Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Things I Learned in Grad School This Semester

As I sit at my kitchen table writing this, the first thing that strikes me is the lack of books, papers, notebooks, pens and highlighters scattered everywhere.   This is the first time since the summer my kitchen table has been clear (of course except this laptop).  I returned my rented textbooks, threw away past assignments that were useless and filed those that potentially could help me in the future.   This semester is over.   I am loading up my car tomorrow and driving home to Ohio to be with my friends, family and boyfriend--basically the people who mean the most to me.  I'm stoked.  I'll be honest.

Being a naturally self-reflective person, endings always make me introspective.  What did I learn this semester in grad school?  Hmm, a few odds and ends about school counseling: Holland's Code, The ASCA National Standards, the best ways to protect against law suits... But what did I really learn?  Really?

1. I have been and will always been a homebody
I try to leave Ohio and live other places.   I tried to go to D.C. when I graduated from U.D., I tried to go to D.C. when I graduated from high school, and now, here I am, living in Baltimore.  And I hate it.   I don't think it's that I hate Baltimore as much as it is that I love home.   Dayton feels like home.   Columbus feels like home.  I don't know why I keep trying to leave.  I need to just accept I was born in Ohio, I'll probably get married in Ohio, raise kids in Ohio, and die in Ohio.

2. Sometimes calling mom/dad/boyfriend is to feeling good what the atomic bomb is to warfare.
Unfortunately for the people I love, many of the conversations I've had this semester involve declarations of 1) how much I miss them 2) how much I hate grad school or...sometimes I just cry a lot. But it feels really good to know after sitting in class all day being confronted with everything from eye rolls to outright hostility from your classmates feeling stupid and incompetent, someone, albeit someone 400 miles away, thinks you're ok.  And loves you just the way you are (even if you leave all the cabinet doors open and never close the tab on the cereal box).

3. You get no points for being kind or honest
I certainly am not trying to paint myself as a sainted figure, I am not.  See above:  I never close the the tab on the cereal box! I also curse like a sailor, drink like a fish, and secretly find old people really, really annoying. But I can say, unequivocally, I have never in my adult life done something with the intention of hurting, belittling, or taking advantage of someone else.  I know many people who cannot say this.  It just isn't in me to cut someone down.  In my head (or sometimes out loud in the shower) I display wit and oratory magnificence whilst I hypothetically tell someone exactly how they have besmirched the merit of the entire human race.  Take that establishment!  But when the moment presents itself in real life, I just sit and take whatever someone gives me, because God forbid I should make them feel as terrible as they're currently in the process of making me feel.  I blame my mother, who told me she didn't care what else I was as long as I was a kind person.  I guess I took that to heart.  Which is probably why I have been so shocked this semester at the behavior of a few of my classmates.  We're supposed to be school counselors--how are you going to tell a kid not to bully someone when you are a bully yourself?  For real, if you were Charisse's kid she'd give you a spanking.  Obviously they didn't have a great mommy like Charisse.  Many of these bullies have perfected not being kind, but instead the art of stepping on people, taking credit where it isn't due, and somehow, getting away with it a fair portion of the time.  I have all the conniving prowess of a baby deer.  I know that the more I gossip, the more I accuse (even if it's warranted) the more I look like a vituperative cow.    But then no one hears my side of the story.  Yet, the bully on the other hand, is telling everyone high and low why I'm wrong and she's right.  And they believe her! So I lose.  But I'd rather be like me than like her.

4. I don't give a fuck about being a straight A student
They talk a lot about "self-care" in counseling.  Apparently many counselors do so much they don't leave time for themselves.  Many of my classmates admitted they have these tendencies, and will neglect all other things while working on a project.  "Try to achieve work-life balance," our professor urges us.   Shit, honey,  I got this on lock.  There is nothing worth getting in the way of my eight hours of sleep.  I plan ahead so I've never had to pull an all-nighter, but if I was faced with the option, I would leave the project undone and go to bed.  I'll take the bad grade over psychosis brought on by sleep deprivation.  I visited my boyfriend in Ohio before midterm and I only studied the hour I was on the plane, as opposed to you know, studying properly.  Spending an entire stress-free weekend with my boyfriend was SO worth getting a B+ instead of an A on that midterm.

5. Things keep happening to you until you learn from them
I have had issues feeling like an outsider or being bullied my entire life.  The film "Mean Girls" is actually a documentary about my life--I am the girl in the gym who has a lot of feelings.   I think it's because I care SO MUCH what people think of me.  I want to be liked.  I need to be liked.  I am devastated when people don't like me.  This same issue has emerged in grad school.  One part of me thinks, "why always me," but this time, I feel like I figured out what I was supposed to learn.  Some people are implacable and will hate me no matter what I do.  Fuck those people.  Some people don't care enough about me to feel one way or the other. That's ok.  Some people like me.  Yay!   There will always be those three groups of people.  I can't worry about it.   I need to focus on the people who like me, and realize, you know what, I don't like most of the people who dislike me anyway.  Birds of a feather flock together, and I want my gander to be chock full of funny, kindhearted, and down-to-earth people.  Someone else can have the ambitious, conniving, cruel, stupid, boring birds.

6.  I like myself a whole lot
I know, I know!  It's shocking!  I leave the tab open on cereal boxes!  But I'm happy.  I live my life in a way that is consistent with my values, I serve God, and I genuinely want to help others.  What more can I do?  So what if I'll always have a little beer gut, so what if I will never be the homecoming queen... I'm on board the Annie-train.  Even though I say things like that.  

So that's what I learned this semester.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!