Grad School: Not for Kicks and Giggles

Though I’m not sure why you’re here, I am not here for kicks and giggles.

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It has been about two weeks since my last post. This is mainly because I’ve had a question that I have been investigating. I will share those thoughts with you next week. However, this week, I have seen somethings that leave me shook. Cue rant:

I realized that my understanding of attending a graduate program differs significantly from some other graduate students. Across departments, I often hear that grad school serves as a holding place for not getting a job or a safety net. This absolutely blows my mind. Of course, I understand that the job market is competitive and difficult to get into (mainly because you need experience to get entry level positions and it’s about who you know). I also understand that all students know is school. From k-12, you sit, listen to teachers, and take thousands of tests. Afterward, some students start jobs, careers, or families while a few go to college (if they can afford it or were given proper resources to apply). The idea behind going to undergrad is to get a certificate, an associates, or bachelors degree to get a job (or become a manager). And that’s just it. People can go to undergrad for experience, marks to elevate them to their next step, or just take classes for fun that their previous education did not cover (kicks and giggles). You are gaining general knowledge about an area to use in some practical way.

When you enter graduate school, you are making the statement that you are going to specialize in a certain area (or become the expert in the PhD track). These people DO NOT show up for kicks and giggles. The idea (or at least in my opinion) was that people go to grad school with an ultimate goal that can only be reached with specialization in that area. For example, I believe that I want to teach college students which means that I need at least a masters degree to be hired by a university and it would be nice to have some published work (for street cred). Within academia, they want you to get as many degrees as possible and have credible work to back up that knowledge. Those with other aspirations or want positions of great power and influence might also need more degrees to set them up for success. The point is, you come to grad school with an idea or goal in mind and you grind. You are processing information and adding knowledge to the academic community. It is intense. Specifically within Communication, I am doing a lot of reading, writing, and presenting those findings each week about new material. My brain hurts.

The shook part is observing graduate students who are on Facebook or texting their friends in lectures (like non-emergency, emoji conversations). It takes everything within me to not stare them square and say, “Leave.” If your timeline and gossip blogs are more important than this course content, go home! You do not have to be here. I do not think the professor is even taking roll. You are not engaged and now are distracting me with all the blue and white lights. Just leave. If this is not interesting to you and you do not want to be here…LEAVE. I just think it is disrespectful and devaluing the positions we are in. There are people in the room who 50…80…100 years ago, would not have been allowed to study there. These people would not have even seen it as an option. You sitting in that seat probably means another student around the country was wait-listed or declined. YOU CAN LEAVE.

Studying for your masters or doctorate is a big deal and is super tough. It is an opportunity that most people never get to experience. People come to grad school because they have goals they need or want to meet. They have things that they are interested in knowing more about. They are not here for kicks and giggles.

End rant. Now I have more reading to do.

Best,

CJ

Gap Year: Time Travel

This past weekend, I traveled back to my undergraduate campus. My original intention was to comfort a friend in their struggle to get to the finish line. However, as I lie in a mega bunk bed of my alma mater, I realized that I was judging them for acknowledging that they were struggling.

Often, it is easy to see negativity and hear problems from others and attempt to create solutions, rather than truly listening. Although I had heard what was causing their pain, I had not listened to its effects until I was left in the dark to the sound of their sleep. College can be tough for many of us, especially if you went to my school where there is constant pressure from all sides at all the time. It truly does take a strong individual to pause and say, “I need help. This is not working.” That level of honesty and vulnerability, luckily has kept my friend with me. Others going through similar challenges might have adopted unhealthy habits or self harmed themselves or simply stayed in that dark place like I once did.

I often hear people speak about trigger words; however, as I reflected on my travel and my conversations with my friend, I realized that my alma mater was a trigger location for this dark place that resided inside of me. I drove through campus not thinking about graduation, group sleep overs, or dancing through the night and into the next morning. I was thinking about my hike to the nearest Walmart at 6 am on Saturdays, because I was afraid of being raped or being attacked for walking alone as a black woman. I was thinking about the time when I dropped to my knees in the middle of the quad near midnight and cried until my soul was dry. And then afterward, like a robot, I dried my eyes, stood up, grabbed my things, and continued finishing my art project against my body’s will. I remembered the day that I skipped classes, turned off my phone, and went for a long drive on some back roads. On that day, I had no destination and as I sped through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, I thought to myself, “What if I just veer too far to the right? What if I go fast enough that I won’t feel the moment when my heart stops?” And those are just a few moments in which I was proud of my friend for saying enough was enough. I thanked the heavens that I could hold them between my arms and near my heart. It was memories like that that reminded me how great friends are just as important, if not more important than, blood relatives.

On my way back home, I focused on detoxing those negative feelings and ghosts of my campus from my body. I listened to music that allowed my mind to process the experience. I spoke of all the positive experiences from seeing my friends. I meditated and held my great grandmother’s necklace close to me. I had six hours of a drive to cleanse my body of those points in time in which I was scared, alone, exhausted, broken, and empty. Most people would say that this is all an exaggeration and that college is the best part of your life. Yet these are moments in my past that I have never even whispered.

Before this trip, I hadn’t realized how much time manifests itslf within our reality. I had never imagined that my first trip back since leaving the stage as a graduate would transform my energy so much. Because of this, I will be more mindful of what I allow into my space, but more importantly, who I allow into my space. This experience reminded me of my strengths and talents as a fixer, artist, and friend. It also showed me areas of growth. Overall, I think this trip made me reassess all of my toxic relationships and thoughts.

I know that as a Taurus (ya, I’m into Zodiacs…y’all the energy of this universe is real) I do not like change. For me personally, it is super tough to get rid of people who I once considered to be friends and support systems. But I learned that as I grow, my support systems can also adjust with me. It’s not necessarily that they are bad people, but they are no longer needed to get me to the next level and vice versa. Again, by dating myself and putting myself first, I have to think about what is in my best interest and what will help me grow. This does not include those who are social media followers (yet ghosts IRL), people who make me feel inadequate, people who don’t communicate directly with me, and those are not honest with me.

So while my intention was to go and solve my friend’s problem, I ended up putting myself in check and reevaluating what I know about my emotions and friends. All it took was one night with my face buried into my friend’s batman body pillow as inspiration. This trip was an important turning point for me, because it made me think about my priorities again. In light of this learning, I have reexamine my small circle of awesome friends who support my growth.

Best,

Cayla Jae