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

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Children · Family · Moving · Patience

REPOST: Helping Children Put Down New Roots

                                                                                                  written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

In the summer heat, my boys are restless and roaming the house looking for their next adventure.  Hoping to provide some direction for their boundless energy, my sister asks if we would help her transplant some potted plants.

“Yeah! Digging and dirt!” shouts one.

“I want to hold the hose!” chimes in the other as he sprints out to the back patio.

She brings a basket of plants outside that have grown too big for their original pots.  Browning and overcrowded, they clearly need more dirt, fresh nutrients . . . something to bring new life back into withering leaves.

My boys hover over pots and sacks of Miracle-Gro.   Soon, clay pots are filled with new soil and small shovels loosen plants from old containers, their roots twisted and tangled together.  The perfectly pot-sized clumps of roots are placed in spacious pots and new dirt secures them in place.  My younger boy comes by with a miniature watering can to finish the job.

This small bit of gardening took all of ten minutes, but now as I sit in the evening quiet, my thoughts come back to this transplanting idea.  I am thinking about how many times my family has been transplanted during the course of my husband’s studies.   I am remembering what it was like to tell our kids we were moving again and how we attempted to guide them through the transitions.

Even my rowdy 3 and 7 year old boys can transfer a strong, established plant to a new pot with a little bit of focus, but it can be difficult to move a seedling successfully.  Moving children is a lot like attempting to transplant seedlings.  Their roots are tiny, fragile white threads and they never seem to balance properly in the new pot.  We moved five different times during our graduate journey and each time friends and family were keen to reassure us:  “Oh, don’t worry – kids are so resilient!  Especially at such young ages!”  or “Kids pick up new languages almost instantly.  They soak it up like a sponge. ” And yet, each time we moved, my children did struggle.  And learning a new language and going to school in that language was hard work for my older son.  After a few moves, I began to be of the opposite mind as my well-intentioned advice givers.  I came to realize that my children actually do hear and understand and feel a lot more than I sometimes realize.  Especially because they are fragile and not fully formed (much like seedlings), my boys need to be given opportunities to process what is happening if they are going to transition without problems.    So, in this piece I would like to explore ways we can help our children during a move or major transition.  Some ideas come from what we have tried in our own family and I have also added some ideas from the moving chapter of the book Third Culture Kids.

1)     Introducing the Idea of Moving

a)     Before our most recent move, my husband set up a series of bedtime chats with our sons (then 5 and 1) in which he told them about “God’s special plan” for our family.   We told the boys that we felt that God was directing us to move in order to follow His special plan.  We also had a night in which we talked about the fact that God has a special plan for each of their lives and God may be using some of our travels to prepare them for their futures.  These chats were given in bite-sized pieces they could understand, usually with a map nearby and time for their questions.

b)     We marked on a map where we lived (Germany) and where we were moving (England).  In order to create some excitement, we tried to make lists of things the children might like about our new city.  If possible, it is great to find pictures of the school the children will attend or pictures of the house/apartment that you will live in and its surrounding neighborhood.

c)     Read books about moving and talk about how the different characters might feel.  Try to find one with clear pictures of what happens during the packing up of an old house, the unpacking at new house, saying goodbye to old friends, making new friends, etc.

d)     For very small children, it can be helpful to play “moving games” in order to just introduce them to what a move is.  We did this some with our youngest in our last move a couple of weeks before we left.  I gave him a couple of empty boxes and we would pack up toys and move them to the next room and unpack them, explaining that this is what we were going to do later with all of our stuff.  Also, during all the events that precede a move and happen during a move, it is good for the parents to “frame” what is happening:  “Look, Daddy and his friend are putting the boxes in the van.  They will bring all of your toys safely to your new room.  Just like our game!”  or “We are waving goodbye to our old house.  We will have a picture of it in our photo album, but now we are going to live in our new house.”   When things get busy, it is easy to forget to include our young children in what is happening by framing it in words they can understand.

 2)     Giving a Sense of Closure

a)     As it got closer to our moving date, we wanted the kids to have a chance to think about all the people in our current home who have been important to them (church leaders, teachers, friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) and also the places we have been that have been meaningful.

i)      People: Children can write notes of appreciation, draw pictures for special people,  or think about leaving a special momento with a close friend or family member

ii)     Places that hold important memories:  Visiting these places one last time, reminiscing, and getting a special photo or hiding a treasure or note to hopefully find again there someday. 

3)     Easing the Actual Transition

a)     Use of “sacred objects”:  For some of us who are making international moves, it is just not possible to take much with us.  How do you deal with this?  We met one family who had a policy we really liked.  Though they moved often, they made sure they always kept a few of their children’s most valued possessions:  some quilts their grandmother had made them and some special dishes made for them by a friend.  The quilts were unpacked first thing and spread over the beds and then their dishes were set out, helping to create a feeling of “home” for them.  Though the quilts were bulky and the family was sometimes very limited on space, these “sacred objects” were always a priority.  Having a set of “sacred objects” as they are called in Third Culture Kids helps to give the kids some stability.

b)     Keep as many family rituals in place as possible – Keep the days and weeks as normal as you can.

c)     Plan for a period of misbehavior and general adjustment.  You, as the parent, are going to need to give a lot emotionally and the kids are going to need you more than normal.  Their behavior is almost guaranteed to be crazy for a while. Give them grace – moving can be even harder for little ones who had no control in the decision that has resulted in their entire world changing.  Keep close tabs on how kids are doing emotionally – you will be very busy and overtired but keep your eye on signs that something might be off with them.  Help them to name feelings and provide acceptable outlets to express feelings.

d)     Make contact with some other families in the area or at the same school as soon as possible (in advance if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity!)  Don’t expect your new community to initiate having a relationship with you – be prepared to go out and actively seek out community for your family.

e)     One way we have eased the transition for our family is by sending my husband ahead first.  When we moved to Germany, he drove our possessions to our new apartment with a friend a few days before we arrived.  It made a big difference for our five year old, because when he first saw his new room it was completely unpacked with all of his familiar toys out and favorite posters on the walls.  Instead of a weird feeling of not belonging in a small white-walled, empty room, he seemed to feel at peace and slept alone in that room on the first night.  It also helped lessen the stress for me because before our arrival my husband could purchase some preliminary groceries and a map and scout out the neighborhood.

f)      For those of you who are moving internationally, I strongly urge you to learn all you can about the language and culture ahead of time.  Of course, no matter how much you prepare, you will still be learning a lot as you go through life in your new country.  Your children can learn a lot by watching how you handle the experience.  Describe how you are feeling about learning all these new things.  Present it as an exciting new adventure, but acknowledge that it can be overwhelming at times and that’s normal and okay to feel that way.  Try to laugh at your mistakes and move forward so the children know that when they make mistakes, they can learn from them and move on without feeling ashamed.

Taking some time to put some of these ideas in place (and maybe add to them with some of your own!) can really make a difference in how your children react to a move.  We all hope that our kids, if they must be transplanted to a new place, will adjust to the soil and be able to drink deeply of the water and nutrients that a new experience can offer them.  With a little bit of planning and effort, you can help give them the best possible start.

In your graduate wife journey, how have you prepared your children to move to another country, city, or state? Did you do anything specifically?

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Quote for the Day

I stumbled across this quote the other day, and it was a good reminder to me to not lose sight of the end goal in this graduate life. Sometimes, in the middle of a busy semester or term, I forget where we are headed because I get lost in the day-to-day details of life. This graduate journey is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s good to remember that from time to time.

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.”

– Author Unknown

I hope wherever you are today, you remember that the part you are playing in this graduate journey is important. You are an inspiration.

~Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Your Story

“If we don’t harness the stories we know and have, others will come in and wallpaper their own into our culture.”

 – Bobette Buster

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories of The Graduate Wife. We’ve been able to share some amazing stories with our readers: stories of hope, hardship, moving, family, love, and sacrifice; inspiring and encouraging stories that keep our readers continuing their own journeys.

As I think back on my own graduate journey, with its twists and turns, I’m thankful I had people around encouraging me to write my story down. I will admit I hate journaling, and often view it as a chore rather than a reflective exercise. However, I can say that when I have taken the time to journal, it’s been great. It’s meant much more to me in the long run, after walking through periods of celebration and difficulty, to be able to look back at the map of my life and say with the mark of an x, “I was there.”

That’s why this blog has been so helpful for me. Even though it was started at the end of my time as a current graduate wife, I have been so encouraged to hear the courageous stories of those who walked ahead of me, and those who walk behind me. The many joys, shared experiences, and adventures of the graduate life have been documented for us to read and learn from. How lucky are we?

If you don’t like to journal, I totally understand. I could probably out pace you in excuses given for not sitting down to write. But in answer to that, I say this: The only person living your story is you. If you don’t take the time to share it, it will be lost. Use your story to encourage and inspire others.

…And, when you’ve started writing, be willing to share it with us. I know our lives will be better because of it.

~Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Poetry

I am not what you would refer to as a literary critic.

I read mostly fiction, and occasionally some non-fiction, but after spending the last 5 years hanging around arty English lit types, I have to say my love of the written word has expanded. As I’ve stumbled through difficult pieces of literature, my patient friends have taken the time to answer the thousands of questions I have about writing and content, and have often taught me to think a bit more critically about what I’m reading.

Poetry is one of those things I never fully warmed to. I hated studying it when I was in high school and college. All the different types of poetry form to think about – is this free verse? Classicism? Acrostic? Ballad? Is it unryhmed iambic pentameter? (Should I even care if iambic pentameter is rhymed or unrhymed? I can see my poet friends cringing now). I really didn’t care.

That’s changed quite a bit. It’s hard to live in a university city like Oxford and not be exposed to famous poetry on a regular basis. Our city is haunted by the past lives of famous poets: T S Eliot, W H Auden, John Donne, and Gerald Manly Hopkins, just to name a few. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of their work. It’s also refreshing to have a new perspective on something I used to avoid and immensely dislike.

Recently, I stumbled across this poem, and thought I would share it with you today. Even if poetry isn’t your thing, there is definitely many nuggets of loveliness in this to take away and think about.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927.

Enjoy your Monday. You have a right to be here.

-Mandy

Family

Part 2 of 4: Miscarriage

credit

It seems like a lot of our readers are grappling with the ‘when is the best time to have children’ question, especially since this season of life seems to be the perfect time to start a family. But – what if life doesn’t work out that way?

Over the next couple of months, we’ll follow 4 different graduate wives through their journeys of infertility, miscarriage, and adoption. If you are facing any of the above, or know a graduate wife who is, we hope you will find their stories encouraging and supportive.  ~Mandy and MC

Grief is the price we pay for love. –Queen Elizabeth II

I opened the front door of our flat, stepping into a sunlit breezeway. Rays of sunshine danced across my face as I turned to lock the door.  From the stairs below, the laughter of my son and husband floated through the air like snowflakes on cold winter’s day.

It was the start of a perfect day, my 35th birthday. The outside air was crisp, so I tightened the scarf around my neck. I climbed onto my bike, knowing I would spend the next 15 minutes happily peddling, attempting to keep up with my two favorite men. “Mummy!” chided my 2 year-old son, “Keep up with us!”

I was 10 weeks pregnant with our second child. It was something I had waited for and dreamed of for a long time. My heart brimmed with joy at the thought of a new little life in our house. For me, it was another dream on my graduate wife ‘pause’ shelf that was finally being fulfilled.

When we arrived at our destination, I excused myself to the bathroom.  There was blood. I felt my stomach lurch.

I knew this day was going to end a lot differently than it had started.

_________________________________________________________________________

I’ve thought a lot about that day over the past few months.  I remember the glorious morning joy. I remember the deep evening sadness. I remember relishing the warmth of the sun on my face, a rarity in February. I remember my husband and I eating in complete silence while celebrating my birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant. I remember walking home, our fingers intertwined, both of us hollowed eyed and emotionless. I remember feeling alive with life. I remember feeling the sting of death. I remember feeling everything. I remember feeling nothing.

I don’t want to remember anything about that day. Yet, I find myself wanting to remember everything about that day.

_________________________________________________________________________

I’ve mentioned in the past that one of my biggest sacrifices on this graduate wife journey has been motherhood. My husband and I were a bit older when we started school, and made the decision together to postpone having children until we were further along in his program. I knew it then and now that it was the right decision for us. However, it did not diminish the desire I had to have a family. It just meant I had to become really great at waiting.

When we finally decided it was the right time for us, it happened quickly. It seemed like a blink of an eye before our little Jack-Jack made his entrance into this world on his own terms, 15 days past his due date.  I figured when we were ready to try for a second child, it would be as simple.

Instead, my carefully laid plans were thwarted at every turn by life circumstances. One month of waiting turned into three months; then three months of waiting turned into six months. Finally, my husband and I decided we needed to take a break.  Another pause. Another dream shattered.

Many months later, you can imagine our elation when we found out we were expecting our second child. You can also imagine our devastation when we found out that child was no longer alive. It was a heartbreaking moment.

As I walked through this, all around me dear friends of mine were announcing pregnancies, glowing with the anticipation of their new arrivals. I found it difficult to watch these dear friends of mine living my unattainable dream. I found it even more difficult sharing in their excitement.  It was an incredibly dark and lonely time.

Being the type of person who always takes time to reflect back on difficult seasons of life, selfishly to glean any type of wisdom for future seasons, I have spent hours wondering what pearls of wisdom I am supposed to learn from all of this, especially in relation to the graduate wife life. To be honest, I don’t have much of a clear answer to share with you, and I probably never will. I do know from others and my own experience that miscarriage is a very private, personal thing, and every woman deals with it differently.  However, I do want to share a few things that have helped me process my grief, and maybe they’ll help you also, whether you are the one going through the miscarriage, or mourning with a dear friend who is.

Cherish your friends. Going through something this traumatic away from family was hard. Really hard. Our friends, who are our family in our graduate life, loved on us in ways I never expected. Each one of them used their creativity, tears, laughter, love, and good food to nourish our family’s physical and emotional needs. They genuinely mourned with us. I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the importance of community, and especially now, I have a deeper understanding of why it’s so important to have that in place where you live.  And, you can be sure when they go through a difficult time, I’ll be there to reciprocate.

Find a miscarriage buddy.  It sounds hokey, but it’s helped me immensely. My buddy is a dear friend in California who has had two miscarriages. Even with the eight-hour time difference, we find time to speak to each other regularly. She’s been my go-to person when I’ve found out another friend is pregnant, when I’ve fallen a-part on the inside after having to hold a friend’s newborn, when I express anger that life hasn’t turned out the way I thought I deserved, or when I fear trying to have another baby because I’m afraid I’ll miscarry again. She has provided for me a safe place of love and protection to process my grief, and she has also given me reason to hope. I am supremely thankful for her.

Explore your faith.  My faith has definitely played a huge part of my healing process. Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are days where I hate God for allowing this to happen to my husband and me.  And for once, I’m not ashamed to admit that.  As I’ve worked through my seething anger, disappointment, and loss, I’ve found it’s strengthened my faith and resolve, and through it all, I know and feel God still loves me and wants the best for me. During my absolute worst moments, I have an image stamped on my heart of our child sitting in God’s lap, in perfect peace. Somehow, that brings me enormous comfort. I realize not everyone shares the same religious beliefs I do, so if you have a different faith, I implore you to find a way for your faith to comfort you during this difficult season.

Seek a counselor.   I know I am a very strong person. I also know I am an internal processor. That can be a dangerous combination, especially when it comes to dealing with traumatic life events. I tend to think I am fine for months, then something (often small) will trigger a massive outburst of anger or I’ll handle a situation in an unfavourable way. It usually takes that to happen for me to realize I’m not doing as well as I think I am. With my miscarriage, it was unfortunately an angry outburst directed at someone who didn’t deserve it. I was frightened by my reaction, because I felt like I had been doing a fair bit of processing with friends. So I decided to see a counselor. She objectively helped me articulate a lot of ideas and thoughts running through my heart and head. It reduced my anxiety, cleared my head, and helped me feel a bit more grounded. So, take time to see a professional who can help you process your own grief and loss. Friends can often do this, but I think having an objective opinion from an outsider can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Love your family. Every minute of every day. My husband and I have been together nearly ten years. I can honestly say I have never loved him more than I did the week of our miscarriage.  He didn’t leave my side. It has also made me appreciate the gift of love in our son. His crazy boy antics and boundless toddler energy have been a huge source of delight for me. He has, on more than one occasion, turned our sorrow into joy.  If it turns out that he is to be our only child, then I know we have been blessed beyond measure, and I am at peace with that.

The giant, gaping hole that February left in our lives has slowly started to heal. I still have hard days on occasion, but I am finding that there is more time between floods of tears, true happiness and joy for friends with new babies, and contentment for where life has currently placed us. I feel like I’ve been given a choice: I can let a difficult season of life, like miscarriage, define me, or I can let it be a defining moment in my life. I would much rather the loss of our child be part of who I am, instead of who I am, especially if it allows me to emphatically love and empathize with another person on this bittersweet journey of life.

~Mandy

If you or someone you love has experienced a miscarriage, what will or are you currently doing to see them through this time?

Inspiration · Roles

“When You Come Back Down”

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife


I’ll be the first to concede that the life of a Graduate Wife can sometimes feel…dramatic. Having found myself in one of those moments, I feel a bit of stress, quite a lot of gratitude, but most of all identification with a song which happened to pop up on my MP3 shuffle yesterday.
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First of all, I’ve never really loved this song. Whenever I heard it in college, I felt it seemed codependent, like the singer had no life of his own and was simply leeching off the apparent success of his partner, perhaps living vicariously through the adventures of her life. Listening to it yesterday, however, I realized just how much it parallels my current place in the Graduate Wife experience. Because my husband left just last night for a conference and research trip across the Atlantic Ocean, I couldn’t help but feel some new kinship with the singer in “When You Come Back Down” by Nickel Creek. Some of the lines that reflect my mood are below, but you can find the complete lyrics here.
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You got to leave me now, you got to go alone
You got to chase a dream, one that’s all your own
Before it slips away

When you’re soarin’ through the air
I’ll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I’ll still be there
When you come back down

And I’ll be on the other end, To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly, If you get too high
I’ll catch you when you fall

[Bridge:]
Your memory’s the sunshine every new day brings
I know the sky is calling
Angel, let me help you with your wings

As I said previously, I understand that the life of a Graduate Wife (at least this one) can be dramatic, and perhaps sometimes, melodramatic. But I can’t ignore the way this song resonates in our life together, through so many applications to PhD programs, grants, scholarships, fellowships, and teaching jobs. Through four (so far) trips overseas for conferences, archival research, and data gathering, totaling over four months, ten weeks of that time apart. Listening to this song again, I realize that this is part of what I committed to when we married six years ago—to support him as he ventures to places neither of us would have imagined (and to join him, when time and finances allow!). The lyrics of the song don’t connote codependence for me, because he supports me through adventures of my own; it just so happens that as I write, he is the one “soaring through the air.”


In the last piece I wrote, entitled “Plan F,” I joked about some of the expectations (or lack thereof) which graduate students and wives have for life after the PhD. The fact is, however, that there are and will continue to be disappointments in this journey. Our spouses pursue these studies because for many of them, it is a dream. Although it may not always be evident to us, or even to them, they do it because on some level, they love it. One of my jobs as a Graduate Wife is to remind him of this when he doesn’t get in, when he gets cut after the second round of interviews, when his advisor submits the online reference for a grant eighteen minutes too late. When he forgets his passport, when he gets a skin rash from a cheap London hotel, when he e-mails about the impossibility of navigating a taxi park in Uganda. I am there to celebrate with him when he passes each and every comprehensive exam, when he gets a paper accepted for a journal or gets asked to write a book chapter, and when he gets into a conference, so I find that sometimes my job is to store up these successes and remind him that his dreams are achievable, in one way or another. For me, this is simply part of loving him, something I made a commitment to do for better or worse. I love that he pursues his goals so passionately, and I believe that it has inspired me to live more boldly than I would have if we had not been on this journey together. Truly, life is so much richer having someone to “help us with our wings.”

Here’s the song if you haven’t heard it!

What do you do to remind your graduate that their dreams are achievable?