4:00 am again. I didn’t mean to wake up this early, but my overactive brain is telling me I have work to do. However, this post is not to talk about my stress and lack of handling it well, it’s to talk about the man upstairs and the importance of others, like him, as a support group throughout the journey through graduate school.
When I woke up this morning, and started answering emails at 4:00am, my boyfriend sleepily said, “You know that’s not helping you.” Rolled over, and went back to sleep. I heard him, but yet still could not turn my brain off, so I got up and started working. I figured since my brain’s not letting me sleep anyway, might as well get some work done and feel better about myself. Plus, I’m awesome and working super early in the morning! Woo for me! Never mind the fact that I’m going to crash like crazy later, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, back to the man sleeping upstairs... If you don’t have a significant other, one who truly works as your partner, helping shoulder some of the stress it takes getting through graduate school, and doesn’t cause unreasonable added stress to your life, I applaud you. I’m not being facetious. I worked better when I didn’t have the distraction of another person in my life, but I was a much less happy individual, and my work-life balance was quite a bit more askew.
The journey through graduate school is one of growth. While growth is good, it is often uncomfortable and can even be painful. When you were growing as a child, you most likely had parents, family members, or the like that helped you learn to walk, talk, and the proper way to treat others. As a student in primary education, you almost assuredly had teachers, coaches, directors that you looked up to, and that actively worked to challenge you. As a graduate student and professional, support groups are equally, if not more, important to your personal success.
There are three main types of support groups that I actively maintain for my own sanity:
- Professional (of course): When developing this group, often an advisor, committee members, or professionals in your field whom you have generated a good relationship with and actively seek to maintain. Often, I categorize this as the people who inspire me in my career.
- Personal/Emotional: These are the people who truly know me and keep me sane. My parents, sibling, boyfriend, friends outside of graduate school, and my peers fall into this group. Peers are an often un-tapped source of support that we’re all secretly afraid of. Who wants to admit they’re drowning to others in their own field? More often than not, as my lab-mate says, I think you will find we’re all ducks. Gliding along smoothly on the surface, but underneath we’re paddling like mad! And to embrace that feeling with another person in the same pond as you (since we’re ducks...) is liberating. Do it, I challenge you.
- Intellectual/Spiritual: Lastly, these are the people, sometimes from one of the other two groups that stimulate your mind and allow you to grow the most. Not always a professional, not always in your field. I’ve found that these people make me the most uncomfortable in my journey, because they find the gaps in my knowledge and in myself as a person. They also provide the potential for the most growth, allowing that you, yourself will recognize gaps as opportunities instead of shortcomings.
Since our careers are often built on personal success, aside from others, and often compared to others, the atmosphere in graduate school is one of personal growth alone. What can YOU accomplish? What are YOUR successes? Don’t let graduate school isolate you. Lean on your support groups, and foster healthy relationships with people who care about you. You’ll be a much more successful person.
Kaylee is a Ph.D. student in the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences department.