It’s hard to believe it’s been over a month since the official end of my first year in graduate school. To say time flew would be an understatement. Time whizzed by as if it were late for the most important day of its own life! In a blink of an eye, I chaired a committee, took part in a Study Tour program, presented at an international conference, found my favorite local bookstore, spent hours in my favorite study spots, tried a buckeye, and met many wonderful mentors and friends. As I write my last blog post for this series, I can’t say I loved every minute of this past year. But I’ve definitely learned something from every minute! My only goal is to take the following lessons with me as I move forward as a second-year.
Lesson One: Say yes to the things that matter, but to avoid burnout, say no to the things that don’t
Coming into grad school, I had the philosophy that I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way. What’s two years with minimal sleep and a permanent frazzled look on my face anyways? I’ll tell you what. It’s two years of feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and daydreaming of naps instead of having intent and focus to accomplish tasks. I barely lasted on this philosophy for one year! I’ve realized that while I have many mentors, friends, and even alumni from my program willing to guide and help me, I have to ultimately make decisions based on my own needs and goals.
I still say yes but only to things that will significantly matter. I say no when I know adding something else to my plate will mean adding a task I complete at 50% instead of 100%. This balance is tricky; as a newbie in this profession, I don’t want to burn bridges, but I’d rather maintain my work ethic and motivation than say yes simply to please.
Lesson Two: Find something you love outside of your HESA bubble, and allow it to revive you
Going to grad school in a small town with a small-ish cohort at a close-knit school meant I was sucked into our HESA bubble quickly and comfortably. I had support systems, I had routines, and I had a purpose. However, halfway through the year, I felt stuck. Prior to moving to my grad town, I lived in a big city. I realized that if I didn’t have the hustle and bustle of city life right outside my door, I needed to go and find it for my own mental well0being.
Though I loved the community of my small town, it wasn’t enough for me to feel fulfilled. While I loved the friendships I had in my cohort, I needed to see different faces. I needed to remember there is more out there than my own grad program and experiences. I now make it a point to leave my small town at least once a week to see new places. Visiting new places reminds me that though I sometimes feel stuck in my town, I am actually not.
Lesson Three: Only expect time to speed up
Realizing how quickly my first year passed motivated me to refocus on my reasons for joining this field and pursuing my Masters. One of my biggest fears is standing on stage during our hooding ceremony and regretting not pursuing the goals I had when I entered grad school. The ticking clock motivates me to use this final year to shape who I will be as a practitioner. In addition, I will use this year to tailor my job search. Lastly, I will use it to ensure that I remain authentic to who I am and the values I hold.
Thanks to all who have followed along for the ride this year. Here’s to not getting lost in the sauce in my second year!
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Aracelis, Emalie, Felicia, and Patrick, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.