I won’t lie, I am writing this post because I have limited time due to my own procrastination and poor time management skills. This was a significantly easier topic to write on, rather than a more well-researched and evidenced based post on a social work issue. This is still social work related, nonetheless. And the journey of a graduate student is an important one, albeit overwhelming.
Before I really dive into my everyday life, I want to preface with saying that I have privilege in my life. I am studying at Columbia University, and though I do believe I worked incredibly hard, and I paid my dues (going to community college and a SUNY school for undergraduate), it is necessary for me to acknowledge that my whiteness and middle class status has played a major role in my success, and in my journey to grad school. Higher education was never out of the question – it was in fact, assumed to be an eventual occurrence. I grew up in a small, white town, and was able to take AP classes and gain college credits. I had teachers that believed in me, and if anything, cut me slack because they liked me. I was a quiet and studious teenager. Teachers most likely overlooked mistakes or bad days because of this, while other students could not access this type of treatment because of being labeled the “bad” or “disruptive” student. All of these, and many more, aspects of my life, have allowed me to pursue my dreams. I have had to work hard, and I strived to build my resume and experience more than anyone. But privilege has given me an upper hand, and it is my obligation to address that, accept that, and use that privilege to assist others that are discounted. That being said, I study at Columbia University for graduate school, and every single day I walk into class or my internship carrying with me that understanding of my positionality. I hope you do the same.
My hopes for this conversation are motivational and personal in nature. This past week has proved difficult. I miss my family, especially my beautiful nieces, there is always an immense amount of work to complete and readings to retain, I am volunteering, completing my required 21-hour per week field education, and many other things. My schedule stacks up quickly, and it can be incredibly exhausting. This accompanied by the change in environment – going from rural, country living, to the midst of the Big Apple, has resulted in more adjustment than anticipated. This week was a matriculation of each of these aspects, and it beat me. As soon as arriving home from my internship, I napped for four hours. By the time I awoke, it was 10:30 at night, with a stack of homework and emails, and the need to wake up bright and early the next day. This week has been far from ideal, and far from typical. This post is a reminder for me what my crazy days look like, with the thought and belief that I am able to handle it. I needed a rest, and that is okay. Now, it is time to continue striving.
After waking up from approximately five alarms, between 5:00 am and 6:00 am, I will go through my Morning Routine. If I have class, I stick around my apartment for a while longer, as I do not have lectures until 10:00 am (I may also sleep in this day). Other days I have my field placement, work study, or am volunteering. These lovely days include a long commute, so I attempt to leave around 7:30 to 7:50 am. Both my work study and field education are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. At my field placement, I am conducting therapy at a mental health clinic. My day typically includes completing intake biopsychosocial assessments, creating treatment plans and progress notes, having therapy sessions, writing process recordings, and doing research or refreshing on therapy techniques and diagnoses. My work study is assisting youth gain employment, interview skills, and a solid resume. After commuting and arriving home, a delicious meal is cooked, my dishes are washed, and a cup of coffee is enjoyed. While the sun continues to shine, I will go for a walk or run outside. In the winter, I will likely be occupying a space at the gym, but for now I will soak up the great outdoors and crisp(-ish) air. If I am feeling particularly motivated, I will do a few minutes of yoga or stretching post-cardio. Then, I’ll delight myself with a shower, brush my teeth, and do all my skin care goodness. After my skin feels clean and moisturized, I’ll slip into incredibly comfortable clothes, settle in at my desk, and GET WORK DONE. This could be anything. I have homework assignments, readings, blog posts, social media, ETSY listings, emails, research, personal projects, etc. I complete as much as I possibly can. To wind down the evening, I enjoy journaling, reading, talking to my boyfriend, and planning my next day’s activities in detail. Any morning routine items I was unable to complete, I will do so in the evening. I’ll pack my lunch for the next day, pick out my outfit, and pack my work bag. To end the night, I put the books down (because there will always be more readings to do) and do whatever I want. I may watch YouTube videos, write, anything that will allow me to unwind and breathe.
This overview is, of course, up for manipulation as we never truly know what the day holds no matter the length of planning. Perhaps there is an event occurring, a caucus meeting on campus, or I need to nap or talk to a family member. Maybe I feel like exploring the city, or I need to grocery shop or run errands. Every month, I take a day to write letters to family members and a young girl I mentor. Relatively, my days have a similar layout and feel. When I have classes, I am in school from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm. These days typically have appointments and caucus meetings as well. Though I am able to sleep in in the mornings on these days, I am also able to utilize the morning time to get ahead, as I have less time upon arriving home in the evening. At the close of a productive day, I will hopefully have my entire habit tracker completed. Some days I don’t. If I am honest, it is sporadic at best.
I realize this post was slightly boring in content. As much as I would love to live the glamorous New York City life, it is just not a possibility with my schedule at the moment. I’ll continue enjoying the small things, like riding the subway and seeing new sights, but grad school is that stepping stone for the rest of my goals. If that means I prioritize staying in and reading, to a night out on the town, than so be it.
Whatever your path is in life is, whether or not that includes graduate school, I wish you the absolute best. You are capable of accomplishing your deepest desires. Everything you are capable of being, all of your potential, is inside you. I hope this motivates you to continue pushing through the days (or weeks, or months) of weariness, stress, and overwhelm. There is a finish line, and you will get there if you keep moving forward.
Laura Swanson, BSW