Recently at a retreat for my cohort, our advisors discussed a mountain-shaped graph that detailed the average pattern of adjustment for new grads. It begins with a flat line and shortly thereafter increases into a peak of pure happiness. The line then dips lower into a harrowing valley. Unfortunately, they explained we were at the time of the year when many grads feel the slippery pull of that first downward slope. After this slope, the line then continues to rise and even out into a series of consistent dips and peaks. But it never again reaches that initial point of pure excitement and joy.
When I first saw this map, I was having a particularly awesome day. I disregarded this chart and put it on the back burner. I moved forward feeling great about myself and my program without any second thought. Of course, my brilliant advisors were right. Within a couple of weeks, things began to feel like an old pair of jeans that had been through the dryer one too many times. Everything still should have fit, but something was off. I felt strain and stress at my internship and I questioned my place in grad school. I suspected that everyone I interacted with walked away rolling their eyes and cursing the day they met me.
Looking back, I’m highly certain that these emotions of doubt were rooted in insecurities rather than any actual facts.
While I’m glad I’m no longer feeling this way, I’m also very grateful I had this low moment amongst so many peaks.
One of my firmly held values is that we are not defined by our mistakes or low points. Rather, we are shaped by how we move forward and how we grow from what we have learned. I express this in every student conduct meeting I have. I sailed through my first few months of grad school without any turmoil. After working in the same job for two years, I was academically and emotionally ready for a change in my life. I was eager to get back into the nitty gritty of learning. This eagerness fueled my movements and I tackled each challenge I faced with steady focus and determination.
Still, it began to wear off and this low point forced me to re-evaluate why I am here. More importantly, what do I need to do to remain here?
I recognized that while I find joy in work and academia, self-care is a necessary, necessary thing.
I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to pursue my MA in something I love dearly. But it’s still okay to not be completely psyched about everything 100% of the time. Learning to give myself patience and grace in times of frustration and discomfort has been tricky. However, if it means I can begin to move back up that mountain towards the next peaks of joy headed my way, I’ll keep trucking along, no matter what.
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.