Since Grey’s Anatomy came on the scene, there’s been this notion that everyone has “their person.” As an only child and an introvert, I’m generally most comfortable sitting with my own thoughts and processing them by writing. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need our person. I was fortunate to find several as a graduate student. These people love you and support you without judgement. You share your fears and your secrets. They are the family you choose. This is especially true in graduate school and in academia. It’s difficult to articulate the experience to others and for them to understand how to support you if they haven’t been through it. Maintaining existing friendships and developing new ones in graduate school was critical for my success.
Grad school is a marathon. You must train, pace yourself, and practice self care or you’ll burn out before crossing the finish line. Sometimes these individuals serve a purpose during a particular time in your life and others will stay with you always.
During my masters program my classmates became my people. We drank wine and coffee in equal amounts, solved quantitative problems, wrote papers, held theme parties, and watched endless hours of The West Wing.
As a doc student your people become your lifeline. It’s an entirely different need because of the rigor and the time commitment. I needed someone who would let me safely run away, ask the tough questions, wipe away my tears, and tell me it was okay to quit if that’s want I wanted but that I could also be a college president. I needed others who would bring me into their family, share a meal, and sit on the floor and color when it got to be too much.
In addition to my parents, I was fortunate to have the same advisor throughout my two graduate programs. He became another father figure to me. I could come into his office crying (apparently there was a lot of crying in grad school) and leave knowing there wasn’t anything I couldn’t tackle.
Sometimes you lose your people like Meredith lost Christina and you need to negotiate the next phase of your life on your own. Other people are in it for the long haul. It seems that relationships are becoming a recurring theme here. Later we’ll tackle how to get through the post dissertation blues.