Sunday, September 27, 2009

Perspective on the life of a graduate student

I had started this blog post before comps but never finished it. However, I saw this post from LAF and decided it was time to complete it.

"Doctors spend a lot of time focused on the future…planning it, working toward it…but at some point you start to realize your life is happening now…not after med school, not after residency, right now. This is it, it’s here, blink and you’ll miss it."

I heard this quote while watching last season's Grey's Anatomy finale and it struck a chord with me. I thought that it described my life pretty well. Though I will never be responsible for actually doing brain surgery one day, I will be responsible for shaping the minds of our youth.

I've spent the past 4 years of my life in "fast-forward," taking classes, reading thousands of pages (no, not an exaggeration), writing papers for conferences, publications, doing revise & resubmits, teaching classes with one foot in the student door, and watching my life pass by. Every week I sit down on Sunday and schedule out my week into nice little segments...teaching 9:30-10:45, office hours 11-12, meeting 2-3, reading 5-8...and the sad part is that I have to remember to schedule in the fun stuff like football games and happy hours so I don't forget to relax. Not that I'm looking for any sympathy because I knew what I was getting into, but where did the past four years go?

I'm 27 years old, on the verge of becoming a PhD candidate (cross fingers & toes) and I often wonder, how did I get here? I live life day-to-day because it's less complicated, but I've lived over 1500 of those days in a blur. Of course there are days that shine through like presenting my first conference paper, seeing cities like Chicago, San Antonio, and Pittsburgh for the first time, graduating with my master's from Virginia Tech, seeing my name in an academic journal, meeting great students, cheering at football games, sailing in the Keys, and watching one of my great friends get married.

However, the past four years are not without its losses. My sacrifices include a relationship, a couple of friendships, my sanity at times, perspective on what's important, and time. I feel like I've lost a lot of time...time with friends, time with family, and time for my spiritual growth.

Don't fret, I've also gained...friends, colleagues, knowledge, a love for college football, and most importantly wisdom. The wisdom to realize I cannot do it all. The wisdom to know that you are only as good as the people in your life. The wisdom to see that I am lucky to be where I am and have my opportunities. The wisdom to know I am still learning (and will always be).

I guess the question now is...what will the next four years look like?