Ever since I can remember, people have told me that “God won’t give me more than I can handle.” I appreciate the cliché, but sometimes I also wonder who God thinks I am. How does he look at my life and myself and say “Yeah, she can handle this”?
My first two weeks of graduate school have been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. While I feel fulfilled and happy and excited and satisfied on the one hand, my other hand is shaking under the pressure and feeling a little overwhelmed and scared and anxious and nervous. Lately, I’ve been besieged by a multitude of feelings and emotions, feelings and emotions that I have had ample time to investigate over the past two weeks. Perhaps this level of introspection arises from the fact that I have yet to begin working. I was hired, yes, but I’m still in the paperwork phase. At first I loved all of my free time. Now, I’m remembering why I killed myself with an impossible schedule in undergrad – free time leads to more hours of worry.
I’ve been settling in quite well here, but at the same time I feel as though I’m receiving so many messages that say “Don’t stop and get comfortable here,” “Don’t get too attached,” “Decide where you’re going next,” and “DO IT ALL RIGHT NOW”! The pressure has been building, and because I’ve had so much time to contemplate just how much pressure I’ve been feeling, I’m already beginning to crack. Is it not enough to deal solely with moving hundreds of miles away from my home, my family, my friends, and my boyfriend? Must I also tackle planning the rest of my life RIGHT NOW? According to my school’s advisers, yes, I must. I must make plans and figure it all out immediately.
In my previous post, I talked about my tendency to plan and the fact that I’ve been struggling with my compulsive need to know the next five steps in my life. Today after a frantic and rather ranting discussion with my boyfriend, I understand that it’s okay to plan as long as I don’t lose my hold on the present. He tells me that I need to stop worrying about what comes next and just live. I agree, but I also know that I will always be a worrier. He says to look to my generally successful past to assure myself that I have carved the best possible path for myself. I agree, but I also know that I have a hard time trusting myself.
See the thing is, I’ve been feeling a little conflicted about my choice of specialization. In my Hurricane-Irene-make-up class on Friday, my professor asked each of us to introduce ourselves and to state why we are currently here pursuing a graduate degree in English. Simple enough. I listened to my classmates as they spoke and lost track of time as I delighted in what a diverse and interesting group we are. Before I knew it, the class was staring at me, and I had not planned my speech. I began talking saying what came to mind and found myself recalling my experiences at UCF‘s Writing Center: “I worked at UCF’s Writing Center for two years and fell in love with working with college students and their writing… Oh, and I love Medieval literature.”
When I finished speaking, I realized that for the fist time my interest in working with students’ writing came before my love for Medieval knights, ladies, castles, and magic. What? Haven’t I spent the last two and a half years killing myself to study Medieval lit and expended all of my efforts getting to Seton Hall to do just that? Aren’t I staring down the woman whose research influenced my outlook on the whole discipline and calling her my professor? Where did this interest in “college students and their writing” come from? I freaked myself so thoroughly that I’ve spent this entire weekend stressing over how to choose a PhD field of study.
After chatting with (aka venting all of my worries and troubles to) my boyfriend tonight, I feel better. He helped me see that, yes, I must choose a field for PhD study, but choosing a primary field does not mean I must abandon all other interests. I can study Medieval literature and work with students. I can become a medievalist (or a medievalismist, as my undergrad thesis adviser called me) and still teach composition and writing (perhaps even direct a Writing Center), and it will be that very second interest that makes me, well, interesting. I am a human and not a machine. My mind and interests and passions will inevitably be multifaceted, and I should not shrink from them – I should, in fact, embrace them all.
Once again I have come to the end of a post in a much more cheerful attitude than I began, but I also know that my worries are not entirely dissolved. They are there, still, beneath my confident facade and my nascent sense of trust in my own abilities. I leave you all with the same quote that my boyfriend shared with me:
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!
I know that I want this, this life in academia. I know that it is right for me. I know that I can do it and that I do not need to sacrifice any of my many interests in order to be successful. I will inevitably face disappointment and will definitely face setbacks along the way, but as my boyfriend pointed out, that has never stopped me before now.
So it is with a confident, but not cocky, voice that I say I trust God’s evaluation of my abilities and that I trust myself to make the right decisions. It is also with steady legs that I say, “Onward.”