Inspiration

When Strangers Become Your People

Sometimes, graduate school is hard.

But, it’s even harder when you don’t have your people. A couple of weeks ago, Elissa wrote about diving into the graduate school dating game,  speaking eloquently about how we all long to share history and be known; essentially longing to share our lives with our people.

Recently, my dear friend and former graduate wife, Allison, recounted an experience she had while on the subway in Atlanta, an inspirational story of hope and love and what happens when strangers become your people. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think of all of us on this graduate journey, who are learning what it means to place trust in people who aren’t necessarily known to us. I was reminded of my own graduate school experiences, and the people along the way who were there during the unexpected times. My heart filled with gratitude. I hope you enjoy it. – Mandy

Our-People-Come-Together

We all have our people, the tribe of folks providing a safety net of security so that we can take courageous leaps that would otherwise paralyze us in fear. These are the same faces that breathe encouragement into us when we are broken and joyously with us celebrate in our highs.

We can live life more fully because of the support of our people.

This weekend I had the opportunity of attending the Allume writer’s conference in South Carolina. On my way home, I stopped through Atlanta for a night with my sister’s family.

As I waited at the Marta station this morning to take a train to the airport, I noticed an elderly woman standing uncomfortably, hunched over, clutching her bag as if somebody were going to grab it and run. Her acute self-awareness clearly communicated this was her first and last Marta trip to the airport.

In an effort to put her at ease, I engaged in small talk about my three children. Her flight was not for another 6 hours, but she worried about this trip to the airport, a ride her children had assured her was a simple process.

People-coming-together

The direct train to the airport never arrived. I explained that we needed to hop on a different line and switch trains, but not to worry because we were going to do this together. This overwhelmed her. She did not yet trust me, but realized what we both knew…I was her best option. She had no people.

We rolled our bags onto the train to get situated. As the train jerked into gear, the next few minutes felt like slow motion. My new friend had such a death grip on her bags, she had forgotten to hold on. Her 78-year-old self went flying through the cabin. Several of us attempted to break her fall but failed. She went down…hard. She yelled in panic. Bags scattered. We all jumped to her aid.

A homeless, toothless man locked eyes with me before speaking,

“Ma’am, I may be dirty, but I’m honest. I’ll get your bags, and you help her. She don’t want me touching her.”

I saw straight into his kind heart wishing for a different conversation I knew we had no time to have.

A teenage punk previously entranced by the music on his headphones turned out to be a medic-in-training and assessed her for injuries before two construction workers lifted her to a seat.

As the homeless man gathered our bags and purses, he guarded them with great pride. A sweaty runner who had just finished a 5k offered up her water as I rubbed our shaken friend’s back.

Hips were thankfully not broken, but her spirit was. Embarrassment now trumped her trepidation over this adventure. We surrounded her with reassurance and comfort, little of which was received. The construction workers made some cute jokes to ease her tension before everybody went back to their seats.

I sat in the next row offering her enough space to recover alone, but close enough to jump to any need.

As her head leaned onto the train window, her eyes shut. I quietly prayed. When her eyes opened, tears poured down from underneath her wire-rimmed glasses falling onto the gray shawl draped across her shoulders. Her pale skin was still void of any color. Her hands shook. I understood the recovery was temporary. I asked,

“Is there anybody I can call for you?”

She responded in a whisper.

“They said this would be easy. But it’s not. Unexpected things happen that change everything. This is too hard for me.”

In that moment, my eyes filled with tears. I understood exactly how she felt. She’s right. It’s hard. All of it. So many times when it’s supposed to be easy…it isn’t.

Just before exiting the train, a businessman sensitive to her embarrassment gave her a wink.

“I didn’t see a thing, Beautiful.”

A little color reappeared in her cheeks. Each person in our group spoke to her before exiting, and with each comment her breathing deepened and confidence reestablished. But it was the homeless man at the second to last stop that got me. He looked at her and simply said, “Ma’am” and then gave her a nod.

With tremendous grace and gentleness she uttered,

“Thank you Sir for helping me with my bags today.”

And she offered him her hand. He looked at me as if for permission to accept, and I smiled. He shook her hand, a physical touch meaning more to him than she understood. As he turned to leave, he stood taller…exiting the train with a greater sense of dignity than when he arrived.

Seven people entered a train this morning from very different walks of life and in a matter of moments became a team with one purpose, to support a 78-year-old woman we had never met. We became her people, even if just for a train ride.

Sometimes our people look different than we imagine.

Sometimes they are only in our life for a train ride.

But we need them to get us through the unexpected.

Today I am grateful for my people, both the ones that support me in my daily walk and the ones God provides simply for those unexpected moments when it’s just too difficult to stand on my own.

*reprinted with permission by The House of Hendrix – please go visit!

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Job Search

Grad Life Voices: Hope in the Job Search

Credit
Credit

-written by Jennifer, a current graduate wife

Current graduate wife, Megan Lucy, recently finished up a great five part series about finding a job after relocating for your significant other’s academic career. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend that you do. She gave some great advice, all which I would have loved to have had four years ago when my journey as a graduate wife began. She shared some really practical tips, and many times, took the words right out of my mouth.

I started this adventure fresh out of college. I graduated in December and was married in May. That August the hubs and I left Arkansas for Boston, where life in the “real world” truly began.

I searched for weeks for a job before we left for Massachusetts, sending out dozens of cover letters, and praying for an interview. I thought my resume was great for just coming out of college. I had an internship, relevant job experience, and a ton of great volunteer work, but apparently, none of those things were enough. I was naïve and really had no idea how the whole job searching process worked. I was likely applying for jobs that I was under qualified for, and became discouraged after just a couple weeks of searching. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure and was stressed when I wasn’t receiving any positive results. My husband had a scholarship, but only enough to partially cover his tuition. There was no stipend involved for his master’s degree, so we were entering this game with little to no financial security. The pressure was on.

As I had spent a lot of time babysitting during college, I thought that maybe I would give that a try in Boston, just long enough for us to get on our feet. I figured that the job hunt would likely be easier when we actually lived there, and decided to put the search on hold until we made it to town.

A week before we left Arkansas I talked with a family who was looking for some help– full time help to be exact. We skyped before I left, met the day after I got into town, and I then started work a few days later. This changed my plan a bit as it was a full time gig and I had committed to work for the family until the end of the school year. I told myself that during that time I would search for other jobs and begin my career in journalism at the end of the year. Well, the year came and went, and I committed to a second year with the family. Womp, womp….

My two years with this family were lovely. They treated me wonderfully and I learned many great lessons along the way. Some days were incredibly tough, but I truly grew to care for the girls I looked after. While most days I enjoyed what I did, I often felt ashamed when people would ask what my job was. “I am a journalist working as a nanny,” I would often say. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t doing something greater, something more relevant to my preferred career choice. Despite childcare being a challenging field in its own right, I felt like I had taken the easy road by settling for a job that wasn’t right for me. Searching for a job was hard, and rejection was even harder. I gave up before I ever really started. I found security in a paycheck, and put my dreams on hold.

Eventually, our time in Boston came to an end, as did my time as a nanny. We were headed home to Arkansas for a bit and I was excited to finally begin my career as journalist. I set some writing goals and started to reach out to local publications. After a few months of being in town, I was writing consistently and working part time doing PR. My schedule was chaotic but it felt good to be creative and work a job in the field that I wanted to work in all along.

As happy as I was with the way things were, I knew that they wouldn’t be that way for long. Just like that, it was time to move again, and I was searching for a job once more.

I felt a little more confident about finding a job as we prepared to move to Austin. I had gained a lot of great work experience in Arkansas, and I was sure that I would quickly find a job once we made it to town. Unfortunately, my thinking was wrong. It took three months of consecutive work until I was finally hired. To some, three months may sound like a lifetime, it certainly felt that way to me, but according to research, three months is the average low. Some people search six months or longer before landing themselves a job.

Those three months were three of the hardest months of my life. My emotional state was determined by how well my job search was going. If I got a call back, I had a pretty good day. If I got a rejection, well, that day wasn’t so great. Eventually, even good news wasn’t so good. The whole thing made me feel ashamed and rejected, and very much unlike myself.

I feel okay talking about this now because I finally have a job, but a couple of months ago, you could find me crouching on the kitchen floor crying over our grocery bill. Most days I had to drag myself out of bed, and then there were those days that you could find me sitting in the closet, feeling as if I couldn’t bear the weight of it all. I felt so much pressure and terrified by the unknown.

Sharing with you what I went through isn’t necessarily easily, but three months ago, I needed to read something like this. I needed to know then that I wasn’t alone, and I needed someone then to tell me that it’s okay to crumble. Just because you fall apart every now and then doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means that rejection is tough, and that job searching takes some time, no matter how qualified you are. Things will pan out, it just takes patience, which sometimes is hard to find.

I don’t have any great words of advice on how to get through it, accept to say that you will. It’s incredibly discouraging at times, but hard work does pay off. Don’t get down on yourself when things aren’t going the way you expect, and just keep moving forward. Take breaks when you need them and continue to do things that you love. Don’t let searching for a job rule your life. It may seem like your world at times, but really, it’s only part of it.

Through this all, my dissatisfaction with work in Boston, my work enjoyment in Arkansas, and my stress in Austin, I’ve learned many different lessons about life and myself. Sometimes living life as a graduate wife makes tasks that are already hard, just a little bit harder, but I am learning how to make due. I’d like to believe that this lifestyle helps to make me a bit stronger, and prepares me for what the future may hold. I am more than happy to support my husband during this time; it’s just not easy some days. If you are struggling emotionally like I know I was, hang in there. You are not alone. You’ll figure it out and make it through this, and soon, I guarantee you’ll have a job. Meanwhile, I encourage you to take this weekend to relax. Spend time with the man that you love, and give yourself a break. With my deepest sincerity, good luck! I hope that your job search will come to an end soon!

Depression

Living on the Ledge

The streets below: Jun Ahn high above the chaotic architecture and bustle of Hong Kong

This is a heavy, heavy post shared anonymously by a graduate wife in the USA. We found her to be very brave to share her story with our readers. This graduate journey can be bumpy for some, but when anxiety and depression are added to this mix, in some cases, it can cause devastating results. Our readers are scattered all over the world, so after reading this post, if you have a suicide prevention number for your country, please send it to us, and we’ll add it to this post. You just might save someone’s life. If you are suffering with anxiety and depression, please seek help. You are not alone. You ARE worth it.  – Mandy & M.C.

“If I die, I won’t be worried any more.”

Scary thought? Yes, and it’s one that went through my head. It is also the thought that signaled to me that I needed help, and set me on a path through counseling that would prevent me from acting on that negative impulse. It is my hope that any one reading my story will come away with the knowledge that you are not alone, and that it is acceptable to seek mental health care when you need it.

My struggle with anxiety started when I was young. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a hypochondriac. One sore muscle from sports would build up in my mind until I was sure I would need a limb amputated. When I recovered without losing any limbs, my worry would ease, but only until the next over-blown health problem would convince me I was doomed.

In college, the stress increased until I finally went to the nurse with a list a mile long of all the things I thought were wrong with me. The nurse took one look at me and said, “You’re not dying, you have anxiety, and need to talk to someone”. When the results came back from all the tests I asked the nurse to take, “so I’d have one less thing to worry about,” I agreed to see a counselor.

The campus counselor gave me information about anxiety and some control methods to use. For years, this was helpful, and I was able to talk myself down from panic attacks simply by realizing it was just panic. But while my husband was in grad school, my anxiety reached whole new levels. I was anxious all the time. If the phone rang I was sure it would be devastating news. When I drove I thought the car sounded funny and would catch on fire. Everything was blown out of proportion. I knew this, and I didn’t want to be like this, but I couldn’t stop the thoughts, and I couldn’t stop panicking about them.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t seek help right away. For one, I felt like a failure. I felt like I should be able to control it myself. I had for years, why couldn’t I do it now? For another thing, I knew I’d have to pay for therapy and as the spouse of a graduate student, we didn’t have a lot of extra money. I got to the point where I was at levels 9 and 10 of 10 on a panic scale for days on end. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I vomited because I was physically ill from all the worry. I couldn’t even see straight I was so worried, malnourished, and exhausted. I would think, ”How could I live like this? I’m young! I can’t be like this for decades.” Then, during one of my worst attacks, a new thought crossed my mind: “If I die, I won’t be worried anymore”. WOW. I’d pushed all the other red flags from my mind with my stubbornness, but that one couldn’t be ignored. I decided that my life was worth investing in.

I saw a therapist who helped me with coping mechanisms, sort through things, learn how to not get so stressed. She had drills I could do, ways to think about things in a calm fashion. She gave me charts to write things out on to help me see that my situations were manageable. Anxiety isn’t really cured, but you can learn ways to manage it.

Another thing that helped was reading Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. Like me, Harris didn’t think meditation was for him. After searching for ways to calm anxiety he learned of its benefits. When I start to feel panicked and my mind starts running wild with unfounded worst-case-scenarios, I lay down, I take deep breaths, and I think about the problem instead of trying to distract myself. I say to myself, “What is actually going on now? That other stuff isn’t, it’s your mind going wild. What is the likelihood that one of those worst-case scenarios will actually happen? Basically zero. And if it does, deal with it then. Don’t stress about endless possibilities that aren’t actually going on.” And so on and so forth.

Anxiety can do amazing things. I didn’t say good. I said amazing. It can heighten your senses, and it can make you feel that the stress in your mind as actually physical ailments, which then causes more stress.

The stress still comes but I now have the tools to deal with it. If I get near those levels again I’ll seek help right away.

If you’re like me, please, please see someone. In the USA, Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Americans are required to have health insurance, and the majority of healthcare plans must cover mental health services. You may be eligible through your spouse’s student insurance plan, your own employer’s insurance, Medicaid, or a state insurance exchange plan. Whatever your plan is, familiarize yourself with the benefits, and what mental health services are covered. If you don’t have an insurance plan, or your plan doesn’t cover mental health services, don’t give up. Your spouse’s university counseling center may be able to refer you to free or low cost services that can help. Another option you have is to call the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline. NAMI volunteers can offer limited counseling, but more importantly refer you to appropriate mental health service providers in your area. NAMI can be reached on weekdays between 10:00am and 6:00pm EST at 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264). If you live in another country, I encourage you to seek out to understand what your resources and options are.

Finally, if you or a loved one is considering suicide, you can seek help 24 hours a day through the numbers below. I know a lot of GW readers are worldwide, so if your country is not listed below, please let us know what it is so we can add it.

USA: National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800)273-TALK(8255).

UK:  SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200.

Canada: CASP/ACPS – This link can help Canadians navigate hotlines based on geography.

Know that you are not alone. Seeking help is worth it. YOU are worth it. Talk to someone.

As a graduate wife, how have you dealt with anxiety and depression? 

 

Dear Laura

Dear Laura: Losing Hope

Dear Laura

Dear Laura,

Numerous job rejections can lead a grad to feel useless and like a failure. How can one feel better about their self-worth, and get the motivation back to apply for more?

Sincerely,
Losing hope

Dear Losing Hope,

I so deeply wish we were in the same place, sharing a cup of something delicious, so I could lean over and give you a big hug.  And I’m not all that hugg-y, this is just one of those times….

I’m going to speak in a language those of us in the UK know all too well this time of year: viruses.  Have you ever been really ill, with chills, headache, cough, sore throat- the works!- and finally after you feel it’s lingered too long, you go to the doctor or GP and he or she says, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do to treat you; it seems to be viral, so the only thing that will help is rest, liquids, and patience.” Well, I’m about to sound just like that doctor. There is nothing I can do to make this season of waiting and disappointment go away – you have to take care of yourself and wait it out and know it will not last forever.  There will be a breakthrough one way or another and I can guarantee you will not live this way for the rest of your earthly days. So, here’s my version of vitamin c, herbal tea, and a fleecy warm throw blanket:

1.  Don’t narrow. Broaden. Our tendency in the face of rejection is to either quit and walk away, or refocus our efforts and try again;  fight or flight, so to speak. Desperate to avoid feeling that sense of dejection ever again, we either jump ship or redouble our attention to every detail, disciplining ourselves to perfect the application/ job talk/ interview responses.  Inevitably our anxieties, insecurities, and uncertainties build.

Just like an artist’s work, the academics’ publications, conference presentations, and research are personal, an expression of the inner workings of their hearts and intellect. So, it feels personal when one places one’s work in someone’s hands, that someone reads or reviews it, and decides it’s not good enough.  In that case, it feels like * you* are not good enough – not true, but I get it- and you just want to work harder so you can be deemed good enough.

Of course, yes, we need to refine anything that might increase chances of success in future applications.  However, I think it’s best to avoid becoming obsessive about it.  Talk to your advisor or mentors, do what you can to increase your application’s strength, then press save, close your computer and walk away for the evening or the afternoon or whatever period of time you can wrestle yourself away.  If a painter or photographer or sculptor created pieces that again and again were rejected by critics who didn’t share their vision, style or aesthetic sense, would it be advisable for them to lock themselves in a dark room day after day and simply by sheer force of will, drive themselves to create something beautiful? No. They’d need to be out in the world to be inspired, they’d need to be part of something larger than themselves in order to generate anything worthwhile (and not totally depressing). They’d need encouragement to continue to produce their own style of art – critics be damned- and to just keep working toward finding the right buyer or market or audience.

Same to you, Academic.  Resist the urge to sit in front of your laptop pounding and pounding the keys trying to create something brilliant and worthwhile. Get out there and interact with the world, with other disciplines, with strangers and friends and loved ones and nature, and be refreshed.  Then, and only then, get back to pounding those keys and let’s see what happens next.

2.  Do something for someone else, even though you don’t feel like it. It’s me, the seemingly unhelpful doctor again, telling you to drink fluids. I know you think it won’t make any difference to how you’re feeling, but just hear me: it will. Take five minutes, thirty minutes, one hour, four hours – anything!- and go do something to serve someone else.  Get out of the muck of academia for just a second. Buy someone flowers and leave a note of encouragement. Send a card to someone.  Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. Pick up litter. Donate a bunch of household goods to a homeless shelter.  Serve a meal at the soup kitchen.  Bake something and give it away. Call someone who would love to hear from you. Clean for someone. Help someone with their groceries.  Anonomously do something nice for someone, somewhere.

Prescription: Do one such thing every day during this time of waiting and you’ll survive with your heart, your mind, and your sense of self in tact.

-Laura

Laura M. Benton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professional Graduate Wife (12 years, friends. Two MA’s and a PhD.)

To write with your own question for The Graduate Wife team, email TheGraduateWife@gmail.com or LBenton.LMFT@gmail.com

Job Search · Patience

REPOST: Once Upon a Time, I Was A Planner

-written by ML, a current graduate wife

When it comes to short term things I’m pretty spontaneous, but in life I’m a planner. I might decide when I wake up to go to a museum that day, but I want to know where I’ll be at this time next year. Needless to say not knowing where we’ll be next month is really taking its toll.

I didn’t freak out around October when the other wives started to, “I can roll with not knowing until January” I said. But… it’s May! Not just May, the middle of May! Not all of the jobs my husband applied for are academic. I didn’t think about it at the time, but that means while others secured their faculty and postdoc positions last winter, we’re just now getting emails saying his application wasn’t discarded with the first round and in a few months they’ll have a short list.

But, but, but, we need to know if we should renew our lease for another year soon. What if we renew and then have to move? What if we don’t and move in with someone while we wait and then he doesn’t get any of them? What if we pay for a move to crash in someone’s basement and then have to move to a totally different area for a job?  What will we do financially?

This has done something interesting to my planner mind. This has caused me to plan and stress out about five hypothetical situations, ready to put into action the one we’ll need: If we move there we’ll be poorer than we are now, but if we move there we will need a second car, but if we move there I won’t be able to find work…

I bought guards for teeth grinding. I stopped going to department social events because I just can’t tell the same people over and over “No, we still don’t know, just like we didn’t know last week, just like we didn’t know the week before.”

We have a back-up plan, but even that is stressful when you don’t know if or when you’ll need it and that you probably won’t be happy doing it. I’ve written before about how we don’t like it here, yet the prospect of a term job here has helped quell my panic attacks to one per week when I think about the things I’ll miss when (if?) we leave. It helps to talk about it to each other. We haven’t solved anything yet but bouncing ideas off each other instead of bottling it up helps. Telling my parents not to ask me about it every single day helped.  Getting caught up in a book helps.

I don’t have any insightful answers to this. I don’t have an “it all worked out” ending yet. It’s not an easy life we chose, but given the option I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

As a graduate wife, how do you deal with uncertainty? If you’re a planner, how do you deal with not being able to plan ahead?

Job Search · Patience

Once Upon a Time, I Was A Planner

-written by ML, a current graduate wife

When it comes to short term things I’m pretty spontaneous, but in life I’m a planner. I might decide when I wake up to go to a museum that day, but I want to know where I’ll be at this time next year. Needless to say not knowing where we’ll be next month is really taking its toll.

I didn’t freak out around October when the other wives started to, “I can roll with not knowing until January” I said. But… it’s May! Not just May, the middle of May! Not all of the jobs my husband applied for are academic. I didn’t think about it at the time, but that means while others secured their faculty and postdoc positions last winter, we’re just now getting emails saying his application wasn’t discarded with the first round and in a few months they’ll have a short list.

But, but, but, we need to know if we should renew our lease for another year soon. What if we renew and then have to move? What if we don’t and move in with someone while we wait and then he doesn’t get any of them? What if we pay for a move to crash in someone’s basement and then have to move to a totally different area for a job?  What will we do financially?

This has done something interesting to my planner mind. This has caused me to plan and stress out about five hypothetical situations, ready to put into action the one we’ll need: If we move there we’ll be poorer than we are now, but if we move there we will need a second car, but if we move there I won’t be able to find work…

I bought guards for teeth grinding. I stopped going to department social events because I just can’t tell the same people over and over “No, we still don’t know, just like we didn’t know last week, just like we didn’t know the week before.”

We have a back-up plan, but even that is stressful when you don’t know if or when you’ll need it and that you probably won’t be happy doing it. I’ve written before about how we don’t like it here, yet the prospect of a term job here has helped quell my panic attacks to one per week when I think about the things I’ll miss when (if?) we leave. It helps to talk about it to each other. We haven’t solved anything yet but bouncing ideas off each other instead of bottling it up helps. Telling my parents not to ask me about it every single day helped.  Getting caught up in a book helps.

I don’t have any insightful answers to this. I don’t have an “it all worked out” ending yet. It’s not an easy life we chose, but given the option I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

As a graduate wife, how do you deal with uncertainty? If you’re a planner, how do you deal with not being able to plan ahead?

Uncertainty

5 Ways to Cope with Uncertainty

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The post box door flung open and I winced as our mail flew around me into a heap on the floor.  As I knelt to scoop pieces of mail back into a neat pile, I saw it.

A thin letter. The glaring University logo in the corner of the envelope. I felt my heart sink in despair.

It was THE letter we had hoped to never receive, the one that began with these paraphrased words, “You’re awesome, but not awesome enough to be teaching at our school; good luck finding a teaching post at another school.”

I knew what the coming evening would bring: reflection on what could have been done better, comparison to colleagues, conversations on publish or perish, all done with an overarching sense of failure. In the long run, this also meant another option had been scratched off our ever-shrinking list. There was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid the oncoming train of discouragement that was about to hit us.

As I wandered back up the stairs to our flat, the cloud of uncertainty fully enveloped me, and I wondered how I would once again garner enough strength to be the cheerleader he needed me to be. How many more times could I do this?

____________________________________________________________________________

How many of us have lived that scene of uncertainty, or one similar to it? Maybe in your world, it’s your students’ applications to graduate school, law/medical school, a fellowship program, or in my own case, a teaching post. How are you dealing with the uncertainty? And how do you remain hopeful? Can we, as supportive graduate wives, maintain a level of positivity during the midst of constant change and uncertainty? I hope so, but I know I struggle with it!

Here are five ways to deal with uncertainty; this is not an exhaustive list by any means, but things I’ve learned from fellow graduate wives and my own graduate journey:

How do we accept this uncertainty?

1.   Acknowledge that you may face several possibilities.  In our world, for the last two or three years, my husband has had a different job (or in some cases, jobs), every year.  As of right now, since he doesn’t have a permanent post, we have no idea from year to year where we’ll live and what we’ll be doing. At one point last summer, he had applications out in four different countries. With so many possibilities, I found it difficult (and still do) to try to plan anything. My anxiety kicked in, and I began to panic and worry over things I had no control over. It was only after I acknowledged that it was just a possibility that my anxiety slowly dissipated. I learned to wait for an answer, be it a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘you’re on the waiting list’, and dealt with it then.

How would you deal with the idea of several possibilities?

2.    Focus on what you can control. I may be able to control some things in our lives, but I can’t control a hiring committee, a school reviewing applications, or post-doctoral funding. I can control the atmosphere in our home, working hard at a job that will pay our school bills, and at the cleaning of laundry and dishes. It’s often unfair, if not difficult, when your husband’s future is determined by someone sitting on the other side of a desk. But if you can learn now to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can control, life will be a lot easier.

How do you deal with control?

3.    Manage expectations.  What happens if your student spouse doesn’t get accepted into the school of their dreams? What happens if you don’t end up in the city you had wanted to live in? Learning to manage expectations by having an adaptable plan is important in the graduate life. Sit down with your spouse and write down your non-negotiable and negotiable desires. Make a plan from there. When your spouse has fourteen different job/school/fellowship applications out in three different countries or six different states, an adaptable plan will come in handy.

How do you manage expectations?

4.    Be honest about how you’re feeling. But be wise in your timing of sharing it. Pick a time that your student will be in the right frame of mind – if you choose to do it during a particularly stressful season (i.e. exams, etc). then you may not get the response you were looking for. Over the past eight years, the sweetest moments in our graduate life have occurred when I’ve been able to share with my husband that I was fearful and frightened of what his future in the Academy may not hold for us. Such honesty allowed us to have an open, frank dialogue, reminding us that we were a team. While it’s important to have these conversations, it is also equally important that they are done in a respectful and understanding way.

Are you honest with yourself, and your student spouse?

5.    Keep moving forward.  It’s not easy feeling caught between the place you came from and the place you’re headed. It’s difficult to gain momentum when you feel trapped in the same place doing the same things. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last eight years it is this: you have to keep moving forward by developing yourself, investing in relationships around you, and learning from those pesky, teachable life moments.  Those experiences are the things that will define and refine you, and those are the things you’ll be able to carry into future endeavors.

How do you keep moving forward?

If you’re in the middle of uncertainty right now, how are you coping with it? Would you be willing to share in the comments below?

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity” (Gilda Radner).

~Mandy