Category Archives: Graduate School

Twists and Turns of Life

The twists and turns of life are often surprising.  I had a tentative “life plan” but had a feeling it would change when I started living it.

It has in so many ways.

I started a master’s program fully intent on finishing it, until I recognized that something was not working for me.  It was too easy and not academic enough.  I worked hard, of course, but all the work I put in was of my volition not because the classes required it.  My papers were superb, my discussions source-based, but I was alone in this.  It felt like a glorified undergraduate program and was, in many ways, easier than the classes I had at BYU.  I was unimpressed and felt bored.  I like to be challenged, engaged, and to learn.  While I did learn, it felt stunted–like I could have learned so much more had the professors  allowed it.

At the same time, working on school was incompatible with also spending time with the kids and Ben.  Once Ben came home, I handed off the torch and buried myself in textbooks and journals.  The kids were bored during the day and wanted to get out, but I needed to get homework done.  It was not working the way I had envisioned.

So I researched my options and found the perfect program.  It matched my academic and career goals and would really challenge me.  And, I would have to wait to apply which would give me time to decide when I wanted to start.

After talking it over with Ben, we both decided that waiting until Bellybean (the delightful nickname for baby number 3 suggested by a friend)  was two and Andrew and Emily were in school was the best option.  That gives me two years to work in my field of choice, take the GRE, and talk with the program chair.

I feel fantastic about this decision and am excited to spend the remaining days of my pregnancy, and a few months after s/he is born (until I decide I’m ready to work again), with my kiddos.  While being a stay-at-home mom isn’t really my thing, it is the best thing for our family right now and I am going to work hard to make it fun and worthwhile.

Silly life and its many changes.

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Do I Stay Or Do I Go Now?

Five for Five was amazing last week, right up until Friday when my world – emotionally – turned upside down.  Doctor’s appointment, messy house, 3 papers to write and I felt incredibly overwhelmed.

Rather normal in my life these days.

But besides all the busyness, I felt off.  While I enjoy the subject matter of my program immensely, it feels wrong.  Not the timing, but the program itself.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, the program is not academically rigorous enough for me.  With my peers throwing around Newsweek and CNN like they are primary sources, my professors not interested in keeping the discussions academically centered and my grades impeccable (I think I’m averaging an A+ in all my classes), I am itching for something more.  I want and need a program that challenges me on all levels and provides sufficient support to land internships, engage in research, and have the research tools handy to produce quality work; unfortunately, the school I am currently attending has been deficient in most of these areas.  Thus, I have to choose: do I stay or do I go?  Do I finish this program and risk not landing a job in my field because I am not appropriately prepared? Or do I wait a year and start another, more rigorous and more academically satisfying, program?

Each has its pros and cons.  For one thing, I hate waiting AND have to take the GRE and ask for letters of recommendation (eck) AGAIN from my previous professors.  Not looking forward to that.  But, we are in a better place financially and geographically for me to apply for a program that is better suited to my goals.

Choices, choices.  I have 2.5 weeks to decide and, in the mean time, I’m throwing around different options of what I would do during that year wait time.  Work? Stay home?  I am not sure.

Anyone want to decide for me?  I don’t think I’m adult enough to do it myself.

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Questioning Words

My brain is full of words.

Two to four essays plus 2-4 lengthy papers a week.

Discussions with peers.

Writing, writing, writing.

But where to find the time?  And the energy?  If I weren’t so close to finishing this quarter (3.5 weeks), I’d consider calling it quits.  With the tables turned and Ben supporting me through grad school – in a nontraditional manner as he works full-time and I am both a graduate student and stay-at-home mom – it’s amazing how many words remain unsaid between us.  As I teeter from complete breakdowns to feeling on top of everything.

Mostly, the word is why.  Why did I decide to pursue a graduate degree now?  With two kids, 3 and 2, and another on the way (making it 3, 2, newborn)?

I suppose it’s my crazy feminist-like belief that a woman should not neglect her dreams any more than a man should.  I also believed that all that support I provided my husband through his years of undergraduate education and that partial year of medical school (when, despite his being near the top of his class, he realized he did not want to pursue medicine) would provide a foundation from which he could support me.

Naturally, I thought I’d have more time during the day.  I forgot about the havoc two toddlers can cause in an hour and how exhausting pregnancy is, even in the second trimester.  Nap time work? Heh. Waking up early? If I want to risk feeling out of control from exhaustion for the next week.  Staying up late? Without the distractions of my husband, sure. The line between too much and too little is thin and those comforting words I’ve told myself since starting – you can do this, it will be difficult but worth it – aren’t so comforting in the middle of it all.

And all those words spoken between us?  Of me explaining that I need his help and him saying that he will give it?  Are easier said than done.

Writing.

Talking.

Words.  So many words. Too many words.

What I want now is answers and time. Things that words can’t give and that I can’t seem to find.

*****

My gals at Momalom are hosting Five for Five.  Check it out!  And, they are combining forces with the lovely Heather for her Just Write series.  Pure awesomeness.

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How Not to Survive (Under)Graduate School

I am three weeks into my program and wondering, what the hell was I thinking?  To make it easier for me and my fellow (under)graduate students, I’ve composed a list of 10 ways to ensure one doesn’t survive school.

1. Have kids.  Lots of ’em. And, if possible, make sure you’re pregnant WITH kids.

2. Start out poor.  Extra stress from financial burdens is extremely important to (non)success.

3. Stay home full-time with your kids, finding baby-sitters *only* when you have class.  This way you and your children will experience (under)graduate school together!

4. Move FAR away from family.  When you need help with little things, like an emergency baby-sitter, you will learn patience by taking your kids with you to appointments and classes!

5. Include your partner/spouse in the school/life/mother/spouse balance by sending them away for a few weeks.  You’ll never appreciate them more than when they are gone and return.

6. Ensure that you live on the third floor of an apartment complex without a washer and dryer.  This will make you appreciate your ancestors as you lug your kids (who refuse to walk), the laundry, the laundry supplies, and your pregnant body up and down the stairs to the laundromat.

7. Live in a *small* apartment.  Nothing like enclosed spaces to improve familial relationships!

8. If you have a mental illness, don’t take your medicine – for physical or whatever reasons – to improve your chances at (non)success.

9. Ensure that your toddler and preschooler are sufficiently independent and busy enough to cause all types of chaos while you attempt to work on a paper.

10. Don’t sleep.  Blame it on pregnancy-induced insomnia, anxiety-induced insomnia, or just insomnia in general.  That way, by the end of the week, you are hysterical with overwhelming stress and exhaustion.  A perfect recipe for (non)success.

If you can, try to combine one or more of these and I promise you the (under)graduate experience of your life!

 

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