Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Embracing Uncertainty: One Minor Decision at a Time, by John Schaefer (Class of 2022)

Embracing Uncertainty: One Minor Decision at a Time
by Saint Louis University Program in Physical Therapy Student John Schaefer (Class of 2022)

When I first arrived on the campus of Saint Louis University (SLU) in the Fall of 2016, the only immediate constant in my life was change, along with an unwavering sense of dubiety. Although I possessed a quiet confidence, I still found myself tiptoeing through the first week of orientation, trying to find steady ground amidst this new and ever-changing environment. Being over 500 miles away from home, uncertain if I had selected the right institution of higher education, and blissfully unaware of the work and rigor I had cut out for me in the direct-admittance Physical Therapy program, 18-year-old me plunged into my first semester of classes.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I experienced the typical roller coaster of emotions and newfound realities that are inevitably paired with one’s first semester of college. Those include, but are not limited to: an unprecedented sense of complete and total freedom, confusion and unease surrounding relationships back home, and most notably endless opportunities accompanied by “important” decisions.

Now, by no means am I suggesting that the decisions students face when they are freshmen are trivial, but oftentimes they present themselves as being a matter of “life-or-death” in the moment. Although these decisions may have a tremendous impact on the course of one’s college experience, they are made on the basis of the knowledge available to the student and what’s important to them at the time. With that being said, in retrospect, people rarely make a blatantly “wrong” decision. More often than not, the individual did what they thought best given the information they had, and for that reason, should not lose any sleep at night. Furthermore, in the end, things typically work out far better than you could have hoped for or imagined.

As my freshman year progressed, I found myself in what I believed (at the time) to be one of these “life or death” scenarios during my first visit with my academic advisor at the end of Fall 2016.

“John, it’s time to select a minor, what’re you thinking?”

What am I thinking? I’m currently thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch in about 20 minutes…

That’s a stretch, but truth be told, I hadn’t given this decision any thought and instantly felt sick to my stomach. Surely this choice, if used incorrectly, would have serious implications that could negatively impact the foreseeable future. My mind raced.

However, the one pearl of advice I distinctly remember climbing to the forefront of my mind was something I had heard at PT Admitted Students’ Day. This was to pick a minor in a subject area that I love, something I wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to study in depth at the university level.

This led me to ask myself, what would I be studying if physical therapy wasn’t on the table. My mind immediately zeroed in on two options, English/creative writing or marketing. After careful deliberation, I decided that there would always be opportunities for me to showcase my authorship and it would be more beneficial for me to explore the business world. Soon after, I declared marketing as my minor, stood up, and left his office.

It hadn’t quite sunk in for me yet that I was committing to studying marketing until I found myself in various discussions that following Spring semester with my peers in the PT program. In these exchanges with my classmates and friends, many of them proudly announced that they were studying psychology. These proclamations often continued with something along the lines of, “psychology is arguably at the root of therapeutic treatment and understanding someone else’s psychological makeup and processes will be extremely useful as a future clinician.”

Uh oh. I felt impending doom, as if I was an outsider letting an amazing opportunity for growth slip through my hands, as my peers all spread their fingers and caught it. This potential loss bothered me for a few days, until I shifted and recentered my focus on myself. I had been intrigued by business, captivating the attention of others, selling, creativity, and studying cash-flow ever since I can remember. Why back down now due to external pressure?

After this brief period of reflection and recommitment, I resumed studying, both inside and outside of the classroom, and I promised myself I would not let others’ personal choices or desires impact my goals ever again. From that point forward, there was no looking back. The opportunities began flying in at an unprecedented pace. Two years passed and my marketing minor had already allowed me the ability to join various organizations (SLU Marketing Club/Entrepreneurship Club), fly to London to work with Fordham University on an international marketing pilot project in which I had the opportunity to pitch a business model to a board of professionals, and expand my knowledge of social media to the point that I was able to serve as a consultant for multiple student organizations.

Above all else, I have learned to effectively market myself personally and professionally, each and every day. Whether it is through the daily personal interactions I have with others and trying to get a point across, or expanding viewership of my online blog articles to over 300,000 views, my minor has taught me the essence of human nature in terms of capitalizing on wants and needs. I am grateful for this skillset as I know it will benefit me greatly as I transition into my role as a future clinician.

The point of this article is not to showcase any successes I have had. Instead, it is a call to action to discover your interests and move forward with them, whether or not it is the popular thing to do. Furthermore, it is a plea to stop being so hard on your past decisions. Every choice you make was made for a reason. Whether or not you saw immediate or long-term benefits from it, you (hopefully) were able to learn from it and become a more refined version of yourself as a result. If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this: be thankful for the opportunity to choose your own destiny and when faced with a decision, commit yourself fully and don’t look back.

SLU DPT Student John Schaefer (Class of 2022) is the Physical Therapy Student Association (PTSA) newly elected co-president.