You might be asking … why would this chick write about grad school? What is so “important” about her journey? Why would this be useful?
Well, I’ll never really know if what I write will touch a life or will “illuminate” someone into going or avoiding grad school. Through this intense journey I’ve experienced many things, heartbreaks, breakthroughs, emotional roller coasters, adaptation, thinking outside the box … all in the span of ~6 years.
I relocated to a medium-sized school in the Bible Belt to attend well-known school and get a PhD. Why you might ask? Because of a boy. That will be my first answer. Then I’d proceed to say that also because I was an extremely curious child who was always getting in trouble because I was experimenting and every since I touched a microscope for the first time in middle school I thought about how cool it was to do science.
I started in grad school in the fall of 2003 after completing my Bachelor’s of Science in a relatively “big” school. I loved science but I also dreamed of becoming a surgeon one day and since doing a bachelor’s in biology seemed better and more fulfilling than a bachelor’s in pre-med I opted for a degree in biology, the science of life. I finished that degree with relatively good grades. I was in love and had decided to start grad school since by the end of my college years, doing open-heart surgery seemed like a scary thing to me. I thought I was taking the easy road, and since I was dating a guy that was planning to do the same I did not want to be left out and I enrolled to grad school.
I never thought that my degree would take so many years (6 and counting) or so many tears of both joy and frustration to get to where I’m at. I am ~1 month away from defending my thesis in a discipline I love and attending a school in the North to start a post-doc and to be in the same town, and time-zone as where my current boyfriend is.
I’m scared of what awaits me after being in the same place, surrounded by the same people, labmates and boss for several years, and venturing into a new country, a new culture and a completely different way of doing science .. basically risk it all because of love … and because of fulfillment. But at the same time I wonder if this is the right decision in my life. If it wouldn’t be easier to stick to what I know how to do (pretty well I might say) and stay within my comfort zone.
I’ve always been scared of challenges. I have a great ability to wreak havoc in my head as I beat myself up because I fear I will fail … only to succeed. I’m thrilled that I will leave the Bible Belt once and for all that has served as a prison for my thoughts and beliefs (I’m a christian, but I am also a liberal and I dislike the way conservatives run things around here). Grad school in my institution has served as a prison also, since some people are very uptight and want you to work, work and work, but I guess that’s the way that paves the american dream, eh?
Mostly I want to write my thoughts, ideas and advice so that if there’s another seemingly lost soul out there I can help in a little way to bring some peace and encouragement in this path we’ve chosen … or has chosen us. I sometimes pride myself on being a good advice-giver, mostly because the weirdest things happen to me, but also because I love relating to other people, I love bitchin’ about what is wrong with grad school, or with a boss (or PI or mentor, whichever way you call him/her) or funding agency. I want people to connect with what I’m saying, but also to yell at the world when they are mad or sad about something. And mostly, I want you to know that you are NOT alone … and that all this shall pass too one day. Look at me, I’m about to embark in a new beginning and though I’m scared like crazy, I’m happy I’m doing it. I never thought I’d be done someday … and that someday is so close I can touch it, I can feel it. This is what I’ve been busting my ass and brains off for the last few years.
Go ahead and read and share, and bitch and moan. That’s why we’re here for.