The good, the bad and the sleepy: 10 of my daily thoughts as a grad student

Like many other disgruntled, misguided twenty-somethings, I have a love-hate relationship with my decision to pursue a Master’s degree right after undergrad. While it might sound vaguely impressive/fancy to others, I’m definitely enduring some serious growing pains in my first semester of grad school.

So instead of attempting to compare my experiences to others, I thought I’d give a glimpse into the daily thoughts that cross my mind in my pursuit of this fancy degree.

  1. Why wasn’t one degree enough?! As the only person in my friend group pursuing grad school, I have a unique perspective on adulthood – y’know, being that I’ve delayed experiencing it for the next two years and all. While most of my close friends are getting “big girl” jobs and moving into their first apartments, writing 20-page papers and preparing for field placements has become my full-time job (plus a part-time job on top of that.) While I’m happy for my friends, I also wonder why I couldn’t join the ranks of the real world like the rest of them rather than torturing myself with two more years of economic insecurity and mental insanity.
  2. Why can’t I leave my bed? Everyone remembers the glorious weekend mornings of undergrad. We were the kings and queens of brunching, laundry and relaxation. Fast-forward four years: in those rare moments when homework is done, all of my waking hours are spent doing these such things. Does this make me lazy? Probably. Can I motivate myself to do something a little more productive? Absolutely not. After a long day of class, work and homework, I want nothing more than to spend the evening crying over Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve earned that right, if I do say so myself.
  3. Am I secretly a grandma? When I was still at Michigan State, I never knew what adventures the day would hold. I was ready to go out and have a good time at the drop of a hat. Nowadays, I’d be hard pressed to put pants on, much less leave the house. I’m over spending nights in crowded bars, being forced to listen to the boring lives of trendy strangers I don’t care about. I’d much rather enjoy dinner and cocktails with my girls, or go to a new art gallery, or do anything that doesn’t involve frat boys. Does this make me a grandma? Potentially. But I have no regrets.
  4. Holy moly, this debt is horrifying. Whenever I’m in a particularly dark place, I start racking up the potential student loan debt I’ll have incurred by graduation. Then I think, “…who needs kids and a house, right?” That’s when the panic sets in, when I picture myself swimming in debt until my mid-50s. What can I say? I’m an emotional cutter and a glutton for financial punishment. But seriously — we as a country have mastered the cure for certain cancers, but we haven’t figured out a more effective way to help students pay for college reasonably? So much for the American dream.
  5. How did I go without this much sleep?! As an undergrad I felt invincible. A normal day meant class in the morning, covering crime at my job at night, then homework and potentially bed, unless one of my my friends dragged me out of bed so I could have some semblance of a social life. I remember having days where I actually forgot to eat — for anyone who really knows me, this is tough to imagine. Every day I got up and did the same routine, and somehow I had energy to go out on the weekends. No 8 a.m. class, murder trial or shot of tequila could vanquish me. Nowadays, every extra 15 minutes of sleep feels like my kryptonite. I see a future filled with flannel sheets and down-filled blankets, and I will not apologize for it.

But as with any situation, I’ve got some positive thoughts squeezed in there somewhere. These are the daily reminders that get me through:

    1. I’ve never felt so blessed. Despite the aforementioned complaints, grad school is also a relief in many ways. While I achieved some success as a journalist, I felt incessantly nagged by the feeling I wasn’t truly supposed to be there. Social work feels like the perfect fit I never had with journalism. I’m surrounded by so many positive, passionate people, and they drive me to expand my mind and life every day.
    2. The passion never ends. My professors always tell me that as a social worker I will most likely never be out of a job. Even one semester in, the true need within the social services sector has become evident to me. There’s a new social or political issue to learn more about and help work through around every corner, and it’s incredibly exciting to think of the many lives I can live as a social worker. There’s this constant opportunity to reinvent myself. But deeper than that, there are thousands of people I can reach and help.
    3. There’s so much excitement for the future. My mind is constantly buzzing with potential research ideas, additions to my future thesis and practice wisdom professors and supervisors have instilled in me. I’m that girl who keeps a notebook with her constantly, just in case I think of something so brilliant I’m bound to forget it unless it’s written down. While I’m partially impatient for graduation because I’m sick of 100-plus pages of reading per night, it’s mostly because I can’t wait to get out there and make the difference I’ve been aiming for.
    4. All the unpleasant parts of undergrad are behind me. This includes working for less than minimum wage. And taking the God-forsaken bus to class. And strange men peeing in my apartment doorway in the wee hours of the morning (yes, this actually happened.) I’m not any wiser, now I’m just old enough to not tolerate this crap. Good riddance.
    5. I’ll be making WAY more money two years from now. Aside from my complete and utter love of everything concerning social work, the fact that I could potentially be making upwards of $10K more per year than I would have as a journalist doesn’t hurt. I’ll definitely need it to pay off those student loans. Although being broke is difficult now, the extra two years of suffering will be better off financially in the long run (hopefully).

Anything you think I missed? Feel free to share!

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