I was that student who was pumped for graduate school back in January of my senior year (before interviews even started). I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, but I had my #1 school and frankly believed—it’ll just work out. For the most part this will be a minimum tear shed reflection, so yes I am at my #1 school. The transition to graduate school wasn’t one that I struggled with. I had always worked 20-30 hours a week in undergrad, academically I felt prepared (besides Law), and mentally I about an 8/10 (that’s a win).
My first year of graduate school started off as expected, until about June. So everyone understands the turn of events, I graduated undergrad on May 18th, moved to Kent May 19th, started a summer class and my GA on May 20th. My first year also forced me to do something I have never been good at—be vulnerable, open up, ask for help and let others in. Majority of my undergraduate career I would do everything in my power to not need to ask for help. As a first generation student at a top liberal arts community, I felt it was one more way to show that I didn’t belong. So when I got to graduate school, asking for help, and being vulnerable, was not my plan. Well, when does anything ever go to plan?
The following a majority of the SACommunity isn’t completely aware about. However it all is a key component of my #SABeginning. Around the first week of June I started having some pretty strong stabbing pains in my stomach. It would randomly just hit me, like someone was standing on my chest/stomach, refusing to get off. I found myself in the emergency room and various doctor offices 2x a week for about a month and half. All of my tests came back a little bit of something, but nothing a hard cold positive. All signs pointed to my gallbladder or pancreas. At one point, a specialist echoed they were starting to look for the “C Word”. At that point, I had completely lost it. It turns out my gallbladder was functioning at about 39%, 4 more percent points, and it’s no longer “normal”. So in the meantime, I have to limit my Chipotle intake.
So around late July, I decided it was time that I started living the life I wanted, with who I wanted, as me. So therefore, that resulted into coming out to my parents, which was a struggle, but in the end resulted into growing out relationship closer. My father and I have always been very close, but during my junior year of college he was diagnosed with early onset Dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s been about three years, and we are starting to see some of the progression. He is 52. When I call, I often spend the first 10 minutes of the phone call, repeating what we spoke about last week. He remembers most things, but some things he forgets. My coming out, was something he forgot about for the first two weeks.
September was when I first started realizing some assistance. I needed to take care of me. I needed to not be ashamed or scared for my need for counseling. I needed to open up, and allow myself to be helped.
From October until Now has been one long emotional roller coaster. There are days where I will cry, a lot. For a long time, I felt that I couldn’t. That crying showed weakness. I’m a professional, I need to be strong, I need to separate home and work. I currently share many titles: graduate student, ARHD, partner, daughter, and caregiver. My partner’s father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) approximately 15 months ago. In my opinion, ALS is a horrible, rotten disease that is anything but friendly. He was also diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease. Over the last 10 months, we’ve been on what feels like the newest windiest roller coaster designed by Cedar Point. It’s very challenging for most individuals to understand. It’s hard for us to understand. A majority of individuals, doesn’t actually understand how bad it is; and how my life has changed. How things that use to be “important” are no longer that important. My partner’s father in the last 10 months; can no longer move his hands, go to the bathroom by himself, speaking is difficult, and swallowing is more difficult. He is also very emotional as most individuals would be. Everyone understands where we are in the process, but we have hope. We have hope that ALS is a faulty diagnosis, and that its Chronic Lyme disease and he will be okay. We have hope that when he wiggles his fingers, the 8 hours of medicine a day, and 32 pills are working.
Academically and professionally my experience in student affairs so far has been very rewarding and full of growth. I have had opportunities that I never thought would have presented themselves. I have grown amazing fantastic relationships via #sachat and #sagrad that have turned into friendships. Through this post, a lot of people have just learned a lot about me that they probably didn’t know. This past year like graduate school should be, has been a learning experience. It has been a learning experience in the classroom, in the halls, in the profession, and in life in general. I have learned how to say “NO”, and then get funny looks from my peers of “you’re a graduate student, you need to say ‘Yes’, you’re job searching”. I do say yes, but I say yes to opportunities and commitments that serve my purpose. My purpose isn’t to say “yes” to everything, because supposedly I have to. This year I’ve had to ask myself a lot “Does ________, serve your mission?” The first thing I had to do before I could ask myself that question is to discover, what is my mission/purpose? I ask you, to think about yours.
Most importantly I’ve learned that balance is required. I don’t believe in work-life negotiation. I believe in work -life integration. I integrate my life into my work; I don’t feel that makes me foolish. I feel it makes me human and personable. I will work after hours, but when I work after hours, I work on making myself better. I focus after hours on research and reading the newest articles. I schedule time for me. I don’t feel that I need to have a fancy title in order to do that. I feel that scheduling time in my day and/or evening will make me a better professional. I believe work, life, integration works. Learn how to work-life integrate.
Through all of this, I’ve learned many key lessons:
- Life is really short, and sometimes really unfair. Life gives you a lot, and it takes a lot away from you too.
- There are days where I need to cry, and I cannot be afraid or embarrassed to cry. Also that taking care of oneself is the most important thing that we can do.
- Mental health is real. Self-care if not optional, its required.
- Having a purpose is a requirement
- Be vulnerable