Yet another week of grad school is water under the bridge, and I’ve only had, like, two moments of crippling anxiety and only a few instances of the imposter syndrome this week. The shiny glow of the new and unexplored is fading away and I’m left facing the reality of of my life in grad school.
I’m still positive that this was the right decision for me, but there are moments when I realize I’ve spent maybe 8 hours of my day sitting on my couch reading for class and the only reason I’ve left my apartment was to walk my dog. It’s very individual work that you do in grad school. It’s solitary. Seriously, I work and have class Monday-Wednesday so I have to interact with people, but if I really don’t want to, I don’t have to see another human for the whole rest of the week. Despite my introverted nature, that much isolation is probably going to get to me after awhile, so I’m going to have to convince myself that doing my homework at the library is a better idea than doing it in my apartment, with my dog, in sweats, with coffee that I don’t have to stand in line for at my finger tips– wait, I was trying to convince myself to leave the apartment, right?
On the whole though, the reading all day thing is not something that bothers me. I love reading. And for the most part, everything I read is super interesting, and possibly something I can use for my own scholarship some day. Interracialism gives me the racial aspects I’m interested in, Popular Culture and Power my frameworks, and depending on what we’re reading in Intro, an interesting narrative twist or a perspective I didn’t think about before. But, judging from what I’m hearing from my classmates, I’m a lucky one. Not everyone finds every single class they’re taking to be right up their alley. But I guess that’s the perk of being interested in basically everything: I’m bound to find most classes are my speed.
One thing that helps break my off days up are meeting up with my colleagues in my cohort. Thursday, four of us got together in the library for about 2 and a half/3 hours and formed what I consider to be a pre-cursor of the “Writing Group.” Instead of sitting by yourself typing in a isolated corner of the library (or in my case, my living room with my Disney Princess blanket), a group of scholars get together and communally write on individual projects, and take breaks in between to report back to the group on any progress made. The 2015 cohort seems to enjoy their writing sessions so much that I suggested my cohort get together and do something similar, a brain storming session of sorts, where we’d get together and listen to each others’ ideas for papers, offer feedback, things to consider, articles or monographs to look at. It was really great because A) we got to bond, commiserating together and wallowing in the sea of papers we have to read together and B) it was actually super helpful in helping me narrow and articulate my ideas. I no longer have to go to meet with professors with half baked ideas! *High-fives the three ladies from the group* I’m sure that once we actually get to the writing stage, we’ll progress to the “real deal” writing groups that our older siblings have.
So, I went home Thursday, pleased with my socializing, and rewarded myself by happily staying in all day Friday, working and cleaning and painting and making food and coffee and playing with Genghis in between chugging through my reading. Then, came the party. My program has a beginning of the year party for the grad students and faculty, which sounds really fun in theory and really horrible when you’re dealing with your intense anxiety on the day of, an hour before you’re supposed to head out. Initially, I thought I’d be able to worm my way out of it: my dad’s cousin was having a vow renewal in Maryland during the same time so I figured I’d have to attend. But we decided it was better that I try to get to know some of the people in the program, so I fidgeting nervously in my apartment around 3 while my parents hit the road.
It’s one of those things people who are just getting to know me simply don’t understand. How on earth can someone like me be so anxious about a party? Well, I just am. I’m sociable but I don’t like parties. I’m outgoing, but I don’t like crowds. I’m just better at one-on-one individual conversations than I am at trying to keep up in group talks. Fortunately, I arrived at the same time as a few other people so I didn’t have to walk in alone and I spent most of the evening glued to my friend H*’s (name removed for privacy) side, getting to know her a lot better.
In the end, I was proud of myself! I stayed for an entire hour longer than I anticipated. I talked to several different people, even a couple I didn’t know before getting there. Nothing went horribly wrong, as pretty much anyone but me would’ve expected. It was a really nice setting, the house over looked a river, so being outside most of the time was my move because water’s calming for me and everyone was just nice and pleasant.
Which brings me to this week’s take away: grad school can be lonely, but only if you make it so. There are lots of people dealing with the same issues you are, so join together. There’s no reason to do it alone if you don’t have to. And reach out to people you think are cool. I did that this morning, and now I’m having coffee with someone I’m interested in knowing more about. See? One more friend that I didn’t have before!
I wish I could write more, but unfortunately because I was so anxious about that party yesterday, I have a nice pile homework to wade through that I didn’t do yesterday. So I’m off to learn about mass culture.
Until next time,