Growth of a Graduate: Week One

On the first day of grad school…

One professor gave me a one-page front and back syllabus.

My other professor gave me a syllabus that was 11 pages long.

So it begins. That was last Thursday.

I spent the weekend mostly lolly-gagging and dilly-dallying, because I only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I did not take my own advice. I did not look far enough ahead in my syllabi. I made my life much harder than it had to be.

Full disclosure: I had a pretty prideful view of my own brains and abilities as I was going into classes this past week. After all, my undergraduate major was communication. I made Dean’s List or President’s List every semester. My master’s is in communication studies. I went into the program with no deficiencies, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of how everything was going to go down.

Nope. Not so much.

This week, I learned once again that I do not have it all together. In fact, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I did not come into the program with a specific enough idea of what I wanted to study. And shuffling through academic journal articles in online databases to try to find an idea to build on takes hours upon hours. I used to read through this stuff for fun. I think I’ve read through about 30-35 articles this week. It’s not fun anymore.

Had I looked ahead in my syllabi, I would have noticed that one of my professors assigns a lot more homework in the middle of the week than over the weekend. There are four days between Thursday and Tuesday. There are two days between Tuesday and Thursday. And there is more than double the homework due on Thursday than on Tuesday. If I had worked ahead last weekend, I wouldn’t have had to stay up until 12:00 the last few nights to get homework done for just that one class. (I’ve been in bed between 10:30-11:00 since starting work this summer. I was in bed between 11:00 and 11:30 through the majority of undergrad…)  Shout out to my best friend for providing me with caffeine, and to my roommate for not killing me. I was reduced to full two-year-old mode.

So there I was, completely overwhelmed. Sleep-deprived. Wondering why in the world I thought grad school was a good idea. Missing home like crazy. Remembering afresh that this is my 7th year living in a dorm. Just generally questioning every life decision I’ve ever made.

Sound dramatic? I am, admittedly, a dramatic person. Usually I can control it to some degree. This past week, I did little to control it. Everything else was spiraling out of control anyway. Or so it seemed. I was in no mood to find a positive outlook.

My mind kept circling back to the same questions. Why did I do this? Why did I sign that contract? Why am I here? (Additionally, why did I not work ahead over the weekend? I mean, come on. I am totally a better student than that. I know better than that.)

Chapel yesterday was an incredible rebuke.

Abraham believed God. Abraham left his homeland and his family. He just kind of picked up and left, simply because God said so. Just chapel. Just a quick 35-minute skim through the life of Abraham–what an incredible example of faith in God!

So here I am. Every time a South Carolinian asks me where I’m from, and I tell them I’m from Maine, they inevitably say, “Wow, you’re a long way from home!”

Yeah. Yeah, I am. My family is a 21-hour drive north of me. I’m in a region where I don’t necessarily “fit.” I’ve been here longer than I planned. I’m not sure why I stayed. I don’t know what’s happening after this. I feel like I can, in a small way, relate to Abraham right now.

Abraham believed God. And if there’s one thing I understand about my current situation, it’s that God placed me here. That could not have been more clear. I fully planned on leaving, but God had something else in mind. I knocked on so many doors, but this was the one God allowed to open.  And if you knew anything about my plans prior to actually signing my GA contract, you would know that if there had been so much as a crack in any other door, I would have gone in that direction. Walking through this door was my only real option. God did that.

I’m really stubborn, ok? I’m incredibly hard-headed. Mix that with an overdose of type-A personality. So now you have before you a girl who meticulously plans out every detail of everything and then will not change those plans for anything. I put tons of time and effort into those plans! DO NOT get in my way! I was bent on any door but this one. So God closed them all and then slid deadbolts across every single one. That was the only way I was going to listen.

I picture God’s hands taking me by the shoulders and giving me a few gentle shakes while firmly commanding, “Listen to Me!” Because that is how it felt.

I am here because God clearly communicated that this was the next step. That is the only reason. That is reason enough. I don’t mean that I have no goals in life. I don’t mean that I have no goals in my program of study. (And I obviously need to pay a little more attention to my syllabi.) I also don’t want anyone thinking that I’m ungrateful for the opportunities that have been placed in my lap. Soli Deo Gloria. I do not deserve these opportunities. I am not entitled to them. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

So this week has been a growing experience. I have been flying on cloud nine for some of it. Other times, I have come crashing back down to earth. My thoughts and emotions have been all over the place. But I believe God. He is the Rock that is higher than I–constantly steady, no matter how much I waver. This is where I need to be. I’m doing what I need to do. Soli Deo Gloria.










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