Starting graduate school may not seem like a lot to others. It didn’t seem like a lot to me honestly. Not to say that I took it lightly, but more so I took it superficially. I went into like it was my freshman year in college all over again.
I was done with overbearing professors who were constantly checking attendance, no more overpriced student meal plans or overcrowded dorms. I was going to be surrounded by people who knew and understood my work schedule and there were going to be opportunities galore for me to mess up and no one would chastise me. Okay that’s overly optimistic but at the very least I wouldn’t have to worry about getting fired because that’s what innovation labs are for right – messing up? I was in a head over heels teenage crush with the chance to test my ideas out.
Like most teenage crushes, the ideal that I had set my sights on was grossly overrated. Not in the way where it was a giant waste of my time but in the way that my time in grad school was going to be a flawed, sometimes painful, not always appreciated point in my life that in the hopefully, in the end, would be worth all the 3 a.m. neurotic breakdowns, hours of counseling and blown off dinner dates with people who could have been my friends had managed my time better and hunkered down to do my homework the day before.
I have officially completed the first week of the second semester of my grad program. I’m only in a two year master’s program so that should give you some idea of how mentally unprepared I was. Three months ago, I couldn’t see myself here. When I thought of what came after the end of my fall term, I saw a haze. I was a ship floating in a fog. A dense, dark fog with no way of knowing if I was sailing to Antarctica or Africa.
Fast forward to winter break. My supervisor at my assistantship had told me that when I get a break, I needed to take it. I tried to take her advice as best I could. In my defense it’s not my fault. I had a mother with a type A personality and I was the first born so of course I couldn’t be left to do nothing, God forbid. In all actuality, reality sometimes does not let you take the breaks you think you deserve. After all I had been binging on Netflix series as a way to tune out my responsibilities for a couple of months now. It was only a matter of time before I had to pay my dues.
As trying as it was to juggle my job, my family’s desires, the meeting of my biological father for the first time, my military boyfriend’s leave (& his family) and my program’s intensive two week boot-camp, all occurring across three cities and two states, it was not only engaging but it whispered to that piece of me that did not believe in my own ability to stretch myself as thin as possible.
Fast forward again. Today, I talked to my program adviser. She pointedly mentioned that grad school is very much about multi-tasking (efficiently). When I thought of grad school as I was applying to it, I thought of getting to know a subject intimately, of getting to know it over the course of my time here. I thought it was the process of honing in not focusing “out”. And yet during my time here I’ve refused that approach. How could I have developed an intimate knowledge of one thing when I had all these things on my plate that also needed my attention? Intimacy takes time, after all. . . doesn’t it?
That’s the paradox of graduate school though, isn’t it? To be able to be both intimate and ultimate. In my qualitative research methods class today, we talked about an approach to ethnographic research (or more like a critique of an approach) called thick description – an intimate knowledge of a certain instance. The critique of that is to add more breadth and maybe less intimacy i.e. one doesn’t have to know everything (the details that have little to no influence or worth) but supplement that loss with the gain of knowing the details of other relationships and understanding interactions.
All in all, I’m five months in and I can see a destination now. I don’t know about time frames, because let’s face it I’m 21 and my brain is tired of being on a timeline. I have eight years to complete a two year program. I may take some internships in a couple different places. Right now I’m supplementing school with work that has little to do with critical thinking because I heard that helps take the edge off things. What I don’t want to do this time around is use Netflix to suppress the urge to be somewhere else doing something else again. What I do want to do is allow myself to be excited again about all the opportunities grad school has to offer and to remind myself to let sleeping dogs lie.
If nothing else, my teachers this term don’t know how I did last term. 😉