After many thoughts and struggles, in the end, I still decided to let go of that wonderful opportunity. Having compared the two programs, I still could not let go of my original intention/purpose. Somehow, my heart was firm about my choice for Clinical Psychology. I decided to wait for the universities that I’d applied to, knowing full well that should I not get accepted in the end, I would automatically lose the eligibility for Fulbright scholarship.
Was I afraid? Absolutely! But, I really could not convince myself to study Mental Health Counselling because it was never my dream. Thank goodness, in the end, I did get enrolled in the Clinical Psychology program at Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. Along with that, I was also given the Fulbright scholarship.
Looking back, it was indeed a nerve-wrecking journey! Yet, I do not regret the decisions I had made. At every life juncture, we will have to take some risks to make a decision for ourselves. No life’s decision is perfect. Whether you are choosing to let go or hold on, you will gain some and lose some. As a Chinese proverb puts it: when a man loses his horse, it could well be a blessing in disguise! More importantly, we need to know how to stay faithful to our beliefs, and to trust that there is always help beyond ourselves, waiting to open up the road ahead for us. Ironically, in this process of learning to let go, I actually learned to hold on more and trust more!
Making Choices at Different Life Stages
Psychologist Daniel Levinson (author of Seasons of a Man’s Life and Seasons of a Woman’s Life) said that at different stages of life, the choices made by men and women will be affected by various physiological and psychological needs, as well as the rules and culture of society at the time. Making a decision requires one to choose whether to let go or hold on to something, or some relationships. Holding on too much can cause suffering to oneself and the people around us. On the other hand, letting go too quickly may also hurt us, because the problems that have not been confronted or dealt with will keep returning to haunt us.
Levinson also found that women’s decision-making process is typically more complex than men’s because women often worry about whether they can manage both family and career. As a result, some women choose to focus on creating family life and let go of the opportunities to further study or be promoted in their careers. Other women may prefer to focus on developing their studies and careers, thus they are not able to spend much time on managing love relationship or family life.
Interestingly, in middle adulthood, both men and women will want to reposition themselves at this time, which is why it is called the “midlife crisis”! A man may want to pick up a dream, which he had given up when he was younger, such as becoming a singer or having a super cool motorbike. A housewife may want to apply for some university courses. A single businesswoman may want to find a life partner or adopt a child.
Every decision we make brings us to the next door, to start the next journey, and gives us new experiences and visions. Even being hesitant is about choosing to remain status quo temporarily, until when there is new inspiration or awareness, or external compulsion to move. Either way, one will still have to let go of the original form of life and embrace change.
From a conventional family life cycle perspective, an individual starts from a single life and eventually chooses to marry a partner. They establish couplehood and then have a child to form a family. When their child grows up and leaves his or her family-of-origin, the older couple has to adapt to the empty nest phase and re-establish their couplehood, until one or both of them pass away.