First Year = Finished

I did it!  I finished the first year of my PhD program!  I not only survived, I have a 4.0 gpa.  That means I got at least a 93 in every class.  I am ridiculously happy with this.

It is really quite interesting how one year has changed me so much.  I thought I was smart before, and now I realize that I am not even close to knowing anything.  I never had anxiety attacks before grad school.  I now have them every time I have a test or anything stressful.  I have gotten better at writing and research.  I still haven’t learned to say no, because I am now working on 6 different projects.  I am basically a mess, but an intelligent mess that is doing some pretty cool things.

I am certainly not the only one who has changed.  I went out with a large portion of the grad students in my department on Friday, and everyone was working out their shit.  Seriously, it was wild.  I didn’t drink (just started this whole fitness thing to save myself from this grad school 20) but everyone else did – a copious amount.  It was so fantastic to watch everyone just let loose after a long, grueling year.

Now, I am off to enjoy Summer.  And by enjoy, I mean do research and not get paid to do it.  Fun times are ahead.

“I was not calling you an asshole”

“I was not calling you an asshole” is something I just had to say to a student.  I must explain.

Class ended.  My students had mostly left the room, except for one guy (leather jacket guy).  He mentioned the professor that teaches in the room before me and how she must love purple.  (Honest to goodness, she wears purple clothes, shoes, lipstick, and her hair is even purple!)  I explained to him that I could probably do that with hot pink.

He said, “Even the hair?”

“Oh absolutely!” I replied.  “I had hot pink hair when I was younger.  I was goth and tried out every hair color at least once.”

“You were goth?!?!” He asked, exasperated.

“I sure was, but I acted the same as I do now.  I was always happy and chipper.” I explained.

It was at this moment that he was nearly to the door while the other students for the next class were coming in.  He made a grand hand gesture and said “I can’t even believe that you chose to dress like that (grand hand gesture) when you act like this! (another grand up and down hand gesture).”

The young lady that entered the room had this insane look on her face and she looked mad.  Like how dare he say that to me?!  She had fire in her eyes and a look on her face that told the entire story.  I said “Oh….no…he was reacting to the information that I used to be goth.  He wasn’t being an asshole.”

It was then that I realized if he heard only part of that response, he might take it wrong, so I call after him and say “The girl that came into class only heard your last statement about how I dressed and act and she was very upset.  Just to be clear, I defended you and said that you were only reacting to a previous conversation and that you are definitely not an asshole.”  He laughed and we chatted for another minute.  To end, I reiterated, “Ok, well, I just needed you to know that I was absolutely not calling you an asshole in any way.”

I turned around to use the elevator and saw 3 other professors looking at me like I was absolutely insane.

I took the stairs instead of the elevator.

The Third Amendment

There are moments that make teaching worthwhile.  It makes the grading, the prep, and the 5 billion questions a week totally worth it.  One such moment was when I asked my students to list the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights).  I then asked them to rank order them by personal importance.  Following this, I asked them to explain which one amendment they would choose to get rid of and provide a reason why.  Simple enough.

I asked my students which one they didn’t want to keep.  In the wise words of Shakespeare… I shit you not, she said the most truthful and hilarious thing I have heard all semester.  She said “I would get rid of the 3rd Amendment.”

Fully expecting this, I pushed for a reason why this amendment had to go.  She then said, “Well, I would be okay with getting rid of it because I would sure love to quarter some soldiers at my house.”  Her tone and inflection said it all.  I died.

All Caught Up – Don’t Know What to Do…

The title is a play on 311’s song All Mixed Up.  If you caught that, you’re cool in my book.  Anyway, I am actually all caught up with school work.  I am maybe even a little ahead.  I wrote my final reaction paper of the semester.  I have my second draft of my research design paper submitted for my scope and methods class.  I also have my final research design for my political psychology class mostly finished.  I am not behind in my stats class.  I have some work to do on research, but that’s it.  I am caught up.  I truly don’t even know what to do with myself.

To top it off, I have started this annotated bibliography for comps (comprehensive examinations) that is quite possibly the most spectacular thing ever.  The front page has a list of all of the political psychology topics, and each topic is a link to that section of the document.  I kinda feel like a badass on that one.  I’ve shown people in my cohort and they are seemingly quite impressed.  We are clearly easily impressed.

So in the absence of all this avalanche of work, I have found a couple ways to occupy my time.  I am currently reviewing travel grant requests for other graduate students.  I am also going to be the grad student rep to the faculty (or whatever the fancy title is), and I am going to make a concerted effort to finish the basement.  What’s that you say?  I’m finishing a basement?  Yes indeed and it has sucked.  I will probably make a post about it at some point.

In any event, I have learned that I cannot sit still.  I cannot just relax.  I must have some sort of project or crusade to be on.  I have to do a ludicrous amount of crap all at once to feel like I’m making the most of the time I have.  It’s silly.  Maybe that partially explains why a mom of 5 would even consider a full-time PhD program in the first place.

Grad School Lonely

Tonight, as I am surrounded by my cat and a pile of stats handouts that attempt to explain the homework I’m finding impossible, I feel this unique kind of loneliness set upon me.  I am lonely, and I think it would be adequate to call it grad school lonely.  I am constantly surrounded by people, but yet no one gets it.  Maybe this is why my cohort is so strong.  Maybe that’s why we are all friends and want to spend time with each other.  We make the grad school lonely dissipate, if only for a short time.

Grad school lonely is where you have things you want to say like “I just got assigned to three new political psychology projects with these super amazing professors I’ve wanted to work with for so stinking long” but no one gets it.  I want to talk about this stats homework that is driving me nuts – 3-way factorial designs.  No one gets it.  I call my best friend from back home and my mom nearly every day, yet when I tell them about the things going on in my life, I hear crickets on the line.  When friends want to spend time with me and have girls’ night outs, they don’t understand that I work 7 days a week.  A night out cannot be what they want it to be.  Sleep is precious, time is limited, and I always feel like I have an avalanche coming strait toward me.  I try to outrun that avalanche, but it will inevitably consume me.  I will dig my way out only for another wave to bury me again. I want to scream every time someone asks me “what are you up to?”   WHAT AM I ALWAYS UP TO?!?!  I’m working.

Grad school lonely is the kind of lonely where you have this really amazing idea for a research project (or even two or three) and yet, you have no one to tell.  You try to explain it to your mom or best friend, but you stop yourself about 3 sentences in because you realize that you’ve already lost her.  No one understands what the hell you’re talking about, and those that would are the people you want to insulate your ideas from.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my department and my fellow grad students, but I don’t know whether or not I can trust some of them yet.  I don’t know whether or not they will steal my idea or if they will invite themselves onto my research.  So no – no one at all understands this, and it is lonely.

Grad school lonely is also the kind of lonely where your best friend or significant other feels like you are leaving them behind.  The feeling of being left behind is a terrible one.  I experienced it when my husband was in school and I had yet to finish my degree that I had so desperately wanted.  I felt like I wasn’t as smart as he was.  He was learning and growing every day, and I was stagnant.  I was jealous.  I know that feeling all too well.  Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I can feel his anger, resentment, jealousy.  We cannot talk about politics or about my work without having a major fight.  We cannot discuss feminism, racism, immigration, gender issues, the wage gap, sexual assault, activism, science, news (because there’s inevitably something political in there), or anything related to school.  He feels left behind.  When I try to talk to him about my research, he tries to show off how smart he is, which then makes me mad because he’s telling me what to do or what to consider.  I’m already 10 steps ahead at this point, so I get frustrated.  The silence is deafening, and the gap between us is widening.

Grad school lonely is the kind of lonely where you want to go out and be social, but you feel like wearing real pants can’t possibly be a thing.  I would live in yoga pants if I could.  I want to be able to go out and do things, but the opportunity cost is too high.  I need that time to sleep, to actually do some laundry, or to work on class work or research.  I have 100 things to do at any given time, and it is more comfortable to do them bra-less and in yoga pants and pink flamingo slippers.

Grad school lonely means giving up time with those you love.  I remember those moments when I wanted a break from my 5 kids.  Now, all I want to do is see them and tuck them in at night (which happens far less than I would like).  I used to have my kids constantly around me, touching me, sitting on my lap, offering me sticky kisses.  Now…I spend my evenings in an office that smells like asian leftovers – alone.  When I’m not at the office, I have to retreat to my room because I can’t work out in the common areas of the house.  My children now know that they shouldn’t disturb me.  So here I sit – alone.

I know in the end, it is worth every sacrifice.  I keep telling myself this.  Sometimes it is just a lonely road to walk.  You simply cannot understand it until you’ve walked that road.  I remember when my best guy friend was in grad school and his voicemail message was “…I am either in class or in a meeting at this particular juncture. To that end, my phone is either off or your call has been terminated without bias…”  The classes never end, the research never ends, the meetings never end.  I just added a new rotation of 3 new project meetings to my life.  That’s a total of 5 different types of meetings that I must regularly attend.  Others have made it through before me.  I will make it through.  The loneliness will fade, I hope.

A Fist Bump

It’s a small, simple thing, but I just had to share.  Dr. Awesome gave me a fist bump today!

We were talking before lecture (I’m his TA), and he saw my “coffee cup” and stated that I clearly had my coffee as fuel.  I said “Nope, it’s hot chocolate, I don’t drink coffee.”

To which he replied, “I don’t either!” and gave me a fist bump.

It’s the little things.

I’m a Big Bear

Today was a very abnormal day.  Instead of having class, I had an on-campus conference to attend.  The Journalism department hosted a really great event on political communication (which is right up my alley).  We even had a professor from the department presenting late in the day.  An even bigger surprise was that a professor from a really great university in a neighboring state was closing out the conference.

This is simply not just any professor.  This guy is a badass in his own right.  He used to teach at my university but went on to greener pastures.  He has been published numerous times, and he knows my undergrad advisor, mentor, friend.  They publish a lot together.  They do a lot of projects together, and now I met him.  I met this really great guy.  At first I was sad because it seemed like he didn’t give 2 craps about meeting me (despite my saying that I was a student of ____).  Here I was – hoping to make a connection that may lead to research glory, but it didn’t seem like it was meant to be.

Apparently at some point during that beautiful 9 hour long conference, he had inquired about me to another professor in the department (one I don’t know well because she has been called up on high (administration)).  She admitted that she didn’t know me very well but that she has heard great things about me.  This was enough.

Following the conference, I found myself in the company of him, the chair of the department, the graduate chair, and a couple professors.  We were chit-chatting.  The visiting professor asked me about my interests and whether or not I knew R (the statistical programming language/software) and I was able to say yes.  I told him that I had been well trained and was interested in political communication.

I was then asked by the chair of the department to go out to dinner with everyone.  I said that I could but that it wasn’t necessary to extend the offer because I felt like I would be intruding.  He dismissed my concern and we all went to dinner.  We went to a fancy restaurant.  I ordered $15 chicken (which yes, I realize isnt all that fancy but in this state and at grad student pay, that’s expensive).  It was simply delicious and the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.  We had great conversation and laughed.  It was fantastic to be around these people.  I felt like I belonged.

I was asked to keep in touch with the visiting professor as we parted ways.  I hope that this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship that yields research glory.  In any event, I went out with professors as the lone grad student who was invited.  I AM A BIG BEAR!