I realize I’ve been neglecting my blog of late… So hey, let’s chat.
In September, I started my first semester of graduate school. I’m taking classes online through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to get a Masters in Library and Information Science. Going into it, I knew that grad school would be a challenge. But, of course, there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it experientially. As someone who has half a semester under their belt, I can attest that grad school is HARD.
It’s not the work itself that is challenging. I mean, yeah, it’s hard. But it’s grad school. High standards are to be expected. For the most part, I think I’m keeping up just fine. I understand the coursework, participate in discussions with my classmates, and have pulled decent enough grades on my assignments thus far.
The most difficult part about grad school has been finding time to actually do the work and still maintain a shred of sanity. I’ve already had two emotional breakdowns this semester, which is two more than my entire career as an undergraduate.
During the fall, I’m obligated to help out at my family’s apple orchard on my days off from the library. My mom put me on the schedule for a minimum of weekends and, when things were slow, I was the first to go home. But, despite this, working six days a week while doing school was draining. I was constantly stressed about doing my readings, assignments, and oh gosh, when would I find time to write that ten page paper?
After a month of Sundays at the orchard, I’m finally off the schedule and back to working five days a week like a normal person. Not working that extra day has really helped mentally. I feel like I actually have the space to pause and take a breath. I can go to church, stay on top of school, and actually spend a morning hiking at the local state park.
Grad school has definitely made a dent in my social commitments. I haven’t done anything fun with friends in a month. My social life was nowhere near vigorous to begin with due to the fact that almost all my close friends live an hour away, but I’ve usually been able to get away from the house fairly frequently to spend time with them. Not anymore. Since starting school, my days are packed with studying and, since I’ve always struggled focusing on school after dark, my nights are spent binge-reading the newest YA novel or catching up on Outlander. I do have several plans with various friends coming up in the next weeks, though, so there is a bit of light at the end of the social tunnel.
Since starting school, I’ve struggled getting sleep. I’ve rarely had issues with school-related anxiety, but something about the integration of online school into my daily routines has been messing me up. I get maybe one solid night of rest a week. The other nights are meh. There’s usually one terrible sleep in the mix. Either I can’t fall asleep and lie there for hours tossing and turning or I wake up extremely early with a creeping sense of anxiety and can’t catch any more z’s. (Last night was an ultimate low: only three hours. Ugh.)
So… if you haven’t guessed by now, it’s been a rough couple of months in Amelia-land. You might be asking, how am I even alive? I wonder that myself sometimes. Self care is important and I’m learning to integrate it into all the crazy that is life right now.
One of the things keeping me sane has been exercise. While I have forced myself to go to the gym over the years, I’ve never been fond of it. Working out is painful and sweaty and the gym is an intimidating place to be. Over the past couple of months, though, I’ve come to depend on it. Working out takes the edge off my stress and anxiety in amazing ways. Twenty minutes on the elliptical after work, an hour long walk in the morning, hiking at the local state park when I can squeeze it in… such things have kept me going. Not only does my body feel better in general, but I sleep better when I work out. Will I become a super buff gym aficionado over the next couple of years? HA! Probably not. But I’m glad to be gaining an appreciation for exercise.
Another thing preserving my sanity is my commute. It takes an hour to drive to work and an hour to drive home. That’s two hours in the car every day, ten hours total each week. I thought that my commute would feel like wasted time, but it doesn’t. During those two hours, I am beholden to no one but myself. There is nowhere I need to be, nothing I need to be doing. I sit back, put in an audiobook, and enjoy the quiet. Some days, when I get home, I don’t even want to get out of the car.
Finally, books have been a constant fuel in my life. There are days when I feel like all I do is live vicariously through stories, which given my lack of social life, sometimes makes me depressed. But stopping reading would be like stopping breathing. I just can’t do it. Of course, my reading material is nothing impressive. There will be no Shakespeare or Dickens or Tolstoy in my near future. (Even though I’ve been wanting to reread The Tempest lately…). Most evenings are spent curled up in bed with a YA book. The stories I read take me away from my life, my anxiety, and my insecurities. I’m in someone else’s head, living someone else’s life, figuring out someone else’s future. And it’s wonderful while it lasts.
Anyways, that’s about all I’ve got for you this evening. My lack of sleep is starting to catch up with me and I’m starting to zone out. If you’ve got any tips for how to stay sane while working full time and taking grad school classes, I’d greatly appreciate them. If you’ve got any self-care tips, I’d love to hear those too!