Top 3 Characteristics of a Grad Student

Initially, the goal was to provide the world with week by week insight into the mind of a graduate student; however, we’re not so much different than other humans living in a struggle bus. Graduate students question everything, neglect self care, and want to be great.

Question Mark

Whenever you enter a new level, position, or school, the beginning involves a version of breaking the student down. People come in with rich backgrounds and amazing experiences which make them unique, but upon entering graduate school you have to build from the core. We often get lost in the “stuff” (e.g. titles, accomplishments, travel, memories) and forget about the “us.”

You could argue that breaking people is a negative practice. It’s quite possible that I’m simply brainwashed by now, but I argue that for some people it’s a necessary evil. In speaking about the core, working in graduate school challenged my beliefs and how I saw myself. Because ideas and perspectives are changing, it makes it difficult to write or journal coherently. However, towards the end, when you’re allowed to breathe parts of the big picture start to form. This process of reshaping the mind is helpful if one already questions things and themselves.

The key learnings here are: you are already great; do what you enjoy and do it well; you are never static, but always changing; it is okay not to have answers; and sometimes there is no meaning besides what you attribute to it.

Care for Self

Because people don’t keep themselves or their core at the center, they allow themselves to neglect the care they are silently begging for. When we get lost in the things (e.g. obligations, deadlines, accomplishments, etc.), we forget how important we are. The stress from graduate school and the normalized self neglect cause people to not eat, drink alcohol excessively, put off crying, skip grooming, and stop playing, amongst other things. This is dangerous in that the things allow them to forget themselves and become delirious. Graduate students reading this right now have probably already nodded their head in argument, giggled under their breathe, and continued self harming.

It is important for us to stay alert and watch for these signs. Although the focus is not about changing their minds, it is providing alternative options or ideas that they might consider. So I will not argue against a keg party or an average of 2 hours a sleep per week, but I will bring up how the combination of stress, alcohol, and lack of self care could be why they feel bad…and could make them feel worse. It’s not meant to judge, just an observation.

The key learnings here: graduate students don’t like it when you judge them; graduate students like when you comfort them with words; encouraging things like baths, vegetables, and breaks might not go over well, but with time can be done; and remember that you are human before student or employee.

The GOAT

Greatness is subjective. Our worlds have become so intertwined with social media, television, travel, etc. We know more now about what other people are doing and feel as though we are unsuccessful in the lane next to them. However, your life is your own race in your own lane. You are already great, you just need to find joy, happiness, and what can fill your cup.

I have been told in the past to find something that I do better than almost anyone else and have fun doing it. This is so hard. For some, finding passion or talent is simple. For others (like me), it’s tough because we think we’re great at nothing or everything. The combination of finding something that I both enjoy and am good at is tough, because I also want it to be something that is holistically healthy for me. But again, it’s a matter of just being honest with yourself.

I’m finally getting to a point where I’m filling my own cup and am able to identify that which is holding me back. I am listening to my gut which encourages me to move a lot, but tells me what I enjoy. I am continuing to ask all of the questions to all of the more adulty adults. Finally, next semester, I have plans to build in a structure for myself and develop small goals to make these stressful years more enjoyable.

The key learnings here: be honest and vulnerable with yourself and take a moment to talk to yourself about what it is you want (not what you think others want or need from you). Just do you, boo.

Best,

CJ

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Back to Top Priorities

Weeks ago, I wrote about priorities and choices. I wrote about my top priority always being the warm embrace of happiness. Throughout life, our choices may be limited or affected by our environments which question our commitments to that which matters the most.

I left undergrad in a place that was uncertain but proud. I had finally met Cayla. I listened to, supported, and embraced her. Through allowing her to thrive, I learned that she needed to be in the gym at least 3 days out of the week, silence for a good portion of the day, and to create things that were both important to her and others. And even if I moved, it was my responsibility to ensure that she continued to have those things which made her smile.

I did not do my job well. During this gap year experience, I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped supporting myself. I placed myself too far from my chosen family, outside of the gym, into 57 hours per week of noise, and within an uninspiring location. Instead of listening to her, I added distractions to my life which have veer me off of a path that I fought so hard to build.

At one point, I knew that I was meant to live alone somewhere near the sun. Somewhere where I could read books, enjoy hot tea, and dance to the sound of the wind. I knew that I wanted to help people by creating solutions to issues that make my heart sad. I knew that I didn’t care for economic wealth, just financial stability with zero debt. I knew that I would move the bubble to a place I could call home.

However, this year, I have developed unhealthy relationships and habits. I can’t remember the last book I read nor cup of tea I’ve drank. In the past, when I danced, there were always two friends who’d join in, but now I’m more of a spectacle. I have an endless list of things to do and no motivation to start them. I lie in bed eating marshmallows and watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 10th time thinking about all the places my body screams to go to.

9 months ago, Cayla would’ve written this to current Cayla:

1. Set Priorities

2. Assess Your Situation

3. Check Happiness

4. Plan Small Goals

My ultimate priory is to be happy and have silence. I can’t get that from anyone but myself.

I’ve allowed people into my space who don’t deserve my attention. However there were quite a few new relationships that I hope will stick. I’m also making some good decisions with how use my money. So I feel that I just need more structure to my life to rebuild some good and healthy habits.

I am unhappy because I’m not content with my environment. I want more choices and freedom than I currently have. I feel like I’m suffocating. As result, I’ve become more defiant and nasty, because I’m fighting… without a goal (besides freedom of course).

My current plan is to finish my service term within the next 2 weeks. Once released from service, I can allot time to think about myself, achievable goals, and actually follow through. So small steps: finish service, live alone in a pretty place, join a gym/ dance studio, read for pleasure, and eat healthy.

Hopefully by this time next month, I will have attempted some of these goals to get back to my priorities.

I’m Trying Not To Care

Semi-Structure Mini Rant about how fake and sick my view of my world is. And gee, was it cathartic.

Semi-Structure Personal Rant Here:

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

I’ve been taking some days to myself, since I’ve fallen back into my busy bee habit. I was hoping that with every renewed 24 hours I’d get closer to answering that which doesn’t exist yet stings so hard and rings so loud. It’s human logic and greed that suffocates and confuses me.

It’s the reason I cringe when people ask “what’s all in you” or “how’d you get good hair.” It’s the reason I pause when I catch myself saying “why would she accept the drink” rather than “when did they learn it was okay to poison the drink.” Its that learned reason I smile and pleasantly get myself out of situations of sexual harassment on a weekly bases. Its the hesitation I face walking into a gender neutral bathroom, even though I believe people have a right to pee and poop in which ever stupid room has toilet paper and soap. Its the boiling in my gut when people say “i need to eat more” or say that I’m not their standard of beauty because I’m not a curvy girl. It’s the helplessness that divides me when students are pleading in blood, everyone but the 1% is praying for a better tomorrow, and the U.S. looks like some terrible, sick joke in a world full of knowledge. It’s the reason I tell myself not to care because people vote and things don’t change, people march and things don’t change, people document and things don’t change, people cry and beg and reason and things still don’t change.

And you’re told to pray, because even if things don’t change, tomorrow might be a little brighter or maybe you’ll be lucky enough to die and take refuge in heaven. And you’re told to be persistent and optimistic, because not everything is all bad, I mean look at your privilege. And you’re told to watch your words, tone, and actions, because you’ll fit the stereotypes or you won’t get that job or you’ll just be another misunderstood social media meme.

Every day you scroll through articles and posts that are so triggering and terrifying, you’re paralyzed. But I’m not sure others see it. And you focus on work because you need a house and food and zero debt. But I don’t think others think it’s problematic. And you try not to educate yourself because you see the dots and it makes you sad. And maybe others won’t think you truly understand.

And hey, maybe you don’t understand that a country built on the back, blood, spirit, and knowledge of the oppressed, has written its history to have been the savior of the unjustifiable horrors. And then celebrate such hatred in subtly or heck have a memorial day for it. Maybe you don’t understand that years of neglect, trauma, and insane classification, have lead to broken families, wounded hearts, violent communication, and nonexistent bootstraps. Maybe you don’t understand that intersectionality and a multifaceted identity, has caused so much internal and external confusion. Maybe you don’t understand how toxic relationships and situations can be so normalized. Maybe you don’t understand that it’s not about you and you can’t fix your country (that’s not even really your country because your ancestors didn’t choose it, but for some reason anyone who does choose it, has to wait to be chosen).

I’m not angry, I’m disappointed. I’m not a know it all, I’m curious. I’m not “not black enough,” I’m a culmination of my ancestors prayers. I’m not unappreciative or woke, I’m honest. I’m not adding to the “black agenda” or on some bandwagon, I’m hurt. I’m not “too sensitive,” I’m speaking out. I’m not steady and won’t just smile and be pretty and be happy…I don’t even know where to start.

It feels like there’s been a huge valley carved into the body of someone silenced by labels and stupid human’s needs to consume everything good. But instead of assessing the injury or stitching them back together, we lay 1/5th of a bandaid over it and then set it on fire and try again. I hate being confused, hypocritical, and unrightfully judged. I hate thinking that common sense isn’t so common. I hate feeling toxic, powerless, and just not enough. I hate wanting approval and perfection. I hate explaining my hesitation to living life, suspicion in new places (without enough black people), or my experience with race to those who “just don’t agree.”

And suddenly, somehow, everything you know is smoke and mirrors. But, you know, not even the real smoke, just an intern dropping dry ice.

Because race is some bull that oppressors made up to make themselves feel better. And gas lighting allowed terrible people to sleep better at night. And ethnicity determines your eulogy. And all of the isms just feed into some constructed lens of reality that just isn’t real. And people say what they hear without a question, yet only question you because they haven’t placed you yet.

We owe money to people we can’t see and for a system that doesn’t support us. We sell our time, bodies, and minds for a machine that doesn’t nurture us. We have blind loyalty to that which we don’t understand and we’re okay with it because we see only what we want in our mirrors. Because maybe it’s more frightening to see what’s just outside of the funhouse. Some idea of fun it is.

I don’t know. Millennial rant over. I’ll go back to eating avocados while trying to rationalize my choices.

Heros Wanted: What’s Your Super Power?

The world could use a little love and help from you. Let’s find your Super Power today!

In a world where children run on leashes, umpa lumpas run the government, and memes run wild, it’s challenging to find what makes you you and unique. We are so distracted by noise, drama, and entertainment that we’re get disconnected from ourselves.

Most of my posts ask the question of your priorities and skills sets, but I don’t think we’ve ever dug deep into how you determine that. Today’s post will do just that, because in a world of distraction, we need grounded people who know who they are.

1. What Do You Do Well?

Although this may seem simple, people struggle with this question. So your answer can take time. This shouldn’t be a “I do everything well.”

Choose a maximum of 5 things you’re good at. Some questions to help you figure that out: Why do people come to you for advice? What projects or assignments have you enjoyed and excelled at? What themes or topics do you engage with? What interests you?What requires little assistance from other people? What skills have you acquired? What roles do you usually fill? How are these things connected?

Then just simplify everything to one or two words. For example, people come to me for help with resumes, entrance essays, and important emails. I’m sought out for art commissions, creative direction, clerk duties, and to handle people or celebrities. I think I do many things well: dance, sing, paint, draw, write, talk, etc. But let’s connect the dots!

What I do well: coordinate/ organized, research, effective communication, creativity, focused, and honest. People can depend on me to get the job done and tell them what they need to hear.

2. What Do You Enjoy?

This is super important, because if your job as a superhero is to put out fires around the city, but you can’t endure heat… we have a problem!

Let’s define enjoyment as things that you can get lost in for hours, brings joy/ smile to your face, and something that makes you extremely proud. So now create a maximum of 8 things that you enjoy.

Here’s some questions to help: What gets you moving in the morning? What could you talk about for hours? What do you read, watch, or see often? What do you value and why? What describes a fun night to you? What do you enjoy most about other people? What do you ask questions about? What do you care about? What grinds your gears? What could you never say no to? Now do these things connect?

Music is the only thing that gets me going in the mornings, otherwise I’m a zombie. When I’m inspired, I can get lost in art. I enjoy languages, food, dancing, ranting, and teaching. I follow the golden rule and wish everyone had common sense or empathy.

3. What Do You Bring to a Team or Group?

What individual strengths do you bring to the table? What is your skill set? What are you exceptional at?

So now we need to think of you in a collaborative setting because sometimes you have side kicks or you and another superhero have a common enemy. What is unique about you?

Guiding questions: What adjectives are used to describe you? What qualities do you possess that helps a team advance? What roles do you have on teams or in your family? What would your friends, family, or coworkers say about you? What qualities are important for leadership and teamwork? What do you value? What do others value about you?

Choose a maximum of 10 words this time. What makes you you? I’m organized, reliable, focused, I want my team to look good and be on the same page, artistic, detail oriented, and big picture.

4. What Is Your Super Power?

Now, our job is to put it all together. What do your lists have in common? What industries or position could they fit well? Who could you help? What is your super power?

Let’s go back to what you do well, what you enjoy, and what you bring to a team. I said:

“People can depend on me to get the job done and tell them what they need to hear.”

“Music… I enjoy languages, food, dancing, and teaching. I follow the golden rule…common sense or empathy.”

“I’m organized, reliable, focused, I want my team to look good and on the same page, artistic, detail oriented, and big picture.”

Overlap: I am artistic, organized, and dependable. I want to tell people what they need to hear.

This list will help you see your strengths and interests in a different way. The goal is to not only identify them but to see how they could be useful to you. Your Super Power doesn’t have to include everything but the most important parts that stand out.

For example, my list shows that I work well with people and meet their expectations. My Super Power is that I make people fall in love with me. With effective communication and a little focus it doesn’t take much to interpret what people want. In a way I’m a mind reader and I develop patterns with people to make them adore me. I use art, language, details, and focus to accomplish it.

I hope this post helped you. If you have any questions or get stuck, feel free to comment below. My mission is to help you, because the world needs more people who know their skill sets and can use them effectively.

Best,

Cayla Jae