Post College Angst Brain Dump

Hey gentlereaders. So I kind of disappeared there for a while eh? Yeah, once I developed food poisoning at the beginning of January I figured there was only so much empathy I could ask you folks to feel after the strep Christmas hospital incident, so I just layed low. During my absence, I was having a rough patch in my relationship with Charlottesville. I didn’t feel like I got the break I wanted and being around the family for an extended period always makes me a little angsty. Then one day my roommate pointed out how I was beginning to show some signs of depression. When someone close to you points out something like that, it’s hard to put on the mask again. I broke down on the phone with a friend, and then just decided to do my best to turn things around. I’ve been trying to get out of the house more. I go to movies, I started going to a really great yoga class on Sunday afternoons, I go to the gym almost every day now, I started making some new friends here. Things are still not great, but I’m trying. Even if I’m exploring the world solo, at least I’m no longer moping and staying cooped up in the apartment.

A friend of mine left the program a week or so ago. That bummed me out more than I ever thought it would. Besides my roommate, he was probably my closest friend here. We had all our classes together and for half the semester we were in the same lab. I didn’t get to see him before he left since it happened pretty suddenly – no goodbye. I guess he wasn’t happy here. But, him leaving stirred up a lot of the issues I’m dealing with too. It was like a new path opened up to me that looked pretty seductive. But honestly, I would be miserable at home in Charleston (I can’t go back to being a customer service drone at Kohls, ick) and anywhere I move to I’d be facing these same emotions. The ‘right after college’ time is difficult. My older friends from Penn warned me of this. Unless you are in a big graduate program, meeting people is tough after college. You have to try way harder for smaller rewards. And honestly, the transition they gave us for the program I’m in was non-existent. Just one awkward mumbling of names on the first day and then we all scattered off to our respective laboratories. So not cool.

One of the lab techs today made a comment along the lines of, “You’re in graduate school, you’re supposed to be unhappy.” That kind of pissed me off. I feel like personal happiness should never be postponed. 5+ years of misery is not a fair price to pay for a Ph. D.  No one is getting any younger and you should take advantage of the years you are given. I honestly admire anyone with the conviction to make a U-turn in hopes of building a more fulfilling life. It’s something I may have to think of soon. But I’m at least going to give it my all until my masters, because I realize that getting adjusted to young adulthood and a new place is not an easy task.

So these are the downer thoughts that have been swirling around in my head. It’s tough to be an extrovert sometimes. I need so much human contact to feel fulfilled. Science is a lonely world. People had warned me of that before graduate school, but it’s different living it. I know things are going to get better once I feel more secure and adjusted. I have such high expectations for myself. I need to learn to seek help more and take advantage of the scientific community.

Wow, what a ramble, but it feels good to get it out.

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2 responses to “Post College Angst Brain Dump

  1. Stay strong, girl.

  2. Karen, I was really sad to read this entry but sort of not suprised based on what you’ve been telling me about the program thusfar.

    If it makes you feel any better it may just be this time of year or of our lives that is making us have this angst — I have only been back for two weeks and I have had such strong inner conflict and wanting to quit/switch programs that at times it has been debilitating. I have decided to stick out the rest of my Master’s because if I don’t then all the hard work I have put in thusfar will have gone to waste. It’s a year and a half more and then I can face the tough decisions time again. That’s the best advice I can give you — stick it out until you at least get your Master’s — 2 years? — and then you are still very young and free to decide what you want to do. And if you still haven’t decided by then, its ok. That’s a tough reality I keep having to tell myself to get through this at times and hopefully that thought can work for you too.

    Another piece of advice that may help you that I take into consideration is questioning “What would I be doing now if I wasn’t getting this degree?” All of the people that we know that haven’t gone on to school are working jobs that I know you and I would be unhappy doing, so there is some comfort to be found in the fact that we are bettering ourselves and are in an upper echelon for seeking post grad degrees.

    I agree with you though that I don’t buy the “It’s grad school, you’re supposed to be unhappy” bit that your colleague said either — I think that in order to be happy you just have to revel in the little things and accept that your life may not be established yet or figured out but that’s ok and its kind of exciting! For me, trying to stay happy has led to me eliminating alot of the looking ahead mindset too — I have started trying to live more day by day and it’s amazing what the difference it has made.

    Whenever you get down though, remember there are those of us (me especially!) who are proud of what you are doing and think you are awesome!! (Sorry so long but hope this helps a bit) 🙂

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