and truly think about your level of happiness. We can all take a leap of faith and do something for ourselves because at the end of this life, we shouldn’t have ANY regrets. Let’s live life to the fullest everyday! 



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