Tag Archives: grad school

Will I Die Alone: For Black Girls Who Are Hopeless Romantics When Degrees Aren’t Enuf

By: Korey Johnson

“No. Don’t never go looking for love girl. Just wait. It’ll come. Like the rain fallin’ from the heaven, it’ll come. Just don’t never give up on love.” – Sonia Sanchez

I fell in love with Black love at an early age. My earliest recollection is Omar Epps swooning over Sanaa Lathan in the final scene of Love & Basketball when he utters “double or nothing,” with those dreamy, passionate eyes and sexy smirk. That scene to me signaled the power of black love to triumph and conquer all things. From that day forward, I’ve always imagined a fairytale type of love that would just thrust itself upon me.

As I sit here now, as a final year J.D. Candidate, reflecting on 7-year-old Korey’s infatuation with love, I can say that my ideas of love, marriage, and a family have morphed into a plan unfulfilled. Growing up, my mother’s mantra was “School. Husband. Family,” in that order. When I matriculated through I guess in my adolescent mind, I assumed that each of those would come with the tide of time.

It hasn’t.

In fact, it feels like everyone’s romantic lives are booming while mine is nonexistent. My friends are having babies, getting married, and finding the “loves of their lives”. Meanwhile, I’m writing papers, pulling all-nighters, and stressing about career options that have yet to present themselves. After undergrad, my mother’s mantra transitioned to “you’ll find your man in law school.” Little did she know, the only dates I’ve been concerned with in law school are due dates and deadlines for papers and job applications.

What my mom didn’t tell me was that dating in Grad School completely sucks. The suitors are either 1) emasculated and threatened by my career goals or 2) obsessed with it. They often aren’t looking for something serious – which for me seems like a waste of time (what other reason would I be dating for). And to top it all off, they usually aren’t very understanding of Grad School woes.

With that being said, I’ve always wanted love but never really had the time for it.

As a black woman professional, dating has always been my second priority – my education and my career being my first. In my mind, as the hopeless romantic I am, I figured love would just find me. You know, just fall right in to my lap at just the right time. Maybe while I was at the library or in class or walking to a job interview. Somehow, someway, it would find me. Right?

Wrong.

Then, I had a coming of age moment with my mentor. I told her that I had a fear of dying alone– without a life partner, without kids, and without anyone to share my life with. I know this seems a bit extreme and dramatic, but the feelings are absolutely real. I’ve developed so many relationships with Black women lawyers and legal minds, most of them are single with no kids. They all work extremely hard – so much so that they have very little time to do anything else. (Rightfully so, because Black women have to work twice as hard in professional work environments but I guess that’s a whole different topic for a whole different article). Now, that’s not to say those Black women lawyers are not happy with living the Bachelorette lifestyle – most of them are completely comfortable with where they are in life and their careers.

But for me, my family goals are just as important as my career goals.

My mentor explained to me that my ideas of love and a family weren’t realistic. When she said this I was baffled and then she explained why. In short, she explained to me that everything that I had achieved in school was a result of hard work, dedication, and ambition. I agreed. Law school wasn’t just something that fell in my hands, I worked hard to get here. Moreover, I’ve been working my butt off to stay here, get good grades, and secure employment post-graduation. She then paralleled that energy to the energy (or the lack thereof) that I’ve placed in to my dating life. How could I ever expect to love to find me, when I never placed any energy in cultivating it.

It was this conversation that has transitioned my idea of love. It is not some object to be possessed. It is not something that we can just pick up and find on our path to becoming successful. Instead, it is a journey. It is something that is cultivated and takes work just like everything else in my life. And quite frankly, I guess when I’m truly ready for it – I’ll be ready.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way saying drop the books go get a man – I know what patriarchy looks like and girl this aint it. And as Sonia Sanchez says in the opening quote, we should never go looking for love. But what I am saying is that we have to be willing to reap what we sow in not just our academic life but in all other facets of our life. When the opportunity of love or a family presents itself, we need to be willing to explore those opportunities the same we pursue our passions in our academic pursuits – if family or marriage is a priority of yours.

So, for the Black girls like me, contemplating whether you’ll die alone or not – I guess with everything else in our lives – only we hold the key to our destinies. We are the captains of our fate. So maybe we won’t or maybe we will, but either way we will actively choose our romantic path and not let it choose us.


Korey Johnson is a third-year law student at Howard University School of Law. Korey holds a B.S. in Political Science and B.A. in Communication Studies from Towson University. As an activist by nature, her research is focused on developing a black feminist jurisprudence that is centered around political and social self-determination for Black women. Poetry is her drug of choice, she is a loyal member of the Bey-hive, and an avid watcher of The Office.

Guest Post: A Series of Unexpected Events

When I finished undergrad three years ago, I told myself a thousand times that I was never going to graduate school. Finishing a Bachelor’s degree was hard enough, why would I willingly put myself through more academic torture at an even higher cost (both mental and financial)? It seemed unnecessary at the time and even if I were to go, I had not a clue what I would study. My career path upon graduation was uncertain to say the least – the last thing on my mind was another degree. Now fast-forward to today… *cue maniacal laughter at my previous naiveté* …and I am headed back to grad school this coming fall. Yes, I said back, as in for my second attempt. It has been quite an interesting chain of events and along this journey, I’ve learned that sometimes where you need to be is right where you started from the beginning. *clears throat* Let me explain.

As a Virginian who grew up near Charlottesville, UVA was an obvious choice for college. I knew a lot about the University and had been there for football games and that sort of thing. From what I had experienced prior to enrolling, UVA offered the quintessential college experience, the kind you see depicted in the movies. When I got in, I was thrilled, proud, over-the-moon– but I was also nervous. My mom didn’t go back to finish her Bachelor’s degree until she was pregnant with me, so her college experience as a married woman with a family looked very different than mine would and my dad did not attend college at all. Not being able to rely on my parents to give me advice on what to expect as I ventured into unknown territory was scary, but I knew that I would figure it out. What I didn’t know was that most of the lessons I would learn throughout my undergraduate career would not take place in the classroom but in my day-to-day interactions with other students and other members of the University community. The biggest lesson that I learned about myself during those ever-important four years? I have anxiety. At times, borderline crippling anxiety, and the worst part was not that it took me until college to figure it out. The worst part was that I was unaware that it wasn’t normal.

Growing up in a small, rural town in Central Virginia, mental health was a rare topic of discussion and during instances where it was actually acknowledged it was always with regard to extreme cases of mental health disorders. In high school my classmates would make ignorant jokes toward others about having multiple personalities or being “special.” So that was really my only exposure to what constituted mental health issues. At home, there was even less talk of it. My parents maintained a very traditional black household where things like “what do you have to worry about?” and “mind over matter” were phrases that framed anything stress related. They always made it seem like my sister and I were too young to know what anxiety was so I didn’t know any different. Maintaining the idea that nothing was wrong kept me from seeking help, kept me from understanding that it’s okay to talk about my anxiety and depression, especially when it came to being a young black woman studying at a very prestigious predominantly white institution.

The source of my anxiety and depression while in undergrad was this: I never thought I was good enough. I compared myself to everyone at every turn. I had no concept of my worth. Then my self-esteem hit the lowest of lows following a bad break-up that took place during my first year of college. I didn’t know it then, but I was seriously depressed for over a year after that split. College is hard, breakups are hard, finding confidence in yourself as a single black woman when it feels like the world is on your shoulders at all times is hard. Finally getting my diploma at graduation and reflecting on all of those tough experiences had me thinking, “there’s no way I could ever go back and do this again,” but then I landed an unexpected job offer. Four months after graduation I was hired as an Admission Counselor for UVA and I found my passion– working with students who don’t see their potential, students who struggle to see their worth. Students like me. That’s when everything changed.

After finishing two admission cycles at my alma mater and loving the work that I was doing, I decided that I did want to go to grad school. So I applied and was accepted into UVA’s Master of Higher Education Administration program and I began taking classes part-time while I continued to work full-time. However, juggling both work and school simultaneously proved to be a challenge that triggered my anxiety in a slightly different kind of way than before. This time, my anxiety came from feeling stagnant. I got antsy with the idea that I was “stuck” at UVA, being that I had studied there, worked there, and was still studying and working there while many of my friends had moved on and found higher-paying jobs in cooler cities. I started to compare myself to others again, I felt like this whole “adulting” thing was a competition and it seemed like I was losing by a mile. So in an overwhelming state of frustration I made a rash decision. I chose not to enroll in grad classes for the coming semester and I applied for jobs at other universities until I got an offer to work for a school in DC. This was like a dream come true! I could finally move out of my parents’ house and have my first real apartment on my own, I would be in a city that was full of young black professionals, and I would be making more money (or so I initially thought). Well, life has a really funny way of humbling you when you least expect it and that’s exactly what happened.

I took the new job and hated every second of it. The leadership was awful, the electronic processes were archaic, the office culture was unhealthy, and given the higher cost of living in DC I really wasn’t making more money. This is when my anxiety and depression caused me to hit rock bottom. I started taking the prescription anxiety medicine that my doctor had given me several months prior hoping that it would make a difference in my day-to-day functioning, but I still had days where I could barely find the motivation to get out of bed. I was broke, unhappy, and I had never felt so alone. Emphasis on alone, living by yourself in the city sounds cool in theory until you realize that you come home to an empty apartment everyday. That’s not something that makes you feel any better when your work life is hell on Earth. I lasted six months in that position before I quit and decided to come back to UVA for grad school full-time. I’m even taking a class this summer to catch up so that I’ll still be on track to finish the program next spring (yay!) and it finally feels like I have my life back on track.

This time last year I never thought that I would be so excited to be moving back home and starting grad school again, that just goes to show that sometimes we have to go through difficult situations before we can see things clearly. It’s so true what they say about how the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I definitely learned that the hard way but that’s okay. Not every lesson we learn in life will come easy. Moving forward I know that my anxiety hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s something that I will have to deal with through grad school and beyond. The difference is that now I’ve been through things that have taught me that I am stronger and wiser than I used to think I was. I have found ways to better manage the moments where I feel like I’m on the verge of a panic attack. Those are life skills that I may not have learned as quickly if I didn’t take that leap of faith and accept that other job. It may not have been where I needed to be but we gain insight from every experience we have as human beings, good or bad, and that’s the silver lining.

Do I still have moments where I question my worth? Absolutely. Are there times when I doubt myself? 100%. But at the end of the day, I don’t beat myself up about those things nearly as much anymore. What brings me peace of mind through those inevitable ups and downs is the reassurance that, despite the detours I may have taken along the way, I know I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.


IMG_1593Alexis Richardson, 25, completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia in 2015. After three years of working in college admissions she has returned to UVA as a full-time grad student to finish her Master of Higher Education Administration.

Black Girl Doesn’t Do Grad School

Hi. I’m Taylor Lamb. I’m a (very) recent graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English and a minor in Drama. And I am not going to grad school.

[Pauses for you to take a moment to scroll and check if you’re on the right blog] Yes, I know. This isn’t exactly the content you signed up for.

But I think I have a cool perspective to share anyway.

I love school. A lot. I always have. School is what I’m good at. It’s what I’m best at, in all honesty. As much as I may have complained about my assignments, the late nights, and the early mornings… I actually thrived most when I was a student. A lot of my self esteem was linked to me making good grades (which is probably unhealthy) and doing well in school was how I felt like I was doing well in life. With all of this in mind, pursuing a masters’ degree seemed like the most natural next step as I was finishing my Bachelor’s Degree.

But the problem was- I had no need for it.

Realistically, I didn’t even need a Bachelor’s degree. I want to act. I also want to write too, hence the english degree, but acting is really my main goal. I hope to break into the entertainment industry, and having a Bachelor’s is absolutely not necessary. Some could even consider it as a detriment. The past 4 years I spent in undergrad, I could’ve been auditioning, or taking acting classes, or saving money so that I could afford to move to a city that gives me a better chance at achieving my goals. But I love school. And I wasn’t ready to be done with it. And I had always dreamed of going to college. So, I matriculated for 4 years. And now I’m done. And scared.

I was thisclose to going to grad school just to go. My University just recently launched an accelerated master’s program for English. Just one extra year (of incredibly hard work, mind you) and I’d have a master’s in English. And, I deeply considered it. I could continue to thrive in school for a year, and I could also delay having to make Big Decisions for a year. It seemed pretty great.

But, the kicker- they didn’t offer financial aid. I’m fortunate enough to have graduated with a very small amount of debt due to a full tuition scholarship. That is why I attended UVA in the first place. It was pretty integral to my college experience.

So, would I put myself in debt just to delay my life for a year, for a degree that I ultimately didn’t need? Would I take out loans just so I could revel in the joy of being a student for one more year? I definitely considered it. Everyone else is in debt, why can’t I be? Was I really ready to leave the comfort of academia? Wasn’t it worth it?

Ultimately, I had to decide… no. It wasn’t worth it. Not for me, anyway.

I’m terrified. It’s been less than two weeks as I type this, so it hasn’t kicked in that I’m done with school, quite yet. But, I know that it’s coming. The realization that I won’t be getting graded anymore. That any “assignments” I receive will be for work and not just for learning. That I don’t have some big defined goal of attaining a degree that everything I do is ultimately working towards.

And I’m gonna miss it. I know I will. I love learning and now I have to be self-motivated in a pursuit of knowledge, which isn’t one of my strong suits. But, I ultimately had to make the decision that was best for me, my future, and my bank account.

I’ll continue to live vicariously by voraciously reading every post on Black Girl Does Grad School. I’ll be jealous that I’m not writing any more papers, and won’t eventually get to use #blackandhooded on my instagram pics.

Thanks to y’all who are fighting the good fight of post-graduate education, for giving me something to look in on and be in awe of.

Signed,

A Black Girl Who Isn’t Going to Grad School

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(…for now)


Taylor Lamb is an alumna of the University of Virginia where she studied English with a minor in Drama. She is a writer, actress, and passionate about art for social change. If you want to get her revved up, ask her about Beyoncé or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Read her writings here https://www.clippings.me/taylorlamb or check her out on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/TaylorLeighLamb