Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 lessons the last three years in school taught me...

I've been thinking about life lately, and especially my time in graduate school. Sometimes I think of how when I was in college, I'd fantasize about what a grad program in modern dance would be like. Then I wake myself up from daydreaming, and realize, "I did it!" I did it even though I wasn't sure I was good enough, smart enough, or right enough.

I did it. 

And for just a moment, I feel awesome. A friend was asking me questions about grad school, and I thought I'd write a post summing up some of the advice I gave her. Enjoy friends. xo

1. Graduate school is hard. Like, hard.
When I chose to pursue graduate school, I knew in a vague way that it was going to be a lot of work. Looking back, I was incredibly naive about what I was going in to. I didn't realize was how much it was going to push me physically, intellectually, and especially emotionally. I'd always been praised in college for my writing skills. In graduate school, I felt like my best work would coast by without much notice. If anything, my work was challenged; and initially it felt threatening.

My first semester I got feedback that a piece I was constructing felt superficial. It put me in a funk for weeks. I was so consumed with feeling like a failure that I didn't notice that everyone else was going through the same thing (or worse).

Also- you cannot prepare yourself for the hell that is writing, defending, and publishing a thesis. (And you certainly cannot prepare yourself for juggling two thesis projects simultaneously-- it's seriously the most miserable thing in the world to finish one thesis only to begin another one.)

Also- three years is longer than I thought it was. I'm just going to leave it at that.

2. When you go through a hard ordeal, your spouse goes through it too.
This one was big for us. Even though we dated in college, Gideon and I got married after graduation, so we didn't go through the whole academic experience as a couple living under the same roof. When we were affected by rough days, we'd sometimes give each other the worst bite of it. It's not fair, and it certainly wasn't intentional, but it happened. And we were busy. I was involved with several different rehearsals, had my own rehearsals to direct, and would come home to try to salvage what was left of my brain on paper writing, article reading, and kinesiology studying. And Gid! Poor gid was juggling a job and his schoolwork and demanding responsibilities in our church. At the end of the day, we just had to do our best to put each other first. Sometimes it felt natural. Sometimes it was a struggle.

3. Evolve. Evolve. Evolve.
I changed so much as an artist in graduate school. The work I made changed. My personal belief systems changed. I made realizations about my life, the way I want to live it, and the kind of people I want to actively include in it. I didn't expect to change so much. I think part of it is a natural evolution for this time in life-- don't they call your 20s the decade of decisions? Here's to more evolution.

4. You are cut from your own cloth, and that's just fine.

I'm still learning this one. I have my own style to life, and sometimes it contrasts significantly with those who surround me. That doesn't ever mean that I need to feel apologetic for being different, being the same, or just being me.  Also- some people are jerks. And sometime they just suck. People can be truly horrible. I like to think that they don't realize it, or that I'm being a little ultra sensitive. Just remind yourself that being rude is never cutting edge, clever, or admirable. Sometimes its more progressive for me to tell myself that we are cut from different cloths, and leave it at that. No finger pointing or self-victimizing. Just differences. It's fine. Move on.

5. It's okay to feel frazzled. Everybody does at one point or another.
Again- still learning this one-- don't think I'll ever not be learning this one. People sometimes may think of me as put together, but I hardly everrrrrr feel like it. If I waited to feel like I knew what I was doing, I'd never get anything done. I tackle this by finding satisfaction with tiny victories (and obviously the big ones). Pick three small wins in a 24 hour period (laundry, exercise, good hair day) and go from there. When I remember how lucky I am simply to be alive and healthy, usually that points me in the right direction. I forget sometimes what blessings just come from being in America. And ps- when you do start to feel like you've finally gotten yourself together- don't get too comfortable and feel like a huge failure when you sink into a slump. It just means you're human. And humans are beautiful.

Here's to more learning from life, friends!

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