The Anonymous Manifesto™ – Ep. 20 – Treating America’s PTSD, one human at a time

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AC, 25, is currently doing her PhD in Clinical psychology. Her parents are from India and her family moved to the States when she was 5. She talks about her research work, why she enjoys what she does and the changing role of women in our society. She talks about her hopes for the future. Here’s the transcript of my phone interview with her. 

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Heart: The reason why I do these interviews is that inspite of peoples’ lives they are still here, they’re are thriving and there might be a take away from their life from which we can all learn.
AC: So, is that goal, “What can we learn from this person’s perspective?”

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Heart: Yeah, exactly. Inspite of everything, people are trying to make it and I want to find those stories.
AC: But, there’s the good side too. Some people are actually lucky and do have thriving lives and they also know how to make use of the resources that they have.

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Heart: Yeah, absolutely, you’re right. So, what were you doing before you moved out of Atlanta for your PhD?
AC: I was working at Emory and Grady at the same time. One day a week, I went to Grady, it was not paid work, but I was working at the PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) clinic there. Its called the Grady Trauma project and its like a Trauma center for Grady’s ER (Emergency Room) and in the dead of downtown, you get a lot of interesting people to work with.

 

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Heart: OK. So, what’s the general theme of life for a woman in her mid 20’s, who’s single, working and is independent?
Is it aspiration, hope, anxiety, what is it that you feel when you wake up?
AC: (Laughs) That’s so hard. I don’t think I can represent everyone, but all of the emotions you named are the things that I go through and I’m sure many people my age go through. Its a mix of everything like, many of my high school friends are now getting engaged or getting married, and its on Facebook, and I’m sure they are nervous, excited, hope, and they’re working on their career.

I mean, its really interesting, I learnt about this in one of my classes in college, its called, its called The triple something, I wanna look it up. (Laughs) Anyways, its about how girls now-a-days are brought up being taught that they’ve to look good, they’ve to be really smart and they’ve be athletic and really into sports. They just have to have it all, and they have to be a great mother too. So, women, are under a lot of pressure. My professor actually wrote this book about this topic, he’s a really big development psychologist. In the last day of class, he tells us that he has bipolar disorder. He’s a very passionate guy, its very interesting.

So yeah, I just finished my first year and my summer semester, so I’m even more officially a second year student now. But, I can tell you after the first year of this grad program, it all feels so right. I’m doing exactly what I want to do and I care about so much about what I’m doing.

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Heart: That’s really impressive. It took me until my mid 30’s to really figure out what I like to do.
AC: I feel like everyone’s so different, like, I got to my path, you know my parents really wanted me to go to Med school, and I took some time off and they say “You shouldn’t have wasted those 3 years after college, you should have gone straight to Grad school.” And I’m like, “No, I needed those 3 years or those 7 years (including Under grad) or whatever it takes to, to figure out what you want to do. Coz, you can’t go to Med school for 50,000$ a year and do something that you’re not passionate about doing.

And that’s what I told my parents, “I’m going to join Med school now, but I’m going to quit and we all will be upset.” (Laughs)

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Heart: Sure. So, now, do you have to work to support yourself through college?
AC: The program I’m in right now gives me a stipend every month, and my tuition is completely covered. And luckily, I have amazing parents who bought a place for me. (Laughs) But, even if that wasn’t the case, it sounds like from what I’ve heard from other people on the program, people don’t have to take loans, because the stipend they give you is good enough to your expenses. And in order to receive that I’ve to do an assistantship, which is a teaching assistant program for a professor or doing something related to research to earn the stipend basically.

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Heart: What is your program called?
AC: I’m working towards getting a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of [redacted].

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Heart: What is the demographic of people who’re doing Clinical psychology right now?
AC: At my school, its mostly white, mostly female. And there’re a few Asians and a Latina. And a few guys. Its actually a very small program, there are only 20 students for the 5 year program. I only have 5 other classmates in my class. (Laughs) So, its a very small class.

This is a program that pays you to do it for 5 years, so they can’t obviously afford many many students. Its really specialized, like I didn’t even apply to the school, I applied to just one faculty member that I wanted to work with. The process of applying for a PhD program is different from just general colleges. I had applied to 13 different people across the US to work with and I got this one to work with. So, yeah. And the acceptance rates for this reason are pretty low, coz each year the professor takes one student and gets upto 150 to 200 applicants, especially if he’s a popular professor.

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Heart: Wow, so do you have to show passion for the work in your application?
AC: Yeah, he’ll be looking for overall, so you’ve to have really good academic background, over 3.6 and if you’re from a good school and then um, obviously, a bunch of volunteering and service work. And you’ve to have a few publications, and I had two publications at that time and a few poster presentations. And what else?

And then I had to have 3 references, 2 essays and like a couple of other things. But the biggest part is that they invite 10% of the applicants to an interview and the interview basically makes or breaks it. So overall from all the applicants, they accept 2 to 4%. So, they take a 3rd of the people who have come for the face to face interview.

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Heart: Woah. And you remember everything that happened one year ago so well.
AC: Yeah, and actually the first year students get to host it every year, and so I got to host it. Um, I’m now emailing all the incoming students on where to live and things like that, so its really exciting. (Laughs)

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Heart: But, this doesn’t sound anything like the Millennial work ethic that I keep reading about in newspapers?
AC: (Laughs) I do things a little bit differently, but at the same time, I have similar habits with people who’re my age, like, I procrastinate. Its not like I’m doing great work all the time. (Laughs) I do have my flaws.

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Heart: I think if you don’t procrastinate, THEN you’ve a problem.
AC: (Laughs)

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Heart: In clinical psychology, once you graduate and get a job, will you be interacting directly with people?
AC: Actually, in one month, I’ll see my first client. I’m a little bit nervous, but we took a class this summer, that actually ended today, on clinical skills on how to manage your first few sessions with your first patient. And then as I jump into it, obviously, I’ll get a lot of supervision, coz I don’t have a license and I’m operating under my supervisor.

And I’ll have weekly meetings with him and my classmates on the team and we will discuss our cases and he’ll kind of help us conceptulize it and figure out what to do. My case load should be 3 to 4 clients.

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Heart: Are you specializing in something in clinical psychology?
AC: Well, my research focus is in PTSD, but clinically, right now, I am getting trained in everything. So, children to adults, like, children with autism, children with behavior problems – punching other kids, adults with all sorts of issues, phobias or PTSD or just depression, or anxiety, or narcissistic personality disorders, or any personality disorder.

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Heart: Wow. Does your work define your life? Is it all that is to you?
AC: I don’t know, this is something some of my closest friends have told me in a critical way that I tend to like everything. (Laughs) I don’t know, I just have a passion for just life and adventure. I know, it sounds like such a cliché answer, but I just love trying new things more than most people I meet.

If I go to a party and someone is like, “Do you want to take this pill?” If, I’m in the mood, I’ll say yes. I want to try everything, of course, that sounds like a dangerous situation, you know, I would make sure I’ve a friend around if I plan to do that sort of thing. And on the other hand, you ask if what I do at work is my passion, and I mean I’m really passionate about helping other people and so that’s the kind of work I’m trying to go into. I think in general, must see most life, enjoying and experiencieng and soaking it all in. So, yeah.

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Heart: So, is it hard for men and women to settle down now than its was for our previous generations? What do you think, do millennial women have high standards for a future mate?
AC: I think, in Alpharetta (suburb of Atlanta), where I grew up, a lot of friends have families now. Its like, they’re more conservative and from traditional backgrounds. But, my friends from Berkeley, I don’t think any of them will get married in this decade sometime or ever. (Laughs)

And my friends here in Grad school, I think, we all have similar schedules. We’re in this program for 5 years. I think we all expect to get out of this program either married or knowing what we’re going to get out of it.

I think, in general, its kind of a stereotype and its also kind of true, millennials are focusing more on career and individualized living.

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Heart: Its not true that people your age are not finding a match, or that women are hard to please?
AC: No, I think women are just starting to feel more independent now. Its a culture change and I don’t think, men really have anything to do with it. I think a woman who’s trying to find a man, can easily find a man. There’s no issue. If she wants to find someone, she will find someone.

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Heart: Interesting. I wanted to understand the perspective of women now, who will eventually get into a commitment zone. There’re a lot of women who are in marriages for the long haul, making compromises and I was wondering what a millennial woman feels about her choices.
AC: (Laughs) Yeah, OK. The divorce rate in the United States right now is crazy, do you know what it is?

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Heart: Is it 50%, isn’t it? Has it crossed 50?
AC: Yeah, it is 50. But do you know what the divorce rate for second time is? Like, if you get married another time and get divorced? Its 75%. So, its insane. I definitely don’t know how it looked like 3 or 4 decades ago, I’m definitely not curious to see that, (Laughs), but I think its just part of the culture now that marriages are more casual. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know. (Laughs)

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Heart: Yeah, you’re right. Either people have too little patience or feel too much to compromise?
AC: Yeah, honestly, I don’t know if its that. I feel that people are more empowered to act on what their thoughts are. I think the difference is, back then, women didn’t have the same rights and they weren’t allowed to speak their mind. And I think there’s a huge cultural change now on what women can do.

Actually, I took a social psychology class last semester and it turns out that women in a school setting, if you test girls vs. boys, girls score high on intelligence tests. And in one study on adolescents in high school, girls are more career focused and ambitious than boys. That’s a switch in preferences from before. Earlier women would look for men who can provide money, who had a good personality traits for a family. But now, women are apparently looking for good looks, coz, they have the intelligence and the good job and they don’t care about the man’s occupation. And its lowest on the list now. (Laughs)

Its crazy how the trend is going, of course, its only one interpretation of how the society is going, its more so than before, is what they’re trying to say. In countries like Sweden, where gender roles are equal, the trend looks just like what I just described. So, yeah, its a different world. (Laughs)

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Heart: Interesting. OK, so when you meet people and interact with them, do you wonder if they’re direction-less? Does that influence if you’ll make friends with them?
AC: Oh. No, when I meet someone and I definitely don’t wonder if they’re directionless. (Laughs) When I look at someone, usually, even if they’re a stranger, I see the beauty in them. I want to see the good in them, kind of thing.

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Heart: Its great, positivity is a great thing.
AC: That’s the only way to cope with this life. (Laughs)

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Heart: So, how’s life going to look like 10 years from now?
AC: For all of us?

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Heart: Just for you.
AC: (Laughs) Let’s see, so, I will probably be a couple of years into whatever psychology career I’m going to be picking. I still have 4 or 5 years to decide. I‘m thinking it will be a mix of clinical and research psychology. I will see clients and also do some research. And um, I’ll be 35, so I definitely want to have my children before 35. So, I guess, by then I’ll have my children.

But, I don’t know where I’ll be, I wanna live in a high rise at some point, maybe, before I have children, I want to do that. (Laughs)

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Heart: Its going to be a great life.
AC: (Laughs)

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The End. 

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Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto™. 

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