This time of year can be so, so stressful. You may still be in school and experiencing finals week, or maybe you’re in the throes of graduate school and trying to get all of your ducks in a row, or maybe this December is just really stressful with all of the family and friends you’ll be seeing and you feel like you can’t enjoy your time with the daunting to-do list you have growing in the back of your mind.
I see you. I really do.
Child life is competitive and it is challenging. It has so many hoops and you feel defeated when no one else understands. Anyone who has not experienced what you’re experiencing in the process of volunteering/applying/interviewing cannot truly understand the amount of stress you are under constantly. Your parents give you that half-hearted smile trying to be supportive, but they really don’t get it. Your friends see you putting in so much effort into all of your volunteering and experience; they all are super encouraging that you’re definitely going to breeze through the application process. But they haven’t seen the 22-page common application. Or the amount of hospitals you have to apply to with specific criteria for each hospital making the application process even more time-consuming, difficult, and allowing more of an opportunity for error on your part. They’re encouraging, but they don’t understand.
I see you though.
One of the first questions I’ll ask students pursuing child life is “Tell me about yourself (your family, friends, home life, schooling, hobbies, etc) without making any reference to child life.” And you know how many can do that? Hardly any. Less than a handful of students have told me more than three sentences about themselves without diving into their identity in applying for a child life practicum or internship. It absolutely consumes you. You lose yourself in the process.
I see you.
Here are some tips and tricks for how to take care of YOU throughout this process. It is a process, please remember that.
All of these forums that you’re involved in can be helpful and a blessing, but they can also be a curse.
Do not compare your story to everyone else. I see a lot of posts about “how many hospitals are you applying to?” “How many times did you have to apply?” There is no rhyme or reason and a lot of people who got their practicums or internships on the first try are the ones that are responding to those questions and that’s not necessarily fair or “average.” A lot of the ones that are still actively pursuing an internship or practicum may be on their 3rd or 4th try and they may not be responding to those threads because they’re embarrassed not realizing that they’re probably in the majority.
You are competing with you and only you. If during this round you are not accepted, then that just means that next time, you’ll have even more experience than before. You’ll get involved in something different. Do not reapply to hospitals with the same resume as you did the last round. If it didn’t work the last time, it probably won’t work now. Do something different! It may be a huge learning experience for you or something out of your comfort zone but in the long run I can guarantee that it will help you become an even better child life specialist. Don’t doubt that these experiences are only making you a stronger applicant and future child life specialist.
Self-care. You’ve heard it talked about in your classes or you may have experienced it during a practicum – but this is no joke. You find something that helps YOU when you need it most. What do you love to do (outside of child life)? What makes you smile? What makes you relaxed? How do you love to spend your time when you just need a breather? Find what that is, and don’t let that escape you during this application process. It doesn’t have to be just one thing either – it can be fluid and it can change depending on what you need most. Back when I worked at the hospital, if I helped with a bereavement, my self-care was getting a #6 from King Gyros, drive straight home, sit on my couch in the dark watching Netflix while I ate my gyro and greasy fries in peace. And then I’d be ready to tackle the next thing. You do you!
DO take breaks. Take care of yourself. I know you have folders among folders either on your computer or literally sprawled out in front of you of all the applications and hospitals that you have to keep track of – but take a break. In order to put out the best applications and to avoid mistakes along the way, you need to take breaks. This does not need to consume your life. Go do something fun!
Enjoy your holiday. Obviously if you haven’t already sent out your applications yet, try to finish those up before the holiday or make a plan to finish them after the holiday. Enjoy the time with friends and family without thinking of all of the things you need to complete once everyone leaves for the night.
You got this. I’m rooting for you!