I don’t think I’ve always been this way. I think it just crept up on me in the last year. Maybe that’s just part of being in grad school.
I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty laid-back girl. Nothing really phases me, I roll with the punches pretty well, and I rarely get stressed. But now I’m the person who is constantly thinking about the future and getting bogged down by worries and anxiety. Each day I see the list of things I have to do and I get so overwhelmed I just shut down, and rather than working on the list piece by piece, I put the list away and don’t do anything on it. Which, of course, only serves to make me more anxious the next day.
I’ve always been energized by school. I like the structure of classes and having something to work on that makes me into a smarter, more able person. But now, I feel so much more pressure. Knowing I need to maintain a certain GPA to be considered for Ph.D programs places enormous pressure on me. And then I wonder that even if I do maintain my GPA, will it be high enough for scholarship money? Because I can’t afford to go without financial aid. What school will have me? Ahh, why am I even worrying about this—I’m never going to make it! I’m going to be at the bottom of the barrel, the one who didn’t quite make the cut and is stuck as an adjunct teacher, struggling to make ends meet for the rest of my life, feeling unfulfilled and a failure. Yes, these are my thought patterns almost daily.
I think a part of my insecurity in my abilities is due to the fact that a majority of people in my field are men. I’ve never felt inadequate because of my sex in my life, but my interest in this field came a little later than many of my colleagues, and I often feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. That, and the fact that so many of my close friends are incredibly brilliant, often make me feel like I am not at the same level (which is entirely my own fault, and none of theirs). I shouldn’t feel this way, because my friends and classmates (mostly male) are incredibly supportive and encouraging to me.
All of these thoughts and feelings have been taking up far more of my time in the last year than they ever have before. And like I said, I feel like it’s partly because I put enormous pressure on myself to prove myself and be worthy of what I desire. But rather than motivating me to work harder and discipline myself daily in my studies, I just begin panicking and I shut down, while pouring myself another cup of coffee.
However, one phrase has been repeated to me by friends and family more than any other, and I simply cannot be told it enough: One day at a time. Growing up, it was my dad always asking me about my future, what my plans were, and if I had written a step by step outline of how to achieve them (seriously), and I was always the one saying, Dad, everything will work itself out; you can’t plan your whole life out like that. Now, it’s the other way around. I call my dad, freaking out about the final I just took that I’m sure I failed which will bring down my GPA, which will then affect my ability to get into Ph.D programs and I’ll never get a job and be able to pay off my loans, etc., etc. And now my dad is the one saying, “Lindsey, just take it one day at a time. You are here for a reason. You are smart, and I believe in you. Don’t stress yourself out. Just take it One Day At A Time.” And boy, do I ever need to hear that…every day. Every day! Because when I wake up and review my day, before I’ve even gotten out of bed, I’m stressed and panicky, and I seem to have forgotten that I just need to accomplish Today today, not Tomorrow today.
This reminder has been following me around a lot lately, and I am thankful for the ones who keep telling me to slow down, take it one day at a time, and offer encouraging words. I have the best friends in the world, and an incredible support system, which I often forget—grad school is lonely sometimes.
So let me pass this on to you, the stressed, the anxious, the worrywart…just take it one day at a time.