This afternoon, my whole body caved to a surge of heaving sobs on my living room couch. The episode may have been induced by the fact that I hadn’t eaten dinner or that my body was still recovering from some unknown illness, but it occurred mostly because I was just done.
Grad school hasn’t been easy and I’m not trying to give anyone the impression that it has been. Classes themselves have been okay and the workload has remained fairly reasonable, but the entirety of the beast – classes, homework, assistantship, daily living – is a doozy. I’ve been thoroughly depressed.
It’s been an entire week since I last ran because I haven’t had the energy. Yesterday, several students commented on how tired I looked. My appetite has been nil and emotionally, I’m struggling.
In many ways, grad school isn’t what I expected…and after having a similar experience in undergrad, I should have expected that. The readings and the classes are about what I bargained for, but the over-all feeling of misery wasn’t quite what I imagined.
At the same time, I feel guilty for not enjoying everything about this experience because it’s exactly what I wanted one year ago. I was incredibly lucky to land my first-choice school and my first-choice assistantship. It felt like the stars were aligned and I thought non-stop of the promise this academic year held.
Then the future became the now and things were in full swing, and the joy I’d anticipated for so long wasn’t there. I enjoyed my classes, found great friends, and got the hang of my assistantship. On the surface, it seemed like things were on the up-and-up, but parts remained missing.
I can’t name the void, but I encounter it all the time. It’s in the circles under my eyes, in the times when I mess up at work, in the moments when I’m made to feel inadequate, in tears on my professor’s desk, in tears on my boss’ desk, in frequent calls to my brother because his voice reminds me that I matter.
This fog, which I half-humorously call the “grad school funk,” isn’t unique to my situation, my program, or my institution. I’ve spoken to grads in other places, studying other things who feel entirely the same way. Still, people don’t seem to talk about it.
On one hand I get it: it’s easy to feel bad about feeling bad- earlier in this post, I mentioned my guilt in feeling ungrateful – and bigger things happening in other people’s lives can make our struggles seem trivial. Yet, talking about it (if we’re comfortable) is what we need to do. It’s the only way we’ll squash the isolation and open up the conversation and, at the very least, give ourselves space to be human.