Posts Tagged ‘overloaded’

Do you ever see yourself as the fantasy graduate student? You know, the grad student who focuses intently on school, has it all together, has a job or some other activity outside of school, a robust personal life, and still finds time to volunteer for worthy causes on the side. The fantasy grad student sees obstacles as steps in the staircase to success. Each challenge raises the fantasy grad student higher and brings her/him closer to success.

The fantasy grad student indeed has a robust personal life, but only one that supports academic endeavors. Anything outside of the classroom that does not complement academic/professional achievement simply does not exist.

It’s easy to try to fit the fantasy grad student mold. I mean, isn’t that what we aspire to be? Isn’t that how we see our classmates? “Wow, they really have it all together” we say to ourselves.

But we are not fantasy grad students. None of us are.

We are real people. All of us are.

We have obstacles, pains, and even personal lives that are not always 100% conducive to academic/professional success. In fact, some of us have personal lives that are downright obstacles themselves, and every day that we make it to class, that we hand in an assignment however crappy, that we register for those next set of credits is a personal victory.

Despite outward appearances, many of us don’t have it all together. For some of us, this isn’t the first attempt at getting a grad degree. It’s the second.

Or the third.

Or more.

Yet we press on, grasping at the image of the fantasy grad student, hoping and believing that this semester will be the one when I get it right. This will be the semester that I submit my papers on time. This will be the semester that I’ll get the grades to justify my loans. This will be the semester that I don’t end up dropping a class. Or two.

For some of us, “this semester” is the one we say we’ll get through without the help from Mr. Jack Daniels or Ms. Mary Jane. “This semester” is the one where we finally don’t let problems with our boyfriend/girlfriend prevent us from focusing. “This semester” is the one where we’ll learn to sleep without having that same nightmare from whatever happened years ago. “This semester” is the one in which we’ll get it together.

But what do we do when “this semester” doesn’t work out like we hoped? What do we do when “this semester” feels a lot like last semester? And the semester before that? And the one before that?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that none of us – not one single person in any grad program in the universe – is a fantasy grad student. All of us have stories, stuff we’re going through, coming out of, or are about to go through. All of us have personal lives that can sometimes make our studies difficult. We’re real, whole, people. We’re more than the sum total of our GPA, our classes, our internships and jobs.

Whatever you may be going through now, just coming out of, or about to go through, just do your best. Never give up. Ask for help when you need it (it’s NOT a sign of weakness!), and breathe.


Read Full Post »

Sooo…I decided to drop public finance and take it in the fall. I think that’s the best decision for me. The project I’m working at the Center for New York City Affairs is the creation of a community schools partnership laboratory course, based on the Community Development Finance Lab model. We’re trying to work with at least one or two schools in Harlem. I came back to grad school in New York specifically to get tools to help my community, so having the time to dedicate to this project is more important than meeting a traditional graduation time table.

I didn’t come to grad school just to increase my salary and get a traditional job in public administration. I came to grad school to make a difference in my community. That is what is important to me.

I think it’s very easy to get caught in the “get a job get a job get a job” state of mind. And the reality is that we all need to be looking for jobs, no doubt. But I already had a job. I came to school to make a difference, to pursue my dreams, to find a path to do what I find to be fulfilling and meaningful.

Thus I will not be graduating in May 2012. And that’s okay with me.

When you’re paying all of this money to get an education and accruing debt that you’ll probably be paying off for decades, it’s important to get the experience and the tools that YOU want, not what other people think you should have.

If you’re interested in the community schools partnership lab course, then stay tuned. We’re cooking it up for fall 2012.

Read Full Post »

When I came to Milano in the fall of 2010, I was 100% set on graduating in two years. Get in, get out, get on with serving urban black communities. I was also 100% set on getting the most out of my graduate experience – taking advantage of opportunities for personal and professional growth and enrichment. At the beginning of this semester though I found myself in a quandary – in my desire to graduate in two years and take full advantage of the graduate school experience I put more on my plate than is wise. I’m a TA for policy lab, I’m taking the second  half of Community Development Finance Lab, I’m taking Public Fiance and doing my PDR. And I’m taking Legislative Process for my last elective (good class). And I’m working.


That all seems very daunting, so I seriously considered pushing one or two classes to the fall. Of course, that would mean that I would graduate in January 2013 (degrees are conferred twice a year and there is only one graduation ceremony which is in May). I talked to several professors about trying to power through and graduate in the spring with my full load and I’ve been told that A) it’s not a great idea, but B) it’s doable.

“Doable” in the sense that there are students who work full-time and go to school full-time and seemingly have a high tolerance for stress. That’s 100% NOT the experience I wanted coming into grad school. In fact, I purposefully decided to go to school full-time (and took out required loan$) just so that I could really dive deep into my studies without being unnecessarily stressed.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.

But what would I drop? Everything I’m doing has value academically, personally, and professionally.

After much thought and prayer (and a dose of you-need-to-graduate-and-get-a-job reality from my father), I decided to power through.

Is it the best decision? We’ll see. Although I love all the things I’m doing, I fear that I won’t be able to dedicate the necessary time and care that each item deserves.

But I have decided. I am moving forward. I can definitely use your prayers and support.

Onward to May!!

Read Full Post »

Well kids, we’re at that point in the semester.


That point.

The point where you are in the mick and muck of it all and trying to push forward to see daylight with no cracks in sight.

The point where you say “oh crap” because you realize the semester is closing soon, and while that should be a good thing, you also realize that those term papers are coming due as well.

The point where it seems like due dates are stacked like Jenga and you’re trying to keep the puzzle together without having the whole thing fall apart.

Yes folks, we’re at that point.

Prayers are appreciated.

Read Full Post »

Flicker…flicker flicker. Blink.

That’s me. I don’t know if it’s a rough spot in the semester or what, but I feel like I’m burning out. This finance class (elements of finance) has really gotten to me and I want to just throw my hands up and say “I’m done.” Work is very interesting and part-time, but just because I’m not on the clock doesn’t mean there isn’ t stuff that needs to get done. Throw the TA gig on top of that, my other courses, Toastmasters, and oh yeah, my personal life. Let’s sprinkle in the search for a PDR client and the ever-encroaching employment search and we’ve got ourselves a full pot of stew!

Of course, this is the situation that I’ve chosen. I realize that. No one made me take a job, apply to be a TA, take the courses I’m taking, or go to grad school at all. Seems weird to vent/complain/stress about a situation of my own choosing. But then again most of our situations in life are of our own choosing. That’s a larger conversation so we’ll leave that point for another time. But back to grad school blues…

I think that being in the third semester of a four-semester (full-time) program probably brings a certain stress, and next semester I’m sure will bring a whole other set of stress. I just registered for spring classes today so that probably adds to the mix. As I move through this semester I’ve begun to reflect on my academic experience. It’s probably somewhat premature to do a postmortem since I’m not even 75% through the program, but at this point my classes are decided for the most part. There’s no more “ooh maybe I’ll take that class.” And since my classes are pretty set at this point, it’s easy to begin thinking about what kind of skills I’m going to graduate with. Also, for the PDR, we’re supposed to use the skills we’ve gained at Milano to produce this professional report.

At this point I’m not sure I’ve taken the right courses. I mean I’ve taken the courses that meet graduation requirments, that’s not the issue. My question is whether my course work reflects my true desires of what I want to do with my life. The reality is that choosing classes to set up your career can be much more difficult than one might think. Everyone comes to grad school with certain dreams and desires. As you gain experience and skills your original dreams and desires might change, but you don’t get more electives to balance it out. Then you start thinking about classes that you took (or are taking currently) that maybe you weren’t/aren’t really into and you question it. Then the program might offer some brand new elective that wasn’t available when you came in, and you have to figure out if you can use your precious remaining credits on it – and if it meets your interests better than the course track you’ve already planned out during previous semesters. Just to spice it up, there may be a tension between getting tools (hard skills courses like finance) to courses that are just interesting but don’t necessarily provide you with a marketable skill (other than reading and writing). So in a way the academic experience is a negotiation between past, present, and future selves.

Read Full Post »

Well, internet, you may have heard there was some ruckus going on at the New School lately, and I can report this: most of us were honestly so crazed about Lab that after our question “OK, but CAN WE USE THE MEETING SPACE?” was answered, my compadres and I really didn’t have time to raise our heads from computers long enough to get a read on that situation.  I will just say that I am an advocate of nonviolent protest and am likewise concerned whenever I see what appears to be a very aggressive physical law enforcement response.   It is really not affect to say that the Lab people have been too busy to notice much else.

So I’ve been mighty quiet lately but that is owing to a few things.  First off, um, LAB.  Secondly, I’m really trying to take better care of myself during this round, so doing things like going to yoga, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, watching movies, reading poetry, and meditating amidst the sorry scene of my living room have somewhat taken precedence over writing.  Not to mention the fact that this time I’m in a new place which is this: I just don’t know what to say.  There.

Saturday, as on most days this term, I schlepped Bagzilla, my beloved (est.) 47-pound bag bearing my laptop, chargers, water bottle (which is always empty by the time I get to Milano after a day at the office), Advil, some notes, a deteriorating calendar, and assorted daily effluvia to campus and our group met.  Yadda yadda yadda, I realized I had to grapple with Excel to come up with some numbers for this project.

Now here is the thing.  I have NEVER claimed to be any sort of economist.  This isn’t owing so much to math anxiety as much as, well, more of an interest in and natural affinity for WORDS.  (Please, economists, don’t hate, congratulate, and we’ll all be just fine.)

So I spent Sunday trying to figure out how to generate numbers that were actually meaningful to our project, and then realized I was doing it wrong, and then saw my colleagues’ work, and sort of tweaked some things, but frankly?  I’m still not sure on this math. 

So what has been lovingly christened The Excel Spreadsheet of Doom is out there in google group land, and better numeric minds than mine shall hopefully make more sense of it.  In the meantime, I am trying to muster the strength physically, emotionally, and mentally to push through to the end of the term.  I’ve had some rather sad moments over all of this lately, even wondering what I could have to look forward to other than lab, and then someone reminded me, this ends SOON.

It is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, so after a Friday of work and lab, spending a spectacular Saturday enjoying, somehow, some part of this weather is really eagerly anticipated.  Another?  I realized I should start trolling for a really amazing, cheap summer vacation destination so I have some great incentive.  So far, hanging out with the sea turtles and monkeys in the Costa Rica rainforest is sounding fabulous.  We’ll see.  Also?  FROGS!!!  (I love frogs.)


Read Full Post »

Wow, I really haven’t  updated in far too long, but if you had followed me around in real time with a camera, internets….well, frankly it would have been a mix of sadness, giggles, exhaustion, medication, occasionally irrational outbursts, and usually ending up at laughing again.  That’s something at least.

To use a great line from “The Princess Bride”: “Let me explain…no, there is too much.  Let me sum up!” here is where we are at, the royal “we” being the lab students, my team, or even me since I’ve started thinking royally.  This is a long one, but it’s been a long time!

We were supposed to give our powerpoint presentation early in the week; we had an unexpected delay; we ended up having an extra full week to tweak, fiddle with, receive comments about, and generally drive ourselves insane over the powerpoint presentation; we went last (LAST!); we turned right around and are now preparing the written report that gets handed in on the first day back from spring break.

In case I haven’t mentioned this part yet?  Right now?  Is Spring Break.

Never has maintaining a sense of humor been more important.  I’ve not always been successful.  At some point of trying to edit slides and consolidate, and get a rhythm going in my part of of the presentation, I pretty much melted down about the entire situation, and had to excuse myself to the ladies room for a good cry.  (Funny, I excused myself from the room but now I’m just announcing it to the internet.  Ah, egos are charming, right?)

Some random thoughts, moments, and notions as we FINALLY approach the conclusion of this round:

1)  Every graduate program has one of these required elements, held up as an Amazing Experience Which Makes Us Different.  They do have some distinctions, but at the end of the day simply put, what you’ll be doing is a big project, which will exhaust you, test your patience, and trigger enormous stresses.  That is why regardless of where you enroll for your graduate degree, I seriously advise you to come up with something to help calm yourself when you need it, and to think about ways to take care of yourself.  When you’re too busy to use those healthy tactics, at least you can daydream about doing them.

2) Never underestimate the healing powers of rice pudding.

3) In terms of #1, knowing that no matter where you are, you’d have some version of this to get through, you’ll come up with, or your teammates will come up with, at least 5 reasons why the way that these projects are structured is inherently wrong, bad, and a completely awful way to spend your time.  I’d only share this: during my first MA I was one of those people, about master’s projects and orals, and who remembers what else, but I was definitely not shy about airing my opinion.  This time I find I’m much more selfishly interested in when I might sleep again.  Both are valid ways to be graduate students, but one of them has me less upset.  Experience is AWESOME.  My former grad school profs would be doing spittakes if they saw me these days, all “AHH, ok, let’s get through this” rather than suggesting a restructuring of–well, EVERYTHING.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, comments, or things I’d suggest about how to refine this process–I think I’m just a little jaded about How Grad School Works.  Part of that is that grad students and professors become pains to each other.   In the words of Sean Penn, “I am well aware of how difficult I make it for people to appreciate me.”

4) Whole Foods has a really tasty hot food bar and I became really fond of the tofu mixed with quinoa salad.  At some point towards the end of this half I became too busy to actually grocery shop, cook, or clean up.  So finding any kind of sort of healthy food during the day was really critical.  Other days, :), Chipotle’s bean burrito bowl did the trick. 

5) If you’re working full time during lab, there may be some awkwardness on all fronts–your employer will surely notice your fatigued and preoccupied state, your teammates will worry that you will become a shameless freeloading slacker, and you will vacillate between pride at not collapsing and fear that you are not doing anyone any good anywhere.  I still haven’t figured out how to sit with this, so instead have volunteered to do as much in both places as I could, and try not to feel too guilty.  (My friends who are working moms have inspired me a GREAT deal on this front.)  You are not Gumby.

6) I really want to finish this round up, but I’m really going to miss my team.  If you’re going to spend so many hours together, being around people who can work together and even laugh a little is so preferable, and I feel lucky that way.

I’m off to meet with my team again (aka my second family) and get this report into better shape.  Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be finished and free this Friday.  I am getting a massage, and having a really tasty cocktail somewhere or other.  It is going to rock.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »