Family · Inspiration · Marriage

Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment


– written by Tash, a current graduate wife

I am a planner; not a meal planner – that would be helpful, but instead, a crystal ball planner. I know I want to build a family home, and although it will be years before we can finance such a project, I feel like I am already intimate with every nook and cranny of the design. I knew how our wedding would look years before our engagement, and what we would name the family dog. I’m so goal driven and outcomes based that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our current situation and feel an inner desperation to settle, to relax, and to take a breath.

My husband has been my very best friend for a very long time. He is incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving. He is deep, intuitive and the most incredible thinker. Like most of us, if he isn’t following his passion, he is simply a shadow of himself. Our children are 3 and 5, and, quite frankly, amazing human beings. It’s so important that my children watch what my husband is going through, because, dare I say it, I believe they are wired in a very similar way. It’s so important that my significant other is at university, because he is happy and healthy and smiling!

And then there is me. I am 27. I am a Mum and a youth worker, but most critically, I am the wife of a post grad student. I say most critically because my children deserve the stability of a strong and connected Mum and Dad. Given the pressures of the grad life, I’m okay with my order of focus.

Looking back on my past plans, it seems my crystal ball lead me on a defunct path. Where I once thought I would be a stay at home mum, I actually work. With living in a small country township, and with extended family members who could have that magic time at home with their own children, I was initially resentful.

Eventually I came to an understanding about the gift of our circumstances. My young children have genuine and incredible friendships, built through their time at preschool. They have an understanding of the outside world and a light, but clear belief of the importance of societal contribution. Through the work opportunities I have had, I’ve discovered more about myself and my abilities in the last few years than ever before. My husband’s return to university has pushed me to discover who I really am, and the gifts and talents that I have to offer. Interactions and progress within my career has given me a personal confidence that positively impacts my parenting. The intensity in which we as a household live drives us to be conscious about getting quiet time out in wide open spaces. Grad Life is a gift that has allowed for self development and enriched family life.

Despite this, I still fall into patterns of fear and loss.

I’m lucky in that I know my home is ‘home’ until The Engineer finishes his PhD. But where is home base for the long term? What if I have to let go of the community I’m so attached to, of the friends and neighbours that have been behind us during such an intense time? What if my children will have to learn to let go of their real world relationships and substitute them for Skype and Facebook as they go about making new connections in another town? What if this path isn’t leading us to the security that we convince ourselves it will, and if the husband doesn’t find work that meets his emotional, social and intellectual needs?

It’s a big, scary, wide world out there.

We can plan until the cows come home, until we’ve got the future colour coded, alphabetized, and listed. Then, when plans don’t come into fruition on our time line, it can be a lonely experience, and it can hurt.

So, we have to consciously rewire our brain. We have to push against ourselves, and we have to settle. Because as morbid and as cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What works for one may not work for another, but I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin, to help get the inspiration flowing. Listed below are some of the wee baby steps that are helping retrain the way I approach this stage of life.

I began a gratitude journal. It’s where I slow myself right down, and take note of how good I’ve actually got it. My children are healthy, my husband is healthy, and my life has purpose. Some days, it’s simply I found the energy to make my morning coffee – that’s okay too. It’d be far worse a day if you didn’t have the energy to make your morning coffee!

Photography is therapy, it simply changed my outlook on life. I by no means sing my own praises, but I am fortunate to have a camera, and a great local camera club to learn from. I have slowly become aware of natural beauty, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, and the tranquility of water. I think my children are having a hard time with our lifestyle, but then I look back at the photographic memories and realise just how much mood and attitude can mess with our outlook and opinions. It turns out my kids are having an incredible childhood, and I’ve got the images to prove it. I have amazing relationships with my children’s teachers and they reiterate the balance in our children and the stories they share. So actually, as far as parents go, we’re doing just fine.

I’ve created shrines in my house. A ‘happy place’ shrine has little mementos of time with my family, and a bunch of my favourite flowers. I walk past it and smile, regardless. A shelf in our bookcase has been dedicated to our wedding, with the photo album, a shell from the beach we had our photos, the communion cup and a few other little extras. These things remind me that I am loved.

When I finish work early, I head to the university. It means the hubby and I get to travel home together and score a few minutes down time in one another’s company. Friday nights are simply not work nights. Sure we both want his PhD, but we want our marriage more. We have a jar with about a dozen washi-taped sticks. I googled ‘in-house’ and ‘budget’ date ideas, wrote them on the sticks and the stuck them in our jar. On date night, we don’t have to think about what to do, the jar will tell us. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, but it means I’m not waiting for the day I get my husband back.

I accept where I am right now, in this moment. If I’m happy, that is okay. If I’m sad, that is okay. If I don’t feel up to entertaining once a month, it is okay. I am me with my strengths, weaknesses, dreams and desires and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfect. There is a reason I am the way I am, no justification required. There is a roof over my head, so therefore I need to love it. This is my home, and I am blessed to have one. It’s a time consuming but incredibly rewarding project to make it the best darn home I can, spending as minimally as I can. The future house loses its lustre when it means I have to leave the one I’ve created!

I haven’t nailed it, I still struggle with the concept, but living in the moment is certainly one of the key and most meaningful lessons that is emerging throughout our journey. Rest assured that if this post resonates with you at all you’re not alone, and that supposedly, one day we’ll look back and realise just how awesome we all really are.

Graduation day will come, for our significant others, and for us.

 As a graduate wife, how do you live in the moment?


City of Woes

written by ML, a current graduate wife

We don’t like it here.

Not everyone ends up enjoying the location of their spouse’s chosen school. My husband’s graduate school is fantastic and the people he works with are great. He loves his program, has so many opportunities he wouldn’t somewhere else, and it will benefit him greatly in the future.

But it’s different here, 2,000 miles from home. The people aren’t as nice and after five years it’s really wearing on us. It’s much more densely populated. It’s a pain to drive, park, take public transportation, and just plain dangerous to ride a bike. Simple errands I never thought about before are cause for anxiety and frustration. The crime rate is high. It’s humid and floods often. And it’s oh so very much more expensive than any place we’ve been before.

There are a number of reasons you might not like where you are. Here are some of my suggestions based on the last five years of coping.

1)     Buy a local guide book.  I didn’t do this at first because I wasted time thinking of everything as temporary. Now that we’re down to the final year (hopefully), and I’m armed with multiple books, there is so much we want to do but won’t have time for. Yes, we have to get out of town and that costs money, but it more than pays for itself in keeping us sane. There are all kinds of guidebooks, get the one(s) that suits you. Books for families, nature lovers, bike enthusiasts, and people with pets (to name a few).

2)     Make friends who share your attitudes and beliefs. It’s a relief to kick back with someone that is on the same page as you, and friendships make the support system you will need.

3)     Focus on the things you don’t hate. This can be hard at times, but I bet you can find at least one thing you don’t hate about where you are. Sometimes I have to run this list over and over again through my head, but it helps. Now that we’ll be leaving soon, I’m even sad about leaving some of it.

4)     If you can, find a place that reminds you of home. This can be a nice “escape” during a particularly rough week. Maybe there’s a restaurant or bar that’s similar to one back home (maybe they’ll even put on the game of your favorite team back home if you ask them).There might be a hiking trail that helps you forget you’re in a big city. It could be a place that has an activity you did before you left (like a rock climbing wall or an ice skating rink).

5)     Workout. It’s a great way to relieve frustration, and it’s healthy, too. Whether I’m here or there, a treadmill and the music I’m listening to are the same. I also just feel better when I’m in shape.

6)     Make your house your home. This is another thing I neglected for a while because I felt it was so temporary. I slowly added pieces that I like, and now our home feels to me like a sanctuary. Let the weather do what it will, let the traffic out front be bad – I’m in my home with my favorite books, pictures on the wall, and our Harry Potter wands on display.

7)     If you love pets, try to find a place that allows them. This took us three years. This isn’t the most pet-friendly area, and when people find an apartment where pets are allowed, they don’t move. For three years it was like something was missing. Now, coming home to a purring cat after a hard day can make all the difference.

8)     Learn something from it. Before we moved we had some pretty romanticized ideas about what it would be like here. It sounds crazy, but I’m a little glad we’re somewhere we don’t like for this stage in our lives. It’s made me so aware that we need to research an area and find out what it’s really like before moving there for a career. (This is a great time to discuss what you want in the future.)

9)     Visit some place worse. Okay, okay, we didn’t so this on purpose, who would? But we took a trip and couldn’t wait to get back here. Sometimes when I want to complain about this place, I stop and think about all the ways it’s better than some of the other places we could have gone.

10)  Think about when it’s over and you’ll be moving. Is there something you’ll miss? Take advantage of the time you have left to enjoy the things you won’t have when you’re gone.

Though you’re far from home, remember that you’re with the one you love, someone who shares at least some of your interests, attitudes, and beliefs. This person is your rock, and you are theirs; be there for each other.

If you don’t like where you live, what have you done during your graduate journey to make it livable?