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Grading Yourself

It’s no secret that I suck at my epidemiology class.

I’ve spared yall most of the gory details of how horrible the last 9 weeks have been. I look forward to this module coming to a close for a variety of reasons. Last week, when I was at the worst of being sick, I gave up. I said forget it and didn’t even bother to show up to class. The week before I looked a hot mess and proceeded to go to bed and not go to work the next day. I digress.

Residual I don’t give a fuckness was all over my work ethic for school last week, especially that class. So, when I had an assignment due on Friday night, I threw up my hands and said it was something I couldn’t face or couldn’t deal with and I’ll accept a zero. I’ll be a grown up and accept it.

As my health started to improve especially by Sunday, I found myself drawn back to the material. I took the pressure off of the deadline that I’d already missed and I sat with my books and notes and I even went back to watch the recording of the class I missed. And I took notes.

I wasn’t doing this for a grade, I already made the conscious decision not to try and by default fail that assignment. I was learning for the sake of learning. I was learning for myself because I didn’t  want to feel defeated. I found that I was getting it right and when I got it wrong, I knew why I was getting it wrong. There was a certain level of self-satisfaction that came over me.

So as I sat in class tonight and she mentioned the assignment and how she’d grade them by the end of the week, I said even if I didn’t understand the rest of it, I wanted to hand in the section that I worked so hard on. Again, Damn a grade, I want proof that my hard work and practice paid off.

So after class, I handed it what I did. It’s not finished by any means, but I sent my professor an email basically saying contrary to my lack of participation in class and my horrible grades, I’m not a quitter. I’m handing this in for me and I just want to see if I’ve improved. So whatever penalty comes with handing it in late, I accept. What I can’t accept is knowing I worked so hard over the weekend to improve on something and not show myself or my professor that I actually did put in the work to improve, even if it’s a small part of the assignment.

Some of the epiphanies I’m having about grad school includes the fact that my education really is for me.

I’m spending all of this money, for me.

It’s not about what my professor thinks. Hell, I didn’t even have to explain myself in the email, but I wanted to. I wanted to get those things off my chest for me. The email wasn’t even for my professor, it was an affirmation to myself that she can bear witness too. I could care less as to what her response will be and have told myself to not even worry about it. I actually prefer she grade my work and not respond to the email. But she will. She’s aware of the difficulty I’ve been having, but she’s been pretty much hands off unless I ask her about something. It’s grad school, we’re grown. It’s my education and not anyone else’s so I own that.

I certainly care about my grades, but for a class with this much hardship, I do have to take it to the basics of celebrating small victories and learning for the sake of learning and not for mastery of a topic. I don’t plan on nor do I want to be an epidemiologist, but I understand how this information will inform decisions I make and how I analyze information in the public health arena. So I don’t pooh-pooh the necessity of the course. I just wish that circumstances allowed me to just take that class alone instead of with another class, as I had done this semester. Lesson learned.

I will say this, the difference between when I’d get frustrated in a math class in high school and undergrad and now is, I let setbacks in those classes make me question my entire intelligence, which is absurd. I’m older and I know better. My participation and enthusiasm in my policy class is like night and day. I’m sure some of my classmates are tired of hearing me talk in that class. Those classmates would probably get some pleasure out of my silent frustration if they saw me in epidemiology.

So, back to the point of this whole thing. This is for me.

A smart person once told me when getting your graduate degree, it’s a lie to call it yours. It belongs to the school. They create the rules and you have to jump through hoops they establish to get it. You have no say in the matter. You earn the right to hold the degree, but it isn’t yours.

While I get the point that person made, I’m going to disagree. My education belongs to me and recognizing that, I didn’t let the machine totally get to me because I did the work for me this week, not for a grade. I’m competing against myself. And I knew if I went another day willfully not handing in that assignment, I would have been disappointed with myself.

I would have been even more disappointed if the few pitiful points I will earn for it (with late penalty) would have been the exact amount of points I needed to barely pass the class. And I deserved to give myself that chance at earning that potential down-to-the-wire, millisecond, photo finish.

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Undergraduate life Vs. Grad life

I graduated from undergrad 10 years ago, yes, if you read the blog regularly you know this fact.

However, this is important because 10 years ago, I was 22 years old. I entered college at 18 years old.

I’ve entered my graduate studies at 32.

The differences in my lifestyle and habits as a student often crack me up. I’d been wanting to write a post about it, but, alas. My 32-year-old, full-time working, three class taking arse has been tired and clearly busy.

I wanted to fight a guy who texted me this morning talmbout, “Where have you been, I haven’t heard from you.” After I went on my tirade about doing nothing but work projects and school and trying to eat, sleep and poop in between, his response is “Cool. Are you still single?”

I fought the urge not to take off my shoe and throw it across the room. I digress.

The point is, I’d like to point out some of the differences I’ve observed between my undergrad life and my grad studies life.

In undergrad, you may have taken two or three classes a day for three to five days a week. You may have had a job or an internship.

In grad school if you choose to still work your job/job… you know the one you got your undergrad degree in, the stakes are a tad higher. You likely have your own spot you are paying rent/mortgage on, car payments, credit card bills, food… either way, you have more pressure to produce and stay employed. You still have to have energy and brain power to do what you need to do for your job, and still bring it for your class discussions and assignments.

In undergrad, time management was merely a suggestion. Something responsible classmates and older folks tossed around. In undergrad, procrastination was the way of life. Instant gratification was way more important than proper planning. You’re young and beautiful and you have energy. You can live off of the McDonald’s menu and Mountain Dew Code red and pull a paper or project out of your butt crack only hours before walking into class and handing it in.

Not so in grown up grad world.

You set aside time in your planner to plan planning.

You plan when you pee. You plan when you are going to call someone back, like um your parents who want to make sure you are alive. You plan when to wash and twist your hair (2 hours). You plan the one day out of the week where you refuse to do any work, but if you’ve planned a concert or a dinner out with friends, you amend your planned chill day so you can get ahead on your work so you can enjoy the planned events on a non-planned open day. Whew.

In undergrad, there were days you just weren’t up for going to class. There were quite a few of them. And you didn’t go.

In grad school, you are all about those attendance and participation points just in case they will make the difference in the end. Because when you don’t show up and you realize those points kept you from your desired grade, you bang your head on things.

In undergrad, you don’t believe your professors when they say everyone does poorly on this test or this unit or this project. You think you are better, you think you are different and you think you’ll still ace this thing with the minimal amount of effort. You’ll show them.

In grad school, you not only believe your professors, but you freak out and spend two weeks before said test, project or paper trying to figure out how to at least do better than the worst folks.

In undergrad group projects suck. They just do. There’s usually only one really responsible person and they never stand up for themselves or call folks out on their bs. Folks depend on them, they carry it for the group and the wack people remain wack for another day.

In grad school, you are surrounded by the responsible people from undergrad. How do you think they got this far? Nobody is trying to even hear or entertain excuses. Everyone has a full-time job, are officially grown people with serious responsibilities and have sacrificed their time, energy, and hours of sleep to pursue this degree… throw in some kids into the mix… if you don’t come prepared with your share of the work, not only will you get the side eyes of death, you’ll get cussed out mightily and rightfully so. So yeah, if you in a group assignment for grad, you better represent. The professor is the least of your problem if you are a slacker. You will get jumped by your group for underperformance.

In undergrad, you had to go through the accumulation of friends, fighting with said friends, the loss of friends to only be whittled down to a special few.

In grad school, most folks kind of have the reality game show mentality of “I didn’t come here to make friends.” Since you don’t have a lot of time anyway, and if you are in an online program like me, making genuine connections can kind of be tough. But when people connect, they make their alliances count. They may compliment you in a chat or an email about a point you made in class, or you may thank someone for finding out some additional information. There’s really no need for fakery, because no one has the time. They just won’t mess with you.

In grad school, you’ll find yourself comparing and contrasting your undergrad experience. It’s pointless. It’s a different beast.

In undergrad, your teachers spend a lot of time teaching you concepts, then you read about em and take a test.

In grad school, you read about the concepts, you learn and in class you need to ask your teachers for clarification. They illuminate how to apply this stuff. No vocabulary lessons or definitions in the live class. Nope. You better already know the terms they throw out.

In undergrad, folks can tell when you are bsing and didn’t do the work.

In grad school, folks can tell when you are bsing and didn’t do the work.

In undergrad, you may sleep all day because you partied all night.

In grad school, you sleep all day because it was your assigned day devoted to sleeping. This will be the most consecutive hours of sleep you’ll get all week.

In undergrad staying up till 2 or 3 isn’t a big deal, you’ll be distracted by friends.

In grad school, if you managed to get all of your work done before midnight, the day before your class, during the work week you count that as a win.

Does anyone have anything they’d like to add to the list? I’ve already gone over my allotted time for blogging. LOL

 

Season of Single

There have been plenty of pastors and older, wise married folks who have said, “Don’t rush into marriage. Learn how to enjoy your season of single.”

Most of the time, women, myself included have plugged our ears and started singing “la, la, la” because we wanted to be in love so badly. And what’s the highest height of romantic love? Getting married or so we think.

At 32, being in school and working and really having to prioritize my time has made me kind of realize that I’m nearing the end of my season of single, so I need to make it count.

All of my resources, my time, my money, my energy, my fun time, vacations they belong to me!

This is going to be the only time in my life where that is the case. We all know that I’m still on the fence about children, but I’m very interested in being married someday. I’m going to be sharing resources with someone. Even if he makes more than me or equal or whatever, I’m going to be sharing my resources, I’m going to be accountable to someone else.

I was just talking to a friend about how hectic my schedule is and about to become. I’m going to the Art of Cool music festival in Durham, NC next weekend; I have my 10 year reunion at my university; I’m going to attend a wedding in a city and state I’ve never been to in June and oh yeah, I’m still doing school. A good friend of mine is itching to go to Greece in the fall, and honestly, I’m ready to pull the trigger and do it.

This stage in my life is for ME. Now all stages in your life should be about you, but no other stage than right now is about me or will ever allow me this much freedom, even though it feels like every moment is accounted for because of my school and work schedule. The strictness of my schedule has actually opened me up to LIVING in my free moments. Even making the decision to take out thousands in student loans to go back to school, that was a conscious decision I made for ME and no one else. There’s something special about saying, I’m worth this. It’s going to work out because this is a part of my purpose. This is necessary. I’m already appreciating the benefits and what being back in school is doing for my mind and my self-esteem. I keep telling people this was the time to do what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have appreciated it the way I do now, I wouldn’t have a razor-sharp focus on why this is so important and so worth it if I did it any sooner.

I’m taking deep breaths and in my spare moments when I’m relaxing, I’m truly doing so. I may actually go off to Spa World in Va. and veg out for a few hours over this weekend to recharge since I’ve given up my Massage Envy membership.

It’s about me now and I get it. I fully get and appreciate it and it doesn’t feel selfish or wrong. I don’t feel guilty about it and while thinking about love and a future with a great person does hang over my head from time to time, I can say I’m happy right now and I’m happy alone. DID YOU HEAR THAT UNIVERSE? IM HAPPY WITH WHERE I AM AND WHO I AM RIGHT NOW!! Everything belongs to me right now. My money, my time. It’s my world. I have full autonomy to do exactly what I please with it. I’m learning to value how liberating and powerful that is, because this too is a season. This won’t always be the case. And when my season does change, I want to know that I took full advantage of every resource and moment and spare time and extra dollar so I won’t walk into my new season with any regrets. I can accept the joys that come with the next.

 

Pushing toward purpose

I won’t even fake.

It’s been a long and emotional week. Me and my friends said goodbye to a friend who passed away, we spent time with one another, thankful we are still living and healthy and making our little way in the world. I spent time with my parents, I laughed, I cried.

I helped one close relative put an end to one chapter in their life and watched them step out on faith to start anew. I was scared for them, but also proud of them too. Life is really unpredictable and complicated and we are all on this path to trying to be happy and it’s one of the most difficult things to accomplish because you basically can’t be happy all the time.

I’ve started prepping for my grad school classes that start this week and I’ve already learned about a whole lot and the material is exciting to me. One of my classes started out talking about the cells in our bodies and how these cells do nothing but try to help us stay balanced. The world is made up of all sorts of stuff that is in fact, trying to break us down and disturb our homeostasis, and all our body and mind wants to do is maintain that, but the environment that is around us, the air we breathe, the food we eat, our stress levels, the things that stress us out they continue to wage war on us everyday, and our poor, brave cells are fighting non stop to keep us mentally and physically balanced.

Isn’t that wild?

Life. That’s what it all is, trying to maintain balance, being cognizant of a whole lot of stuff that inherently attempts to break us and stop us, but like those cells, we fight. On a cellular level, even if it seems like we’ve given up mentally, our bodies are programmed to still fight until it burns out (cell death– which leads to ultimate breakdowns in health and eventually our own demise).

See? I’m learning stuff.

So I was up late last night prepping for my classes after driving five hours back from NY, and meeting a younger cousin visiting from Mississippi for dessert, dropping him off at a friend’s house. I was up until one a.m. and was deeply engrossed in the material I was studying. There were studies about the “weathering” effects on black Americans and that a middle-aged black person has an equal amount of wear and tear on the body and emotions as a very elderly white person. Disparities and injustice are real. And to see studies, and documentation confirming things black folks felt like the world tends to ignore and that we just have to live with it first affirmed me, then it made me sad, then it made me furious.

There are even terms for how black people are high functioning copers. That black women, no matter their economic status are the most highly stressed even though recent articles have said we have now become the most educated group in the country right now at really high rates.

Reading all of this at first made me proud, like yup, look at us we still achieve we still go higher. But then I got sad and upset. Why can’t the rest of the world see what I see, and even what these academics have found? But instead a lot of people see something else. Something completely different.

I do like that these courses are asking people to look at the complexities of society and the implications of things like racism, and classism and how it does affect the greater good.

I found myself in the texts, my brain working and wondering how I can craft solutions to these problems, to this calling I have to help women and children and people of color and the disenfranchised. I found an energy even at one a.m. I knew I was tired, but I knew I picked the right path.

I’m going to be exhausted. This is going to be tough. But this certainly feels like the right thing to do.

My Graduate Degree May Just Cost Less Than Starting A Family In Two Years

The decision to pursue a master’s degree in 2014 wasn’t an easy one.

All I could keep thinking about was the debt.

My father told me when I graduated from college nearly 10 years ago, that “the next one’s on you, kid.”

And I appreciate the sacrifices he and my mother made to give me an opportunity to have a fantastic education and experience that shaped my career and the rest of my life and how I was to see the world.

So this one’s on me.

I mainly decided to go back to school because it felt like this was the right time. I am so single it’s not funny, so I can’t blame a man for being a distraction, and I have no children to take all of my time, energy, youth and money.

Things at work have settled out, and if I can just hang on for two years, it’s all to the good. I can have my degree and get the professional change and new challenge I’ve been wanting, but just stopping short of getting with my current skill set and knowledge and experience.

Cool.

But you know how you sometimes have to talk yourself into an expensive trip or purchase and justify reasons you should do it?

Welp, I basically thought to myself, if I got married in the next two years, there are some numbers floating around the Web that report the average wedding these days would cost about $25,000.

That translates into about a year of grad school. Cool.

I’ve found other numbers that over the course of your child’s life you’ll spend about $241,000. The first two years, you’ll spend about $26,000 on your bundle of joy. Some sources like WebMd.com says, you may spend up to $15,000 just in hospital costs alone when you give birth.

So, now that I think about it. If I got married and pregnant and had a baby in the next two years, my degree (especially if I’m blessed with scholarships and grants) might actually turn out to be a bargain! Ha!

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