July 2020

Worldly worries and managing self-talk teaser image
The world is super chaotic… still. It’s crazy to me that I can still say that in July when things really started being strange in January. That’s a very long time for things to be very strange.

And sadly, my fellow Texas A&M graduate students, it’s far from over. Many of us are very alert to many of the grand-scale, worldly issues our country and many others are facing right now politically and culturally, not to mention the at-home election coming up and the fact that the US (and Texas, specifically) has STILL failed to beat COVID-19.

Additionally, I know I’m scheduled to teach in the fall, and many others are in the same position as I am. At least I’ve taught this class before, some of my fellow graduate students are going into this semester teaching a class for the first time, potentially all online! And while I’ve received some guidance on the grand-scale of things from the university, I haven’t been given any specific instructions for my course about what I should expect as a TA in the fall.

Finally, as we all know, work never goes anywhere. There’s not a lot of escaping from research and grand and fellowship and departmental deadlines, not even amid everything we are living through right now.

That’s a lot to process!

And frankly, I’m pretty proud of us as a collective unit. While I think everyone has had hard days, and many ups-and-downs as the weeks have gone on, I’d say we are overall doing a great job. I’m getting to see my friends via social media do great things in their work and in their personal lives, from creating new mouse lines to writing their proposals to getting engaged to moving into newer, nicer apartments and houses. We’re all still moving up in the world, despite the obstacles we’ve been presented with during our graduate careers.

However, I still find myself worrying. There are a lot of grand issues to think about in addition to personal and work issues, and the overwhelming mass of worrying-matters can sometimes be entirely too scary.

I know I tend to get especially worried at work, because I’m constantly wondering if there is more I can be doing. More research I could get done, more I could do to advocate for issues I care about, more I can do to let my friends know I’m there for them during this pandemic, more I can do to become a better person as I learn more about the world around me.

There’s always this more-more-more-voice in my head, and I know other people hear it too. I believe that little voice is how so many of us got in to graduate school- that more-more-more-voice does an excellent job of pushing us to work very hard at what we do, and excel to the maximum of our capacities as students.

The key now, I think, is not letting that voice push us too far. While it’s great to listen to as a motivator to do all the things I listed before, it doesn’t need to be the loudest voice we hear.

Finding ways to lower the volume that voice speaks at is very important for keeping a sane-mind during the crazy year we are living through. I know for me, that’s switching off my phone and doing something with my hands. I start an experiment I know how to do, or I bake something, or draw, or read a paper or a book. Anything to get me off my phone and away from the social pressure that tends to bring out that more-more-more-voice.

So now more than ever, I encourage you to find a way to dodge your worries and turn down that little voice. Discover something that brings you peace and calmness, so that once you’re finished recharging, you can live up to everything that voice expects of you.

And we WILL get through this year. We’ve made it this far and we are doing SO well, I have full confidence in our abilities to keep going. So stay safe, keep working, and let yourself stop worrying.

---Serina Taluja

Serina Taluja is doctoral student in the Genetics program.

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