There are a lot of things that make grad school hard. Lack of sleep, not enough hours in the day, and of course the actual class material. I think the hardest thing about grad school though, is that through all of the stress and headaches, you still need to deal with real life. It doesn’t matter that it is midterms week or you have a big paper due, when your dog gets sick or a family emergency comes up, you can’t lock yourself away. Even if you can put off dealing with the issue, it is generally still in the back of your mind, messing with your focus. This isn’t to say that this issue didn’t exist in undergrad, it did. The difference is that with age comes more responsibility, and thus a more daunting reality of real life outside of school. This is particularly true if you are working while in school. Balancing career and life can be challenging enough; throwing school into the mix makes for days where you wonder if you can get caffeine in an IV or Valium in a PEZ dispenser.
So how do you keep that balance? How do you keep your focus as the world spins and crashes around you. I don’t have a solid answer for that. I have my experience that says a strong support system helps, that having someone to talk to when you feel like nothing is going well can be a saving grace. I also know that as hard as it is to face, there will be days that just suck. They can stem from school, from work, or from family and friends, but they will inevitably come. That may seem pessimistic, especially coming from an optimist like me, but in some ways acknowledging that those days exist is good. No one wants to be blindsided, and while dealing with them can cause everything from headaches, to anxiety, to heartache, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Not just the light of the end of school, but the light of the good days. The days where you stop and remember what makes it all worth it.
I have had my fair share of stressful days over the past year. I’ve had the days where I felt like nothing I learned in class was sticking and the weeks where there did not seem to be enough hours to get everything done. Yet here I stand. I’m tired, I have a few new bruises, but I’m here, and I have done well despite the bumps. More rough days will come, but so will good ones, and those are the ones I’m counting on.
To anyone who is having a rough day, a rough week, or a longer struggle, keep your head up. You are stronger than you think.