Written By Cash, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series
I’m a scientist – by trade, but also just by my life patterns. I like to investigate everything that comes my way, but my absolute favorite form of research is “me-search.” It’s not often that you get to use yourself as a case study when exploring new topics! For this topic, however, I will be giving you all the inside scoop on what they don’t tell you about going back to school.
First, let’s set-up the methods and participation parameters of this “me-search.” I am a 30-year-old woman (who feels like she’s been 90 since she was born, but that’s another topic for another day!) I recently left a pretty successful full-time position where I was moving up in the academic ranks to go back to school and follow my life-dream of getting a PhD. So, now, here we are, in theory,
an old-ass, returning student, who also managed to move countries in the middle of a pandemic.
These parameters come with a lot of good! But, there’s also many things that have shown up for me in this journey over the past few months. As a life-investigator, I thought it would be important to share just a few results from my “me-search” for anyone who is trying to replicate this personal study:
- Exhaustion – you will have double the exhaustion for doing the basic things. As a full-time salaried career woman I was BUSY (like, all the time). I rarely had time away from work, but absolutely enjoyed it. I remember being tired at the end of the day the way any person who worked 12 hours on a project would be. However, going back to school, the level of reading and thinking on this high intellectual level, I was tired after about 2 straight hours. And, when I say tired I don’t mean “I’m about to yawn tired”. I mean the type of exhaustion you feel after running a marathon and your cells are thrusting for energy to recuperate. I couldn’t believe it. The cool thing is, as I’m sure you know, you will get used to it! So remember, the exhaustion will come. But, it’s normal and eventually it won’t be so bad.
- Deeper appreciation – going back to school at this age and with the wisdom that I have gained over the last few years, I am so much more appreciative of the systems set up to help me succeed. I remember when I was in undergrad I was almost too cool to see the counselor. BAYBE, trust me I made an appointment DAY 1 when I got here. I forgot how amazing Universities are at creating supportive systems to help push college students to success. I am involved now with these methods of support in a way I hadn’t been in undergrad and graduate school. If you’re going back to school, take advantage of all the things (especially the free things) that are there for you.
- Imposter syndrome – is at an all time high – wooh. This one right here?… Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern that individuals experience where they doubt their abilities, talents, and accomplishments (so much so, that they might feel like a fraud in conversations or spaces). To be completely honest with you? I feel like I’m not supposed to be here on a daily basis. It’s just the way the system is set-up to make us feel. But, I want to share a life hack with you that has helped me to work through this mental block. Get a hobby or a job that you’re really good at. Choose something that someone might even call you an “expert” in. As egotistical as this might sound, having the balance of learning new things every day and coming back to something old that makes you feel whole helps to keep feelings of insecurity at bay. My further advice? Don’t mix those two worlds. Have a space where you are a life-student and a space you can go to when you need to fuel your confidence and give back to others. This dichotomous existence helps balance the imposter syndrome and it gives you a way to feel needed and supported when your mind might be telling you otherwise.
- Finally, if you are going back to school during this pandemic, find social outlets – I’m the type of person that can do anything alone, school included. I pride myself on being an introvert and a lone wolf, which suits my lifestyle very well. However, this type of isolation that we might feel during the pandemic is just different, and can be detrimental to our overall, long-term wellbeing. Personally, I needed to find “my people” in this new country who I knew were like-minded and could help me to focus on what was really important in my life. For me, this was a solidarity and social justice group at my University. Everytime I get the chance to be in communion with them, I know I am supporting myself and my journey, while intentionally serving others. This space has been instrumental in my own happiness while completing breathtakingly deep-rooted work to create more spaces of belonging and inclusivity.
In conclusion of this “me-search” case-study, I’ve found that going back to school has it’s difficulties and its perks, especially during a pandemic as an older student. However, it’s more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. Being the age and space that I am in now, I appreciate many more things involved in this journey then I believe I would have as a younger me. So, if you’re debating going back right now, do it. And, I hope these little reminders help to ground you, but also to be reminded that there are others out there supporting you as you embark on your own “me-search.”
– Cash, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series