Grad School Diaries: A Prologue

Do you remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach on Christmas morning? The anticipation and excitement caused all kinds of flutters and butterflies. Or maybe the feeling you had as an awkward 7th grader, seeing your crush walk by–the warm, fluttery feeling of contentment and potential that popped up whenever you’d run into them “by accident” in the hallway.

That same sort of fluttery anticipation is how I feel about starting grad school tomorrow. Every time I think about classes starting I get that same feeling of excitement. I guess that’s a sign that I made the right choice?

It’s another first day of school, one I didn’t originally anticipate happening, but here it is.

Is there a specific etiquette I’m supposed to follow now that I’m a grad student? I’ve got the stressed, over-caffeinated part down pat after four years at a newspaper, but is that not cool anymore? Am I supposed to be calm, cool, and collected now, giving off a vibe of “I’m totally in control of my life,” rather than exuding the panic everyone felt during undergrad? If so, that’s a role I need a lot more practice for.

Of course, there’s always the “be yourself” route, but that’s never really what anyone does, is it? What always ends up happening is that, in trying to be “yourself,” you play the role of what you think is the best version of you–the one who shows up in your highly-curated instagram feed, not the one who regularly hits the snooze button and leaves the house with a run in her tights.

Is there a happy medium? I’m not sure. If there is, I haven’t found it yet.

I may be blowing this whole thing out of proportion.

“Pfft, Ange,” you may be saying to yourself, “Of course there’s not a specific code of etiquette in grad school, everyone is broke and stressed, you’ll be fine.”

Sorry, can’t help the whole ‘blowing things out of proportion’ thing–it comes with the anxiety that I can’t seem to shake. 

Speaking of anxiety–I attended my orientation this evening, and while I was nervous to show up to a room full of strangers, it went far better than I had anticipated. Probably because I was jamming to Lorde before I got out of the car, in hopes of a confidence boost. Despite the fact that I made a couple wrong turns on campus, and that I didn’t know anyone in my program, tonight’s orientation  reaffirmed that I made the right choice about the school, the program, and my path.

There are so many incredible, brilliant people I can’t wait to know better, and though we’ve all come from different places and paths, we’re all bound by one common thread: our desire to delve deeper into the pages of the books we love so much. While I wasn’t sure about my plans until last fall, I know now that this is what I am meant to do.

I do truly feel that this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life, but that doesn’t mean I have the hang of it quite yet. Full disclosure: Despite the fact that tomorrow is the first day of classes, I’m not quite caught up on my reading (James Joyce might be the death of me), I have no idea what I’m going to wear (not that that’s particularly important, but I do want to look like something resembling a functional adult), and I’m really not sure what to expect.

I’m sure everything will turn out fine–no matter how nervous I get, I can’t deny the presence of the butterflies that appear in my stomach whenever I think about starting classes.

As someone dear to me once wrote, “Dream big. Learn. Create. Teach. Repeat.”

That’s the goal.

Here’s hoping I can pull it off.