Saturday, March 14, 2009

Life outside of grad school

I sometimes forget what it is like to be around people who are not in grad school. I'm so used to being around people who understand everything that the two words "grad school" entails that when I am in a situation with people who have "real jobs," I am forced to quickly remember the fact that there is more to life than school. Conversations start with where you're from and what you do, but then they move on to where you currently live, what you like to do, what you like about the City, current events, etc. etc. Conversation doesn't get stuck at 'what you do' and go off on a tangent related to classes, research, homework, etc. People have hobbies and interests and that is what gets talked about. When you're in grad school, hobbies and interests are largely around research and school work. But that would put you in the minority in most cases.

Of course, you're still interesting to those who don't hear about grad school and/or psychology ALL THE TIME, so they ask questions and chat you up about your field, applications of psychology, etc. So it rarely comes across as "I have nothing interesting to talk about besides school" (even if that's how I feel sometimes). Instead you talk about things that you and all your friends have become bored with hearing about, but are new to this particular audience. And often, they have their own ideas to contribute. See, that's the great thing about psychology -- especially child psychology. Everyone knows a child and has been a child. Sometimes it's annoying for psychologists who know the research to hear the 'layperson's' opinion based solely on anecdotal evidence, but I find it fascinating to see what people "on the ground" have to say about all this stuff we discuss from an academic perspective. (I also find it challenging at times not to seem like a know-it-all by providing an answer to every thought that the person presents!)

The former realization provides me with both positive and negative reactions.

1) We are, in fact, just as wrapped up in academia and our tall ivory towers as we think we are. Talking to people in the real world almost always reminds me of this. From terms we use to discuss topics to the beliefs we hold about said topics, it often becomes clear that this is based mostly on The Data and to a much lesser degree on Actual Children.

2) We are much more knowledgeable than we give ourselves credit for. Being surrounded by 40+ other people who are on the same path to a PhD in child psychology often makes us lose sight of our own abilities and incredible knowledge. But the fact is, in the general population -- what it is, something like 1% of people -- have a PhD. By virtue of being on our way to this higher degree, we are also experts of sorts. Whether we think so or not, that is how a lot of people will view us when they hear we are getting a PhD in psychology.

So, nutshell: It's grounding, in a lot of ways, to step outside of the World of Academia... even for a couple of hours. Yes, there IS more to life than school. But we are also learning a hell of a lot more than the average person knows about the subject that we are pouring hours, days, and years into. And that counts for something. Even if we find it hard to recognize and remember that sometimes!

A Mismash of Thoughts

1. I rarely post on here anymore. It's sad because there are so many thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis that I intend to post about, but by the time I manage to get to my computer and/or the end of my day, I have either forgotten or have no time/energy to actually put my thoughts on the page. I'm going to work on it though.

2. I am officially Minnesotan. I have gotten in the habit of wearing a fleece when it's 30. It's in the 40s today and it feels like summer. No joke. This morning, I went outside, and I swear I felt a warm breeze. It's kind of nice on days like today, but given that it was -2 the other day (in the middle of March!!!), I'm not really envisioning Minnesota as a place I could end up. It's just too damn cold. Sorry, MN friends.

3. Speaking of friends... I miss my friends. There are so many people in my life that I so rarely see or talk to anymore. It's as much (if not more) my own fault as anyone's... I've become terrible at keeping in touch. It's that old trap of "I need 3 hours to really catch up with so-and-so... I'll just wait until I have enough time." Well, it turns out that 3-hour blocks of free time just don't happen very often. So, consequently, I put off phone calls until a time that never seems to come. I feel like I've lost touch with many friends who are in the Twin Cities area too, though. This semester has been so busy and there just aren't enough hours in the day. Hopefully the summer will be a little better (at least I won't be teaching), but I kind of doubt it. It won't be any less busy, it will just be busy in different ways... c'est la vie (of a grad student) I suppose.

3a. Related to the above (and below) thoughts... I think at times, I like having a life far too much to be in academia. I like having time to see my friends and go out to dinner and explore the city. I like being able to run errands on the weekends, and have options of what to do with my time, rather than having my time decided for me by the work that needs to get done. I am interested in my research (generally speaking) and like what I'm doing in grad school, overall. But I'm not sure that I love it enough to LIVE it. I don't ever want it to be a regular occurence for me to be in my office and/or having meetings on Sundays. It's a condundrum, because this is what I see from a lot of the 'successful' professors in my department and in the field. If that's what success means, I'm not sure that I really want to be all that successful. HOWEVER... (see #4).

4. I like when things fall into place. There are/were a lot of things up in the air about the way the summer and next year are going to work out. Practicum, research, plans for dissertation (yikes!), etc. etc. A lot of things with the latter are still up in the air (i.e. I need to make myself make some decisions!!!), but other things are beginning to fall into place. What can I say? I'm a planner, I like when things start to come together. It helps my sanity, and makes me feel better about life.

5. I am escaping to Florida next week. With some of my favorite girls from college. It hasn't really hit me yet -- there is too much to do before then. I've barely even planned beyond the absolute necessities. Forget about packing. But I'm excited... I'm excited to remember what 80 degrees feels like. I'm excited to put aside journal articles and statistical analyses and lectures for a few days in favor of beach time and maybe even reading for pleasure (gasp). I'm also, of course, excited to see my girls. I can't believe this came together as smoothly as it did! There were moments of doubts, but we're making it happen. I'm so proud of us :-).

6. Did I mention it is 50 and sunny outside? Life is good (and that's saying something since I'm actually sitting in a coffee shop 'working' as this 50 degrees and sunny-ness happens on the other side of the glass window from me).

More soon...