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“I lost some time once. It’s always in the last place you look for it.” ~ Neil Gaiman
My husband recently asked me to accompany him on a short road trip to see his best friend before he moves to Austin. We’d be leaving at 4:30pm on Saturday and arriving home sometime after midnight. I agreed immediately, because it seemed like it would be good to see his friend off and to get to spend some time together. But I have to admit that I did hear that small voice of panic calling, “You have so much homework to do! How will you ever get it done if you’re taking random road trips to Champaign?”
We left for Champaign with my Psychology and Science books tucked in my backpack between my feet. I figured I could use the car ride time to study. But here is what I did instead. I sang songs with my husband. We caught up on all the small things we’d been holding onto for future conversations. And in Champaign we played air hockey with total abandon, rocked out on a few arcade games, and hugged his best friend goodbye. And later I caught myself thinking that sometimes, no matter how much work you have to do, it’s important just to take a little bit of time for the people you love. And to play air hockey with abandon. So I started looking around at all the small things I make time for each week that are helping me get through my graduate school journey. Here are the things I’m doing.
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1. Have a study hole where everybody knows your name. I know I’ve mentioned the magic of Delicious cafe here before, but the value of a lovely barista is priceless. When I lug my backpack through their doors every Saturday and Sunday morning, I know the people behind the counter. They ask me about what I’m working on, how my week has been going, and I know that they actually care to hear a response. I’ve also slowly gotten to know some of the other people who study at Delicious each weekend. It’s a small community inside the cafe, and being a part of it brings me weekly comfort. I could study at home, I know I could, but to make time to sit at Delicious feels very precious and indulgent to me.
2. Hang out with your classmates. It’s been a strange journey going to school in the place where I’d already lived for five years. I know I’ve gone a bit off the map with all my Chicago friends that aren’t on this journey with me. It would feel a bit lonely at times if it weren’t for all the new people I’ve met in my graduate program. We see each other three times a week in class and whenever we work on projects, but I’ve slowly started to make time for my graduate friends outside of school. It’s partly because I need an outlet, but it’s also because it is very comforting to spend time with people who understand the journey I’m on. Sometimes we talk about it and other times we just play Rock Band. When I arrive to class each week, no matter how I’m feeling about the progress I’m making, I can always look forward to seeing my classmates and hearing their thoughts on teaching styles, education policies, or whatever else we’re digging into.
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3. Make time for your personal health. It might sound small, but it’s proven invaluable over the last two semesters. My meals are balanced, I exercise daily, I get a lot of sleep, and I’ve even started seeing a chiropractor. All of these things contribute to me having more energy to tackle projects, less stress, and an improved confidence in myself. I occasionally feel a bit whiny as I prepare and pack all meals on Sundays, but the stress it relieves through the week makes it well worth it.
4. Keep up with your favorite hobby, or develop a new one. Twice a week I attend Dance Dance Party Party. It’s a ladies only one hour long dance party.The rules are: no boys, no booze, and no judgement. I was initially very nervous to attend, but the vibe is exactly like dancing in your basement when you were 15 years old. Each week a different dancer is the DJ. I’m up this Sunday and I can’t wait. I’ve only attended 13 times, but with each session I feel total empowerment, joy, and absolute silliness. It washes away all stress from the week and is absolutely time just for me.
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I’m sure there are other things that people do to help them work through graduate school, but these are the things that are working for me. I’ll add to the list if I notice I have any other rules I’m living by. Next week I’ll share my pop culture analysis of Rookie Magazine, including my artistic response to their themes. Have a good week everybody!