5 Important Lessons My Time in Grad School Taught Me
HALLELUJAH, I have graduated! I officially have a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Whew, what a ride it’s been y’all. There have been extreme highs and debilitating lows but I made it, we are here, we survived. God is good. The last three years have been probably the most critical years of my life so far. These three years were either going to make or break me, literally, and I had to make a conscious choice to make the most out of this season and begin transforming into the woman I wanted to be. This post is not about my graduate program because I could have slept through it to be quite honest **dusts shoulders off** (Summa Cum Laude shawty). This post is more about some life lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) throughout my time in grad school. I am a drastically different person today than I was in August 2016 and although I have a long way to go, I DID that! Reflecting on my graduate experience has revealed some important lessons I learned along the way that I feel compelled to share with y’all.
Your comfort zone is limiting- get out of it.
Some of the best things I’ve done for myself are things I didn’t normally do. The changes were both subtle and big. Wearing makeup, experimenting with my hair, working out consistently, living in a different state for three months, making new friends, starting a blog, starting a non-profit, being more present online, etc. The list could truly go on. Prior to grad school, I stuck with what was familiar. The same awful relationship for four years; staying in unhealthy friendships because I was too afraid to start new ones; keeping my appearance the same so that I blended in rather than stood out. It was a self-deprecating cycle that I cut off by finding and embracing myself through new experiences.
Give yourself a break.
Being super ambitious is great until I take on more than I can handle. I’m literally that person that will say yes to every request, project, and collaboration. I love the process of brainstorming amazing things and bringing them to life. At one point in the last three years, I was managing a blog, interning part-time, going to school full-time, starting a non-profit, freelance writing, figuring out how to start a business, working out regularly, reading (reading is work for me LOL), traveling on a monthly basis, and still somehow having a social life. If you add all of those things together, they equal burnout. We all deserve a break and I certainly did but I always felt guilty for taking one. I had to find the balance between work and true relaxation (aka doing absolutely nothing) and learn how to be content with that.
It’s okay to pause, but it’s not okay to quit.
Okay, okay. I’m not gonna get on here and pretend like it hasn’t been months since I lasted posted a blog. This last semester of my program has been TOUGH. Like, I was contemplating dropping out tough. Life outside of my classes was kicking my ass and I just wanted to hang the towel, lock myself in my room and stay there. I haven’t been writing because I haven’t had the mental energy to. I thought about quitting blogging altogether. I nearly convinced myself that this wasn’t going anywhere, no one really reads my posts, and no one really cares. But I also told myself that I would give this whole blogging thing a year at MINIMUM and I can’t let myself down. It’s SO important that we finish the things we start. Some days we may not feel like it, or maybe we’re not feeling confident. It’s okay to take a brief hiatus because we’re humans, not machines, but we must eventually keep the promises we make to ourselves.
Being single is a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G. Soak this season up.
If there is no greater lesson to be learned, it is this one. Chile, let me tell you. I had two brief relationships during grad school and dated a lot. There was a time where being in a relationship was a priority. I didn’t hate being single, I was actually pretty content with it, but I really wanted to be in a relationship. It was so bad that I couldn’t just enjoy meeting other people and going on dates. I had a timeline for everything and I blamed my negative experiences on men rather than realizing that I was frustrating myself by trying to rush everything. What’s funny is that I eventually went through a period of figuring out if I even WANTED to get married and have kids. Now that I’m sure that I do, I’m about to be the baddest, most content bachelorette on the market and when the time comes for me to settle down, I’ll be in no hurry. Today I sit in my clean, quiet apartment with my puppy and thank God I’m not married with children. This is time I’ll never get back. The last thing I’m worried about now is a relationship. You know what that’s called? Growth.
You will feel completely lost sometimes, and that’s okay.
I like knowing. Knowing what’s going on, knowing what’s happening next, and knowing what to plan for. When I tell y’all I knew NOTHING a couple months ago. I didn’t know where I was living after graduation, what I wanted to do, I didn’t even know if I still wanted to be a counselor. Being so unclear on such important decisions made me feel lost, unmotivated, and uninspired. Thankfully, my mother mentally and emotionally carried me through this time and helped me get back to the root of my being and what I was good at. She became the voice of reason and logic when I was unable to. She reassured me that I was doing better than most, and that it is completely okay and normal to feel lost and confused at my stage in life. In fact, there would be room for concern if I wasn’t questioning certain things or re-evaluating my path. I’m not crystal clear on my long-term plans, but I know what my next steps look like and that is enough for now.
If you read through this incredibly long post, you’re a real one. Thank you to my friends and family for laughing and even crying with me through this journey. I could not have done it without y’all. I’m thankful for the both the good and bad experiences. Life has been my greatest professor (word to Beyoncé). The best is yet to come and I’m accepting it with wide arms. I’m ready for the next chapter and I look forward to sharing it with y’all.
The Life Therapist