The struggle is real, y’all. This is the beginning of week 8. There are 16 weeks in the semester, and Spring break is within sight. It is so close I can almost taste it. Spring break tastes like caipirinhas, chocolate, and sleeping in a hammock. Three things I could really use right about now. Google caipirinhas – those things are amazing.
So far, this semester has only brought me 1 panic attack and zero days where I either cried or seriously considered quitting. The panic attack, like the ones last semester, came immediately after taking a stats exam for the professor I absolutely adore and do not want to disappoint. I had a good reason to panic. I made a 90 on that exam. That’s barely an A. I don’t make barely A’s. In this case, I am going to just tip my hat and take the 90. I simply cannot fathom taking that test ever again (we get a retake if we want it).
I haven’t cried because of school once. I am up to my eyeballs in work and readings, but I have a plan. I have great topics for my research designs. I have a system and it works well. I feel like I have done the impossible – I have found my groove.
December 2015 was the year I went to Costa Rica. I had my first adult vacation without children and went to the beautiful country of Costa Rica (Pura Vida!). It was absolutely spectacular. While there, I hiked up a mountain. I had not prepared to hike up a mountain. I’m quite the curvy gal, and to be honest – I have no business hiking up a mountain. I was not dressed for it. I was inadequately prepared for it. It was not even in the plan for the day. Yet there I was staring up at a mountain. In typical me fashion, I was like “I’ve got this.” I did not have it. I climbed up that sucker for hours. I went up 600 (I counted) knee-height earthen steps. Knee-height. I drug my butt up that damn mountain in the middle of a freaking rainforest. I was sweaty, out of breath, exhausted, and had considered quitting about 100 times on the way up. Yet, there I stood at the top. I looked out, and I saw the beauty around me. I felt this amazing sense of accomplishment. I hiked up a freaking mountain! If I could do that – as unprepared and as unfit as I was – I could do grad school. That was literally the moment where I realized that I truly could get my PhD, because if I wanted it, I could do it. I made up my mind, on a literal mountain, that I could do this.
I have often thought of that mountain. My first semester was like that hike up the mountain. I felt ill-prepared. I felt like I wanted to quit 100 times. I had to struggle for each and every step forward. Some of those steps were re-freaking-diculous. But right now, I kinda feel like I am at the top of the mountain looking out. I feel like I’m experiencing that “I am here – look how far I’ve come” feeling.
I certainly understand how much further I have to go before I reach the end. I’m on my second semester of ten. Just like on that mountain in Costa Rica, the top is not the finishing point. Oh no, I had a lot of things to do to get to the bottom. I ziplined 17 different times. I rappelled twice (which is the second scariest damn thing I’ve ever done in my life). I had the most terrifying moment of my life trying to unattach myself from the zipline*. The top was just the beginning of what would be a scary, exciting, sometimes terrifying, and fun trip down the mountain. There were plenty of times when I was scared out of my mind and felt like there was absolutely no way in hell that I could do what I needed to do to make it down the mountain safely. Yet I did. That is very much how I expect the rest of grad school to go.
I expect that this moment of tranquility and victory I feel at the top of the mountain, after having struggled with wanting to quit all last semester, will be short lived. I will have other moments to experience. I am certain I will have fun moments. I will most certainly have moments where I feel like I may fall and die. I will have moments where I am uncertain and very cautious about what I am doing. But at the end, I am sure I will look back on this experience with a great deal of fondness. Just as I do that ziplining experience in Costa Rica. For now, it feels nice to no longer be struggling, dragging-ass up the mountain. I’m just going to enjoy the view.
*here’s the story from above: The platform was literally a chain link fence on its side. A freaking fence. Because of the way the tree and fence came together, there was a 1 foot (MAYBE 2 feet if I’m being generous) space between the line and the end of the platform. I had to jump up to get myself off the line and land back within that 1 foot space. Terrifying!! I also had to rappel from that stupid rickety platform. They need to inspact that crap in Costa Rica.