Grad school has been so hard for me. How do you cope when you're giving your 100%, and still doing things wrong, feeling incapable, and being constantly criticized? I came in knowing that I know nothing about the field I was studying, but knowing that I wanted to learn and I was willing to put in the effort to do so. I feel like I have given this my all and yet I still seem to get things wrong.
More specifically, by some individuals in power positions, I feel like I am being unfairly criticized and unfairly judged. And it's genuinely making me depressed. I haven't brushed my hair in a few days. I've been wearing leggings and a sweatshirt because I haven't had the chance to do my laundry. I've been skipping meals on a regular basis. I'm not in a good place. I feel like this is normalized, because everyone around me is in a similar situation - we're all skipping meals sometimes, we're all not dressing our best, we're all sleeping at strange times, we're all doing at least one thing or another that is considered to be unhealthy. But we justify it - it's grad school... We're students... We're supposed to be this way.
But are we really?
I remember during my senior year of undergrad, I organized a "What Matters Most" dinner in which I, as a student leader at our school's center for service, spirituality and social justice, invite a Professor to have an intimate dinner with a group of about 10-15 students and talk to us about what matters most. During this dinner, this Professor talked about his struggles with depression, particularly during graduate school. I remember thinking how brave he was for being so painfully raw, real, and honest with us. He told us that grad school was the hardest, and most mentally unhealthy time of his life, but at the same time, he survived and he made it out. He never said that he succeeded. While listening to him talk, I wondered if him succeeding (getting a Ph.D. and becoming an amazing professor) was just a side effect of him simply surviving. I was just starting my applications for grad school. I was just starting my own journey. I was young and naive (hell, I still am) and thought hey, I'm going to be a student, so it's okay for me to not know everything. It's okay for me to not be perfect. It's okay for me to make mistakes (not intentionally, of course). But here I am, being threatened on a weekly basis that if I continue making mistakes, I will have to take additional classes. It's like I'm not a student; I'm a robot who is expected to know everything. It's unfair for me to blame anyone but myself; the mistakes are my own. But I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I wish I had taken my old Professor's words to heart about his journey, and better prepared myself for the anguish I would be going through.
So, here I am. I spent the last hour crying. It's become a weekly thing at this point. I see the light at the end of the tunnel (internship - then, graduation). I see the finish line, and I'm sprinting towards it while tripping over my own self again and again and again. I kind of feel like just stopping, laying down on the grass, not running anymore, and just watching everyone else run past me to and through the finish line, but I also just want to get there. I just want to run so fast, so that I can finally move past this part of my life. I am absolutely beyond excited for the 3rd year of my program - a full time internship, a completely different experience. I have been accepted into a wonderful site, too. I just need to get myself back up off the floor and finish this last sprint.
When my Professor was telling us about his experiences and difficulties in grad school, he did mention the one thing that kept him sane: his family. His colleagues. People who loved him, supported him, believed in him, understood him, and helped him get through the most difficult part of his life. I think tonight has been the most difficult night of my graduate school career, not because anything significantly different has happened, but just because of the constant criticism... This past Sunday, I worked from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm (with only one break for food) on a single thing, only to have it returned with comments that make me feel incompetent. If it is a one time thing, sure, it's fine, but it's like every single week, I go through the same thing. And I know everyone else in my cohort does too, but I don't know. What do you do when you feel like you're being unfairly judged or criticized, especially when you are trying your best and literally giving it your all? Feeling more down than I ever have before in my life, I wrote a little post on my cohort's Facebook page, and everyone made an effort to respond, to make me feel better. That is what keeps me going. That. Knowing that I am not in this alone, first of all, and also knowing that there are other people who are in the same boat as me (so, they get it) who still believe in me. Just the simple gesture of all of them sending a little gif to make me smile, or some of them texting me to make sure I'm okay (even though that I know they're all going through the same thing I am!!) just really motivates me to keep going, to not give up, and to not be too difficult on myself.
I'm ready for life to go on, but I am forever grateful for the angels I have met along the way who have helped me in ways they may not know or understand. I genuinely, sincerely don't believe I could have survived grad school without the wonderful cohort I get to share this experience with, or without the support of some of my loved ones who believe in me way more than I believe in myself.
To all of you who have gone out of your way to smile at me, to send me positivity, to believe in me and so forth... Thank you. You don't know how much it has meant to me.