On success and failure as a career changer

Updated: Mar 29

What is your most substantial accomplishment?

"Describe your most substantial accomplishment and explain why you view it as such."

This was one the questions that was asked in my application for graduate school of social work.

and it was the most difficult one.

I wrote many drafts... maybe 10? or more... I read them all, multiple times. Something was wrong or missing... I was either not going deep enough or just plain mumbling things.

It sounded vague or fake... or both.

What was going on? I love writing - how come I can't manage to write a good 500-words essay?

I was perhaps looking it in the wrong way - it was not the word count, it was the content.

I wanted this essay to be really good - I wanted it to be 100% me, genuinely.

(and how can someone be genuine, effortlessly, if that is the very thing that she is struggling with and working on constantly?) yeah - hold on to that thought, Kumsal!

What was my most substantial accomplishment?

Was it my PhD?


I didn't think for a second to write about my PhD in this essay, as my most substantial accomplishment. Yes, I am proud to have a PhD degree, all the process and what I learned through my training. But I don't feel like it was my most substantial accomplishment - having those three letters means absolutely nothing on their own.

So what was it?

I remember writing something about finding your voice, your way... along the years... blah blah blah.

Finding my way, my voice... what does that even mean? how cheesy and dumb... and I am not going to put some dumb thing on this important essay!

so I started thinking - Seriously, Kumsal -- Why it was too damn hard to figure out your most substantial accomplishment? (I was finally going somewhere!)

Then, I sat down and though about why it was too hard for me to figure this out - my most substantial accomplishment.

Then I wrote exactly this; that I never felt that I was owning any of my "successes" as they never truly belonged to me. How I followed what was expected from me, by my family and every other person I know... rather than speaking up and going down the path I truly wanted. I wrote about how tragically I ended up to be a total disappointment + failure in many ways for many people, despite my glorifying PhD and postdoctoral fellowship...

Oh, that breath of fresh air coming alive - THE TRUTH.

I was finally getting to the heart of the matter.

I went on explaining my therapy journey which made me who I am today. I have always been so proud about it, unapologetically and openly, and what I learned through this intense process, so why not write it down here?

Through the process of therapy, I learned how to speak up for myself, to protect myself and love myself (it is still a work in progress...)

If I have never started to therapy and met with my therapist at the time I wouldn't have,

learned to put boundaries to anyone,

never had a child probably,

never left my career behind,

never dared to embark on this journey to become a mental health practitioner (which is something I dreamed of since I was 16 years old) .

I would not be me, basically. and this is what I am proud of the most.

There you go - that vague sentence of finding you way, self... this is what I meant - THE JOURNEY.

The journey of becoming ME.

Finding the courage to be true to myself. Stop being nice to people who hurt me, and leaving things behind that didn't really belong to me.

That is my most substantial accomplishment.

Phew... those 500 words. As I finished it, I read it, again and again. many times.

and I admit crying many times.

There is nothing more powerful than truth. and there is nothing more freeing that telling the truth. Aloud.

Ironically, did I failed at something to accomplish this?

oh hell yes! on so many things and so big.

In order to change your track, you have to stop, and turn. sometimes totally quit altogether.

I left my career, my life as I know it. I left people who never truly loved me. I left people who tried to hurt me. I left people who tried to make me something that I was not truly.

and I feel like a failure for sure. for leaving so many things behind. but on the other hand, I haven't been proud of myself in my entire life like this.

In other words, I would rather stay true to myself, than "be on the mountaintop"...