18 months have come and gone. My cohort and I have chased politicians and parents, traveled all through the depths of this city, left our names and numbers on countless answering machines and business cards, gone through security at CPS board meetings, city council meetings, and at federal court time and time again. We did it all.
I came into this thing feeling like my journey up to this point had been pretty unorthodox. I was older than most of my cohort, majored in social work in undergrad and had worked at schools and community theaters—I felt behind right off.
Not only that, I was a small-town girl in an actual city with actual public transportation. I had to register my car, pay for parking stickers (and later pay tickets) and fight for a parking spot near my building any time I came home after dark.
AND I WAS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL.
What was I thinking? I was thinking that I wanted something more and that I needed a new experience in a new place. I wanted to learn new things and try new things. And I was terrified. I was already super comfortable where I was, but I needed to know what was next. I needed to know if there was something more I was missing. There was no edge anymore.
I knew that if I got into school here, I’d be where I was supposed to be. I knew if I applied, I’d get in, and that I’d HAVE TO ACTUALLY GO. It’s one thing to want a thing, but it’s another thing entirely when you get it and have to do it. I was most definitely terrified.
But I did it. I did the grad school thing. I got my edge back. I turned into a robot, went into survival mode for 18 months and focused (mostly, kinda, meh…) on school and taking advantage of every opportunity that came my way: J-term, networking events, a journalism startup class, a coding class, scholarships, graduate teaching assistantships.
And I wore myself out. I did it but I wore myself out. I think if I had conserved some energy somewhere, balanced a little better, had a better self-care regime, I might not have been so gassed this semester. And, of course, that’s the self-care plug for this blog post—do all the things: hustle, grind it out, but take care of yourself. Take into account that you’re maybe in a new place, doing school again after forever or doing school differently.
So, yeah, do all the things. Take the opportunities this world gives before you’re launched into post-grad life. But make sure there’s always enough of you left to do the mundane things—the homework assignments that don’t have all the razzle dazzle around them, the stories you aren’t so excited about, the tedious parts—because you will come down from the rush of all the cool stuff. And you’re going to have to keep moving through the normal everyday tasks that come with being a grad student. You gotta have the energy for both.