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Grad School Taught Me

Grad school taught me more than academics.
As I wrap up my two-year graduate school program, I begin to reflect on my experience in school. As you can all imagine, I learned more than I originally signed up for. My perspective on my career choice, my life, my family, my friends, and myself took a turn for the better.

This is normal, as life happens to you, you happen to life.

You change, you grow, you learn. One of the greatest changes I made for myself in these past two years was to prioritize me and ensure that I was focusing on what I set out to do originally. This was hard, by all means there were moments where all I wanted to do was quit school, quit one of my three jobs, and just buy a plane ticket to somewhere.
So what I have learned?
 

1. IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO

I didn’t always have the time nor the money to do what I wanted to do or go where I was invited. Some people understood that and some people did not, and that is life. I was a full-time student with a full-time unpaid internship and two-part time jobs – broke is an understatement. Free time was a luxury.
People who supported me in my endeavours these past two years truly understood and supported me. They brought me food when I was in the library until 2 a.m., they talked to me on my walk home after a long day of classes and/or work, and most importantly they motivated me to keep going.

2. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO SOMEONE EVERYDAY TO SHOW SUPPORT

I’m mixxy as all hell. I love to talk. I love to be around good company. I love to try new experiences. And yet, I adore time to myself. I went from communicating with over 10 people on a daily/weekly basis to three. For anyone that knows me, knows that this is a huge jump. My phone was never dry.
This change did not mean that I cut all of these people out of my life, or that I no longer had a relationship with them. It just meant that life happened and our relationship/friendship had evolved over time. I will always support those who want and need my support, even if it’s from afar. I see what you do, I acknowledge what you do, and I will keep rooting for you to keep prospering. We may not know each other’s daily movements or experiences, but trust when I say I know when you were there for me physically or not.

3. SELF CARE IS VITAL

Son… thissssss… right… here… Is probably the most important of them all (even if it is numero tres). Find out what stresses you out, how you carry that stress in your daily life, and what helps you destress. Make sure you set time aside to destress on a regular basis. You are no good to yourself, your family, your friends, your work, your studies, or anything else in life if you are not at your best.
Working out for me became my escape from everything, but half the time I felt like I had to choose between gym and sleep, both crucial aspects of my well-being. If I didn’t workout I didn’t sleep well, and if I didn’t sleep well I was too exhausted to go about my everyday activities.

4. IT’S OKAY TO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER

I still have trouble embracing this, but I have definitely learned it. I look at certain people in my life and see how “successful” they are and wonder what I have done wrong because I am not there. But then someone or something reminds me about how much I have accomplished myself. No, I am not where I see myself being and I don’t think I ever will. That comes from the fact that I am always thinking five years ahead.
I have had to embrace “my now” and understand what I do have. I always thought of myself as a realist and then realized I always just thought of the negative. These past two years pushed me to really identify the positive aspects in my everyday life even when I do not have it “all together.”
 

5. SELF-AWARENESS

I always thought I was pretty self-aware. If you asked me my what my strengths were or what I felt I had room for improvement in, I could tell you easily. I could spit to you what made me who I was. These past two years though, have made me reflect beyond what my strengths and limitations are. I had to become more aware about the role I play in this world, how I enter spaces, and how who I am and the experiences I have affect the work I am involved in and the services I provide.
I am a white Latina and with that comes an abundance of levels intertwined with privilege and oppression. Becoming more self-aware and reflective has been vital to my growth. There is still a lot to learn and still a lot of personal work to do, and self-awareness is definitely a key component.
While there is a plethora of other lessons I have learned along the way, these 5 are definitely lessons I will keep taking with me. They are lessons that are forever evolving as my life keeps on moving.
Leaving your comfort zone isn’t easy, do not let anyone tell you differently. What it does do is push you to grow and learn. By having new experiences in life and meeting new people, you start to learn more about yourself and your community. It’s through these lessons that you start to interact with yourself on a new level and are able to share a better version of you with others.
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About BK Buttah

BK Buttah is the handle used for all guest contributors who aren’t regular to the site, or are simply writing to the masses anonymously.

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