This is not strictly a writing post, but I wanted to write about my journey getting into physical therapy school because a long and hard journey, it was, and I think it mirrors a lot of journeys writers go through. Ultimately, this post is about NOT GIVING UP. So, although this isn’t about writing, I hope this can still inspire and help writers! I also wanted to write this post because there are people in my life that I will be eternally grateful to–who have changed my life–and I just want to say something about them (although they will never read this since they don’t know I have a blog, much less that I write, haha–but still!!!!)
I’m going to cut to the chase because I don’t want to this to get too long. It was an extremely hard journey. It took three–almost four–years to finally get into school. I almost gave up–at various times, I did give up only to return to physical therapy because there was literally–literally–no other profession I wanted to pursue, nor I was suited for. I had decided this time–my third time–would be my last time applying for school because I couldn’t spend any more money and any more time on this career path that seemed unlikely to ever happen for me.
I’m going to be very upfront about this: most of my failures was due to the fact my heart was not fully in it.
In a lot of ways, this journey was incredibly difficult because of the fact that while love physical therapy, it is not my passion. Don’t get me wrong–there is no other job that I would trade for physical therapy and I truly do love what I do, but my passion has always been and will be art. Writing, I know, without a doubt, I will keep going no matter what. No matter if I didn’t have an agent, no matter if I never get a book deal, etc–I will keep writing. People can tell me I can’t do it or that I’m not good enough, but frankly, I don’t care. With physical therapy, I didn’t have that unwavering flame beneath me. It made it easy for seeds of doubt to creep into my head and falter when things got hard and things did get hard. When others questioned me, it made me question myself. When I didn’t get into school, I was crushed in a way that rejections in publishing have never bothered me. I think it’s safe to say that it took time–and finding the right physical therapy setting and people–to truly make me love what I do, and when I did, everything got better.
The other aspect that made it so difficult was that I was utterly burned out from college, which were without a doubt the hardest years of my life. I was so so miserable and lonely and depressed during that time. I pushed myself to graduate school in three years because I was so desperate to get out, not realizing it would take its toll on me. I also didn’t realize it would take time to recover from the trauma of school. I’d moved back home after graduation, which I thought would fix everything–and in many ways, it did–but I didn’t fully understand I was still emotionally burned out from school and it would take a long, long time to recover. Not knowing that, I jumped right into applying to grad school, which was a mistake because even the thought of school made my chest ache with dread. Once I got better and got my act together and really commited, things did start going a lot more smoothly. Part of me is very upset and annoyed with myself for wasting time and money, but the other part finally understands that I was still recovering from the traumas of school, depression, and other things.
There were other things that played into this, but these two things were probably the biggest factors in why I failed getting into school the first two times.
But many things contributed to my doubt and hopelessness and sense of failure. I applied to schools without getting a single interview–all rejections. I applied a second time and got an interview, only to be rejected again in the end. In the meantime, I had a friend who suddenly decided to go into physical therapy and got into my top choice school the first time she applied. (She worked very hard and I don’t begrudge her for it, but it very much made me feel like an absolute failure–which was totally my problem and not at all hers!)
The worst was when I worked at clinics where I was told I wasn’t good at my job. I will be honest–I struggled a lot when I first started and even a couple years after that–and I don’t blame them for telling me that, even though it hurt. In some ways, I’m grateful for those extremely trying times because it did push me and it did make me a better physical therapy aide.
Even at my best, I felt as though they didn’t believe in me. They didn’t look at the improvements I’d made, but instead only looked at what I had done wrong and the mistakes I’d made in the past. They still believed I didn’t belong in physical therapy and that I shouldn’t become a physical therapist. One of the therapists that I worked for continually questioned why I wanted to be a physical therapist. To him, it wasn’t enough that it was a job I liked and was interested in. This coupled with the fact that I kept failing to get into school, utterly crushed me.
In addition, at the time, I was working for the most awful person. This boss treated not only me, but all the other aides, like complete scum. We were considered to be “lesser” because were only aides, not physical therapists. He would make personal attacks and yell at us. He would nitpick and hold grudges and purposely find things to yell at you for. Accused me of breaking his 30+ year-old equipment. Snapped at me for saying “sounds good,” too much and ordered that I should respond with “okay” instead. He wouldn’t let us converse with the front desk receptionist or part-time physical therapist because it cost him money since they were paid hourly. Utterly ridiculous things like that, one after another.
It was when he yelled at me and threatened to fire me–in front of a patient–for forgetting a minuscule detail on the bike, that I had an epiphany. I realized that I should not be getting yelled at–for anything–much less for something as minor as what I did. Suddenly, I realized getting yelled at was not normal. I realized I shouldn’t be absolutely dreading going to work every day. I shouldn’t be nervous, my heart shouldn’t be pounding when I go into work, afraid of what I’ll be yelled at for. It was then I decided to quit.
I said this before, but I want to say it again. No one–no one–deserves to be treated like that–ever. I don’t care if you’re the most highly respected doctor in the world, you do not ever have the right to treat anyone like that. And FYI, this same thing applies to writing. If you ever think you are “better” than anyone else because you have an agent, you have a book deal, you are a bestseller–whatever it is that make you think you’re better than anyone else–well, think again. (Sorry, I’m a little fired up right now and just had to put my little piece in there *shrug emoji*. Also, I want to give a little shout-out to Amanda, who helped me quit this awful job because even after all of this I was scared to let go. Thank you, Amanda! You gave me the courage to quit! Hah, that sounds funny, but it is so so true!)
This clinic was one of the most toxic, most awful experiences I’ve ever had. And yet, it was there that I met my physical therapist named Michelle.
There was a quote thread going around Twitter not too long ago, asking people to talk about a person who wasn’t related to you, who wasn’t your friend, that helped your career. I didn’t participate, but I immediately thought of Michelle. She was the first person to believe in me. Being a super shy and incredibly awkward person, sometimes it’s not easy to see when I care about something because of how reserved I am, but she saw me for who I was. She talked to me about physical therapy, answered my questions, told me stories, and shared her journey to becoming a physical therapist. When she left her job at the clinic, she let me come shadow her at her new job. When I asked if there were any open positions for aides at her new job, she helped me get the job I have now, which I absolutely love. She wrote me an amazing recommendation letter, not once, but twice.
And in all honesty, it took all my courage to ask her about that job because I was so afraid that she wouldn’t want me working there, so so afraid she secretly didn’t like me and she’d resent me for following her to her new job, but I’m so glad I took that chance because it changed my life.
She changed my life.
I’m not a big believer in fate or destiny, but I can’t help marvel at how incredible it is that had I not worked at this awful, awful clinic, I would have never met Michelle. I would have never gotten the job I have now. And who knows what else would have happened? I am so so grateful to her and my life has been completely turned around because of her.
This job I have now at a rehabilitation hospital changed everything. It was here, that I truly fell in love with physical therapy. I love working with the older demographic. I love the inpatient setting, where I feel like I truly get to see amazing progress and sometimes recoveries that seem like absolute miracles. I love getting to work with nurses and see different therapies. I love that I get to work in wound (which, believe it or not, is a practice within physical therapy!)
I have therapists who not only support and believe in me, but actually like me. They trust me when I work with patients and I am given freedoms that I never thought possible when I was working at my awful job. They tell me how grateful they are for my help and how much they appreciate me–and genuinely mean it! I feel so comfortable with the therapists and love them so much. I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to find people who support you. Their support has meant everything to me.
I’ve been afforded some really incredible opportunities here at this hospital, including getting to work in wound therapy. It’s something I would have never been able to do anywhere else and I love it! I feel so incredibly lucky to have found my place here and I’m so sad to leave.
So without further ado, I’m very excited and happy to say that I’ll be attending a Doctor of Physical Therapy program this May! I honestly don’t know what to expect from physical therapy school, but I’m excited (and a little nervous) to be taking this big step in my journey to become a physical therapist! There were times when I thought this day would never come. Times when I’ve been so scared because if physical therapy didn’t work out, I had no idea what to do. It’s been a long journey. I’ve come a long way and I’m very proud of it.
Take heart. Don’t give up. Find people who support you. Whether it’s physical therapy, writing, or something else, you will get there one day. Don’t ever stop believing in yourself. ❤