My first year of grad school was complete and utter hell!
I have been depressed and hurt, but I’ve never felt depth of struggle I felt as a first year graduate student. I had forgotten my worth (really I didn’t fully know it to begin with). I quickly realized I did not have all the skills I needed to succeed (and why would I expect myself to? The point of grad school is to teach you those skills). I was growing mentally, but I just didn’t think I was growing fast enough. The stress and lack of true self care started to take a physical toll: heart racing, couldn’t sleep, ear thumping, either saying screw it all or caring waay too much..
Then I broke.
Lucky for me, I’ve always fallen back on positivity and a great support group. I realized I don’t have to be here (meaning graduate school, Pennsylvania, etc). I am choosing to stay here and I’ll be damned before I let anything or anyone take away my blessing of living, actually living, life. This change in perception has been ground breaking. Looking back I was experiencing the culmination of imposter phenomenon, leaving the South, family, friends, black culture, old habits, and soo much more. I was growing and the “unforgiving box” I was living in was creating pressure.
As I started talking to other grad students and even undergrads about their stresses, I found out majority of people was taking some type of medication to “keep them going” and sane. I am not knocking those who do that, but I have never been one to take medicine (not even ibuprofen). For some reason this traumatic culture of graduate school is the accepted norm, but I refuse to let that be my story. Sure, there are stressful and pressured MOMENTS, but that’s just it: they are moments. I work hard and efficiently. I enjoy my learning process and the expansion of critical thinking skills. I have also made it a point to practice REAL self-care. The moment my health begins to suffer, a change is made and if it comes down to a change in my life’s direction, I am ok with that.
“…it’s like any growth, you can’t be ready for it because it’s growth, it’s gonna be new … you’re gonna have a new life, be a new person…”