It's Not a Race

“It’s up to you to determine what success is in your life.” Those words, spoken by one of my fellow NHC members, could not have come at a better time in my life. “Success in the working world isn’t the same formula from college where you get an A in a class.” That was another metaphorical “mic drop moment” spoken by the same person, and they have stuck with me since our January Training day

Pressure — that’s the feeling I’ve had for the past several years about choosing a profession and a course of study to commit to in graduate school. Upon entering my first service program, a small Pittsburgh based one called Change A Heart, in August 2016, I had hoped to finally find the answers to the ever-present question, “What are your career plans?” which followed me throughout undergrad as I tried to navigate a journey of self-discovery. I was probably one of the most indecisive students my advisor had ever met, as she sometimes teasingly mentioned. While my indecisiveness wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I always felt a twinge of self-consciousness because of what I thought was an inability to commit to something. With high hopes, I came to Pittsburgh to find some clarity about what I should be doing with my life, which is understandable for a 22-year old moving to a city for the first time.

Throughout my first year in Pittsburgh, I learned how to navigate the world of case management for the homeless population of Pittsburgh, which was never something I pictured myself doing. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it immensely and will always carry that experience with me both personally and professionally. That year inspired me to do another year of service, which brings me to my current role in NHC. My duties focus on mental health, and I discovered that I truly have a passion for providing support to those experiencing mental illness. “Awesome,” I thought to myself, I can get a graduate degree in social work and go from there. There was a sense of pride and accomplishment from being able to share that I was in the process of applying to graduate school.

Six months later, after I had already applied to the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, I slowly came to question my desire to become a social worker (and eventually, a therapist). So many doubts and ideas about “what my future plans are” to the point of overwhelming me. As I’ve shared these feelings with some of my close companions, I was always gently reminded of my passions as well as the reminder that graduate school isn’t the defining factor of success. Throughout reflecting on my deeply-held values, what is important to me in my life now, and learning to find peace and happiness in my life where it is, I have slowly started to lift some of the pressure I was putting on myself for years. I used to think that in order to be successful and happy I needed to be actively pursuing the career I had meticulously mapped out.

It’s taken me over six months to learn to let go of some of the pressure that was making me unhappy and unsuccessful at living mindfully in the day to day. While to some, this may not be the most productive realization to come to, it’s the one that brings me the most peace. I know that eventually I want to work towards becoming a therapist, but at the moment, I’m comfortable with my life to say that it’s just not my time yet. Life isn’t a race, and going at my pace has turned out to be the best thing I could give to myself.






This post was written by NPHC member Vanessa Klokis

Vanessa serves at Shadyside Family Health Center as a Care Coordinator.