My Costa Rican Mountain called Grad School

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.

 

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