Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why I chose Psychology

I was given a small assignment for my class called Theories in Personality:
I would like you to consider and provide a brief answer to the question: “Who are you?” Think about what things are most important in defining who you are. You could include personality characteristics that really represent you, hobbies/interests, why you came to SFSU, why you chose your major, jobs you had or have, what you plan to do when you finish your degree, or anything else you would like to include.
I decided to write about my path in psychology and here is my finished product.

            It always seems fitting to begin an autobiographical paper at the beginning. My earliest memory is quite odd. I remember laying on the floor and my mother was applying diaper rash medicine on my…behind. I have other very early memories including the 1989 earthquake, day trips to visit relatives, and the addition of new siblings to the family. None of this seems out of the ordinary, my life seemed normal be anyone’s standards. To everyone, their own life is normal, because that is all they have ever known. My sense of normal is not comparable to anyone else’s sense of normal.
            My world began becoming less normal when my next sibling down, David was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of six months. I was also tested for CF but my tests came up negative. Against the advice of doctors and relatives, my parents decided to continue having children. Their following two children were diagnosed with CF at birth, and the following four children were not. All in all, I am the oldest of eight children. (I joke and inform people that yes we are from the same set of parents, yes they are still married, no we are not Catholic or Mormon, we are just a uniquely large family).
            Unlike many “average” families, a large part of my childhood was spent at doctors’ appointments. Sometimes they were for my siblings with CF, sometimes it was because my mom always seemed to have an OB/GYN appointment from being pregnant, and sometimes it was just a routine visit for flu shots. A lot of my parent’s attention was spent on the three CF kids or on the newborn child at the time. That was my normal, my childhood.
            Even though the attention from my parents was spread a little thin, my mom decided to home school me when I was in kindergarten and first grade. This allowed us to spend time together, and it provided some amazing opportunities that shaped who I am today as a person. One of the most impactful days of my life happened during a field trip we took when I was in kindergarten.
I got to go on many field trips that most kindergartners do not get to be a part of. Mom took me to a place in Vallejo called Marine World (now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom). In the early 90’s, it was a wildlife, education, and research facility, not the theme park it has become. They had animal shows for the purpose of education, and they shared the research within those shows. Mom and I had a grand time learning about dolphins, lions, and giraffes.
Mom and I decided to sit in the second row to get a good view at the killer whale show. When the two whales were brought out to the front tank, I remember my mom gasping in awe from their enormous size, and also again when they were directed to splash the first few rows with icy cold seawater. In my mind as a five-year-old, that was the first time I remember seeing my mother taken back by something. She had such a headstrong, no-nonsense, even tempered personality, it amazed me to see her speechless.
At that very moment, I decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up, a killer whale trainer. I spent the next 15 years trying to make that happen. I studied animal husbandry on my own while I was in high school. I moved to San Diego after graduation and got a job at Sea World in food services, just to be closer to those beautiful animals. I was working my way through school and networking within the theme park and I gained so much knowledge.
The following year, I moved to Napa with my aunt and I got a job at the very park that inspired me to become an animal trainer, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. I was initially hired in the Education Department and I expressed my desire to work with the animals directly. While I was in the Education Department, I stood in front of the non-performing animal exhibits and talked about the animals over a microphone to the crowds. I got to meet many of the trainer and caretakers, it was so much fun and a lot of hard work. This job required that I have a thorough knowledge of over 30 species of animals, and overcome my nervousness of public speaking.
A month after I began working in the Education Department, I got a call that I was being transferred to Animal Training! I was only 20-years-old and I was elated to have made my dream come true. I got to work with small land animals including opossums, bats, porcupines, cougars, servals, anteaters and wallaroos. It was the most amazing summer I could have hoped for. I learned how to care for the animals, transport them, perform with them and train them.
That summer, I also lost my best friend to Muscular Dystrophy, and I entered a deep depression.  I made it a habit of being late for work, unaccepting of new knowledge and aloof at work. That experience rattled me to the core of my being. I left that job at the end of the summer and I have not returned to animal training or animal psychology.
I floated through life for about three years after that, taking meaningless jobs, and not attending school. I felt like my dream of animal training had been shattered. But I still loved the psychology behind it, I understood it. One day while I was literally washing dishes at a food services restaurant, I had an epiphany. I needed to move back home and get my butt back in school. I knew I loved psychology, and I had the feeling that I could become some sort of grief counselor. Losing my best friend and living with the knowledge that three of my siblings with chronic illness are going pass away in my lifetime are unique experiences.
Three years of community college rerouted my psychology path from clinical to I/O Psychology. I came to the terms that I have had a lot of work experience and most of those experiences left me frustrated, and empty feeling. I also learned that many other people feel that way about their work. Over the years, I had so many ideas to improve productivity within the workplace, improve relationships between employees and lift up the overall atmosphere into one where people could feel a sense of purpose in not so meaningful jobs. But my ideas and suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.
The moment that solidified my desire to enter I/O Psychology happened in September 2014. I was covering a shift at a Starbucks in San Francisco. I saw that someone was training a teenage gentleman on the espresso bar, how to make the various drinks that Starbucks provides. The woman who was providing the instruction was clearly frazzled, and the teenager was not understanding her instruction and breaking down. I stepped in and asked if I could work with him. The woman looked at me and told me she was the assistant manager, she had been working for six days in a row and was completely burned out and thanked me for stepping in.
Starbucks has very specific instructions for training new baristas. There are cue cards and timed exercises but they were not helpful. I metaphorically threw out the cue cards and I began teaching this young gentleman in a way I felt would be more helpful. About twenty minutes into our work together, I saw his eyes light up and he told me that I had just taught him how to make his favorite Starbucks drink, and he understood how the pattern of beverage making was based on adding steps to basic beverages. That bit of knowledge is not included in the current Starbucks training program.

People are influenced by moments in their lives, and the unusual circumstances they are dealt in the game of life. What shaped me into who I am and what influenced me to become in I/O Psychology began in my childhood when all I wanted to do was get involved in a profession that would impress my mother. A dream that morphed into a passion to help others in the work place.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Awesome Kelsey! Thank you for sharing. I am so proud of you!