Tag: Support

The Best Friends I’ll Ever Have

This deserves its own post.  Grad School has brought me the best friends I will probably ever have in my entire life.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always had friends.  I’m a very social person, and I enjoy having friendships.  I have been friends with my best girl friend since 6th grade (around 25 years or so).  I have been friends with my best guy friend since 9th grade (22 years).  They are still people I love.  I have kind of grown in different ways from the female best friend, but we still talk regularly.

Then there are the people I have met here – both in my cohort and outside of academia.  I have a group of 3 mom friends who have been lifesavers.  We go out, we have playdates, we have wine nights, and on occasion we have late night benders where we really work our shit out.  I love these women.  We get each other.  We are there for each other.  These are the friends I picked as an adult.  Don’t get me wrong – 6th grade and 9th grade me did a dang good job.  Adult me did really great too.

The people in my cohort are fantastic.  I spent 2 hours talking to one of them today (let’s call him George).  He’s one of my best friends – hands down.  He told me that when he gets married he is thinking of asking me to stand by him as a member of his side of the wedding party.  I was honored.  I would even wear a dress for that man.  I don’t wear dresses, but I would for him.   The other girl in my cohort (let’s call her Elaine) is fantastic too – such a kind, sweet friend.  I absolutely adore these people I’m in school with.  Even the new people (the first years).  I spent Tuesday in TA training with one of them, and she and I got along famously.  I’m looking forward to getting to know her more.  And even more interestingly, I made a friend in another department.  He is no longer at my institution but he was a solid influence in my life all of Spring semester.  These are relationships that will last a lifetime because we couldn’t even go a summer without hanging out, talking, being there for each other.  It’s truly amazing.

If I had to say what the best part of grad school is – I would have to say (at this point) it is definitely the people.  The people make it all so much easier.  I would be so lost and alone without them.  I love my people.

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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 Moment of Understanding

Often, I feel the weight of being a minority in the department – not a racial or gender minority, but as one belonging to the small number of parents who are trying to get PhD’s.  Being a parent and a PhD student are very trying things, but both together is a recipe for guilt beyond belief.  I didn’t realize until today that 32 percent of the faculty in my department is female.  Of these women, only two have children.  I could be wrong in that because I do not know some of them well and they may not make it known that they have children, but I do know that a majority of the women with PhDs do not have children.  It is not my intent to say that I think they should.  I respect these women for the choices they have made.  It just illustrates the level of the loneliness I sometimes feel – like I am the only one walking down this long road.

Tonight, one of my professors relayed an experience from his first couple years as a PhD student and father of two.  He related a time where he felt like a failure, like the didn’t belong in the program.  He felt that he would never get his PhD and that he wasn’t good enough or smart enough.  He wasn’t used to failing at anything, but one moment shook him.  He came home and as his two year old daughter ran to hug him, he started to sob into her.  He didn’t want anyone else to know of his pain but in that moment, he shared it with one of the people who loved him unconditionally and did not judge him.

I have done that.  My children have strengthened me in my weak moments.

Tonight, I am not alone.

S2:D2 and My Cohort

Semester 2: Day 2.  Syllabus days are the most amazing days on the planet, especially when they are completely unexpected because you’ve not had one in grad school yet.  Today was a syllabus day for my Biology and Politics class – AND it will be for my Scope and Methods class.  Can I get a Hallelujah?!

I am actually going to get our of here early tonight – by 7 pm (instead of 9 pm).  In grad school, a couple hours of free time is better than any other gift in the world.

Aside from that, I went to lunch with a couple guys in my cohort.  I shall call them Jerry and George, which I suppose makes me Elaine (thanks Seinfeld).  They were the first people I met when I toured the campus last March.  We were all from different states, here to see the campus and meet the people.  I was certain I was coming here (because this is really the only place I wanted to go) but they weren’t sure yet.  It’s funny but the youngest of the two – George –  (who could almost be my child if I had made particularly bad life choices in High School) hated me when we first met.  He absolutely hated me.  He said that I was one factor that led him to almost reconsider accepting their offer.  Apparently that one day with me last March was that bad.  He even told me that he was relieved to not have to share an office with me when he saw the office assignments.

Life has a funny way of working out, because he’s probably my best friend here.  We talk all the time.  We chat in each others’ offices, and we bitch to each other.  When I had a super shitty day and was almost in tears, he hugged me.  When his grandmother passed away, I hugged him.  I couldn’t imagine having to go through this whole thing without a friend like that – in the office right next door.

The other guy, Jerry, is also from the south, hates this stupid cold weather nonsense, and had no problem with me (that I’m aware of).  We have spent a lot of time talking in offices and having silly conversations.  He’s quieter than the other guy, but he’s great.  He is just two doors down.  These guys are my guys.  They are the first two people I knew and they are my saving graces.

We had lunch and a weird restaurant that two of us couldn’t handle properly (hey – ordering is hard work when there are like 36 combinations and we have no clue what is going on).  Jerry and I had never been there.  It was awkward and we had issues with condiment cups and cup lids.  It was a mess.  How we are getting a PhD, I will never know.  Then George saw the need to show us how to walk on ice.  I’m not kidding, George is from a seriously stupid cold state and can just walk on this crap like its nothing.  Jerry and I were walking on it like baby giraffes making tiny little steps.  Its always nonstop laughs with these guys.

The other people in my cohort are equally wonderful.  Another girl, who I just adore talking to is super friendly.  We sit together in the stats class on roids, and she is an absolute statistical genius.  I wish I had half of her knowledge about this stuff.  She is funny and amazing.  I shall call her Stats Girl because she has some serious super powers.  She and I had dinner with Captain – another guy in our cohort a few weeks ago.  Captain is a military guy who is doing some super cool things with his PhD program.  He also has kids and can understand how crappy this can be.

The only bad thing about today – feeling like an amazing douche canoe paddling down asshole river because Jerry, George, and I just didn’t think to invite Stats Girl!  We all really like her but lunch was a split second, last minute decision and we just wandered off without her.  UGH.  Social navigation is clearly not our strong suit.  We must work on this.