Well Trainwrecks we did it! Yes, we did it, we made it through our first residency. Thank you to everyone who followed along with me and showed their support! When I drove down to Atlanta, I was full of questions about continuing this journey in Psychology and felt like I would never find any answers. When I left my small town of Waterloo, Illinois I felt like I was venturing back out into the wild open world like I used to. I took a huge leap going back out on my own and it felt incredible. I have finally found where I belong once again. I am a misfit. I am a PhD student. Just like veterans, there isn’t very many of us in this world and we are all seeking answers to our questions. Every student in my cohort was a forgotten-about misfit just like me.
My agoraphobia has prevented me from leaving my home for far too long now and I am glad I have been taking steps to feel comfortable in public once again. For years I have struggled with feeling safe in public. I used to forget the simplest things and it would scare the Hell out of me. I knew something was wrong with me but I couldn’t explain it and no one would listen anyway. I used to lash out at others simply because my anxiety was uncontrollable and I had nowhere to run. You can only imagine the heart pounding fear that rattled my chest the first time I walked into the Hyatt Regency and looked up at the 22nd floor where I purposely booked my floor. I hate heights. So, as you all know, the top floor it is.
Upon my arrival in Atlanta I missed my exit after I couldn’t get to my lane in time. I was pretty bummed it added an additional twenty minutes to my travel, but it wasn’t too bad. Once I got off the interstate things seemed to calm down. The last time I was in Atlanta I was stationed at Moody Air Force base in Valdosta, Georgia. I made some life-long friends out of that unit. Friends that are cheering me on right now. And it means the world to me.
During my academic residency I learned more about the dissertation process and I got the opportunity to meet other students that are further along in their dissertation process. I guess the best way to explain this is to use Harry Potter terms and call them “Prefects.” These are ordinary people one step closer to becoming legends in their own studies. I’m going to get there someday.
The first day I got ready 45 minutes early and paced in my room hoping my new clothes looked alright. It’s been over ten years since I’ve really had to put any thought into the way I looked out of uniform and even then there isn’t much requirement outside personal hygiene and grooming. Today I’ve consulted with an expert on fashion and sought advice on what clothes would look good on me. I’m learning more everyday the more uncomfortable I feel in my new clothes, the more positively others seem to react toward my business casual dress. For the first time in my forty years I am learning what style really means.
Upon entry into the grand ballroom where I met other members of my cohort, my breath froze in my throat. I was surrounded by smart people. LOTS of smart people. Everyone in the room had to have a Master’s degree and experience in their field just to be in that room. I had a master’s degree and experience. I was also retired (unemployed). I fought through my feelings of inadequacy and resorted to my previous frame that has carried me through countless countries. I found my I/O Psychology cohort and told myself I belonged there at that table.
Upon introducing myself and sitting down I paced my breathing and fought through my desire to get up and run out of the room. Why would I feel this way? Well, I’ve been battling imposter syndrome and agoraphobia and I’m winning the fight. I realize I’m not the drug addicted monster I once was anymore. Besides, I chose the most difficult table to sit at for a reason.
If you have ever met a beautiful and successful black woman, you knew it. You just do. Black women will stare you down and rip apart the fabric of your being until they get to the main thread where your internal truths exist in a matter of seconds the first time they meet you. It’s nothing personal it’s just what they do. When I walked into that Ballroom I was looking for reasons why I didn’t belong in this program and reasons why I didn’t have what it takes to do what I’m doing. I sat at a table with four highly successful black women and I fought through my feelings of inadequacy. I talked to each one of them and got to know their story. They were incredible, each one of them.
I sat next to B and watched her speak quickly, noticing her quirky pauses and vocal inflections typical of a fellow East coaster. She was beautiful. She looked like a model. As I have mentioned in the past Trainwrecks, I don’t see people the same way most of you do anymore. I know this sounds odd, but you can tell when someone has struggled really hard to overcome something like you have. Somehow we recognize each other. Like I had done, she built a suit of armor around herself. And it was intimidating. These successful women accepted me as a peer. They saw me through their own eyes and not something I tried to force them to accept. I felt like I could be myself and I belonged at that table full of my peers and they did as well. I finally belong somewhere again.
Throughout the weekend I met some of the brightest people I’ve ever stood amongst. I met military squadron commanders, CEOs of corporations, partners of private practices and experts in near every field I could think of. One of the most significant outcomes I experienced was the realization others are here with me because they have experienced a level of tragedy equal to my own. While I realize not everyone experiences horror, I cannot deny the insanity they display to even attempt this goal. This will be the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I like to do hard shit.
This weekend I met many Doctorates that blew me away with their insight and the power they wield. The first time I met Dr. Ethel Perry I knew I was talking to an earth-shaker. Dr. Perry shares my views on task accomplishments. The harder something is, the less our competition will be and thus the potential for greater reward. Well, that’s what I got out of her lectures. I’m no stranger to doing hard stuff. Another influential I/O Psychologist I met is Dr. J Herndon. This man has an Educational Doctorate, a PhD in Psychology, is a fellow Air Force Veteran (already my type of people) and he has a killer sense of humor. He’s honest and is a wealth of information in the world of I/O Psychology. I have never felt like I belong somewhere as much as I do right now.
Before I embarked on residency one, I was battling imposter syndrome, the topic of my next blog post and Youtube video will be imposter syndrome, so be looking for that. While at my first Doctoral residency I overcame my imposter syndrome and embraced the reality that I am discovering what will be moving me forward. I’m becoming more like my old self more and more every day. I’m regaining my confidence and my smile as I face my fear of failure. I realize I’m still Sergeant Juliano, I just don’t get to wear my cool uniform and beret. I don’t get to carry my auto-magic rifle anymore. I realize I’m really Doctor Juliano, I just haven’t satisfied the requirements to call myself that yet. We’ll get there eventually.
You’re Welcome. Internet.