I have had the privilege of calling five places home: the Philippines; Virginia Beach, VA; Richmond, VA; Miami, FL; and Seattle, WA. My encounters and interactions with people in these locations wove the fabric of my being. Additionally, each place taught me valuable lessons I carry with me on a daily basis. One of the most important lessons I have learned and am still continuing to learn in Seattle is to embrace the gray.
Embrace the gray; I mean that in the most literal and figurative sense, especially living in Seattle. I am a long-term planner, and my mode of operation is to always have a plan. My contingency plans even have contingency plans of their own, so when life goes awry, I become anxious. I do not do well with uncertainty, and for the most part, others do not either. The unknown can cause fear, doubt, and anxiety. I, however, also believe that this type of internal dissonance is meant to grow you. With that, I have learned to perceive times of uncertainty as an opportunity of growth in my confidence and faith.
Adversity builds character, and any challenge you overcome—during times of transition and uncertainty—is meant to build your mental, emotional, and physical capacity for the next level of your life. From September 2016 to March 2017, I swam in the grayest of spectrums, as I experienced the doctoral application process. I applied to four of the most competitive programs in the country, and to be honest, I experienced impostor syndrome throughout the whole process, especially as a first-generation college student. There came a time when I did not know what I would do if I did not get accepted to any program. I, however, knew to reframe my thinking because no matter the outcome, what we can control is our attitude and mindset in moving forward. With the support and words of encouragement of mentors, I learned to embrace the gray. I gave myself pep talks for reassurance that no matter what happened—if I got accepted or not—was meant to happen during this time. Even when I did not get the best news, I still embraced the gray. I had to remain humble during the process, and if it was not my time to pursue a doctoral degree, I had to accept that it was not my time. That only meant that I would remain resilient and reapply the following year. I had to accept this reality that I did not plan for to begin with. While I trusted the process and leaned in faith, I became less anxious, and unexpectedly—when I was not thinking or worrying about the process—the acceptance letter for one of my top choices of programs came! Embracing the time of uncertainty made me appreciate the outcome more, and I will be pursuing my PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles this fall.
During these months, I think of those deciding on master’s programs in student affairs and my peers who are looking for internships or applying to secure a job or assistantship for the following academic year. People may also be trying to figure out classes or how to map out their academic trajectory in alignment with their professional goals. What a scary yet exciting time! In the field of student affairs, I have repeatedly heard, “Trust the process,” during the waiting period. I, too, have said that to others. Yes, trust the process, and if you do not trust the process, trust yourself. Trust that you are competent and capable. Trust that you are enough. Trust that you will find your fit. If the outcome is not what you expected, it is all right because you will land, where you are meant to serve your purpose. I believe each day we get a piece of life’s puzzle. Sometimes, that piece may or may not fit within our puzzle. Even so, we gain better clarity on our puzzle because we know what pieces belong or do not belong. This ultimately provides us a better understanding of our pathway in life. Learn to embrace the gray for it serves to cultivate a sense of resilience, persistence, and patience.
- Rose Ann E. Gutierrez (SDA)