“It’s ok to be unsure.”
You might be surprised learn that the namesake of this article is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. You might not be jumping out of your seat to find out why – but I urge you to read on. I decided to split this post into 2 parts since the 3rd story, which will now be Part 2, is quite wordy and on the topic of relationships. Two shorter stories about my health and my graduate school choice can be found below.
I can’t really identify the origin of this piece of advice. I know I have heard it from my mother, therapists, certainly my ever-impulsive father, and probably more. So, what does it mean? It means that life is complicated, that you can’t ever really be sure, and that sometimes you have to just hold your breath, trust your gut, and dive on in.
Without getting into the gritty details (in this post), I was in a phase that many individuals who were once teenage girls have experienced (and probably boys too, but I can’t say first-hand), a phase in which food is scary, being thin is important, and the internet is one’s main source of information – really mostly Tumblr blogs written by other confused teenage girls. I was definitely not eating enough, probably drinking too much, pretty convinced every food would make me fat, and consistently worried about what others thought of me; life was not chill. On top of it all, I kind of knew I was on a slippery slope about to take a deep dive into health choices that could affect me long term. However, I wasn’t ready to try committing to being healthy until I was SURE what the perfect diet was – I wanted to figure it all out because of course the rest of my life would fall into place if I did (sarcasm…). As it turns out, Google couldn’t give me the answer, neither could Tumblr, and neither could my nutritionist. I remained unsure, and needing to be sure remained paralyzing.
Enter, “it’s ok to be unsure.”
My health improved (albeit I just glossed over, like, a lot) when I decided it was ok to be unsure. It was ok not to know what the outcome would be. It was ok not to know what the whole process would be. I didn’t have to figure it all out to start; I just had to take a baby step in the right direction and then keep on crawling.
Lesson learned: You have to let yourself be unsure. I learned more taking baby steps than I ever could have learned standing on the sideline Google searching for the golden ticket I believed would bring me perfection.
Rewind back to March of 2013. I was a senior in college. I had spent much of the previous fall applying to doctoral programs in social psychology. There were two things I thought I wanted out of graduate school: 1) a perfect fit with my advisor or advisors and 2) a place I loved, with a main qualification of warm weather. By March, I had narrowed it down to three schools Duke, University of California, Santa Barbara, and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I know…spoiler alert if you follow my posts…
In some ways, the obviously choice would have been Duke. It is warm, would keep me within driving distance of most of my family and friends, and has lots of resources and great professors. But, I just didn’t feel it.
Next up, UC Santa Barbara. My advisor was wonderful, the students were fabulous, and my college boyfriend who at the time was kind of an ex-boyfriend also lived in Santa Barbara. (One would normally see that as a negative, but it was more of a he graduated before me so we broke up situation than a real finalized ex. He was very much a pro not a con in the ol’ pro-con list). Not to mention, Santa Barbara is both beautiful and warm.
Finally, Minnesota. There were two professors researching health in the social psychology department – exactly what I was interested in. But Minnesota?! Do people even live there?! And…that whole warm weather thing. I actually went to Minnesota determined to dislike it and spend the next half-decade in Santa Barbara.
As you might have imagined – there were a lot of reasons to be unsure about Minnesota. I had zero friends in Minnesota nor any state that borders it except one high school friend four hours away in Madison, hey Spencer, if you’re reading. Half of my east coast friends didn’t think people really moved to Minnesota on purpose. Many people I told my choice to asked if I had seen the movie Fargo…I would politely let them know North Dakota is actually a separate place…or just not bother. Despite it all, my gut said go.
As you have probably guessed, I went to Minnesota.
My gut was right. I love it here. It was the best opportunity for me. I learned so much about myself by moving to a place where I knew literally zero people. My advisors and the program have been amazing, and I have grown as a researcher and as a person.
Lesson Learned: I had no idea that I would love it or that it would work out so well. I just decided it was ok to be unsure.