As my graduate wife journey has come to an end, and I have transitioned onto the next adventure, I have had time to reflect on what I have learned as a graduate wife. I have also had time to be thankful for the opportunity to share this journey with so many other graduate spouses, through this blog and the University communities I was a part of. Here are the top ten things I have learned, paired with some of our best posts that highlight each lesson.
1. Graduate life is only a season. During our time in grad school, I was friends with a woman whose husband had completed grad school 20 years prior. She constantly told me that grad life was a season. Although my head believed her, my heart did not. When we were in the middle of it, and the process was continually kicking us in the face, it was easy to lose hope. After 9 years of grad school life, and 1 year of being back on the ‘other side of real life,’ I can say….she was right. It really is only a season, and to be honest, it will probably end up being a short chapter in my life book!
2. Investing in relationships takes work. Moving, starting over, and building a new community is hard work. You have to be willing to invest time in people around you. A community doesn’t happen over night. The time you’re investing now will pay off. Stick with it!
3. Grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times that grad school will feel like it’s never ending. You get through one goal, only to discover there are 30 more in front of you. When I started to focus on what seemed like never-ending goals in front of us, I immediately became overwhelmed. I learned to take life one day at a time. I only needed enough strength to make it through that one day!
4. Living simply is an art. For most of us, the stipends and scholarships barely cover living expenses. I had to learn to live a much more simple life. It wasn’t easy to do, but once we settled into just taking care of what was needed, we became used to it. Since we were also part of a community that was living the same type of life we were, it was good to share ways with each other to even further simplify the simple.
5. Having your dreams shattered might the best thing that’s ever happened to you. My husband and I have always been planners. Unfortunately, graduate school is not kind to planners. It’s hard when your entire life is being determined by a hiring committee. We definitely had our fair share of disappointments: failed grant proposals, interviews that didn’t end with job offers, interviews that didn’t happen, etc. Looking back, it’s now easy for me to see that those things had to happen in order for us to be who we are and where we are today.
6. You are not alone. I remember vividly sitting in a coffee shop with a dear friend of mine telling her I didn’t think I could press on any further with this grad school thing. I also remember being shocked as she told me she often felt the same way. The very act of being really vulnerable with a friend turned the tables for me. I left the coffee shop with a resolve and strength that I didn’t have when I arrived….I was not alone.
7. Don’t put your own dreams on hold. It’s so easy to slide into being the ‘support’, but if you stay in that mode for too long, you will lose yourself. I have a friend that moved with her husband to London when he started grad school. While they were there, she was offered her dream job in California. They had long talk(s) and decided they could live a part for year, seeing each other in person once every three to four months, to make both their dreams happen. While that scenario wouldn’t work for everyone, if you have your own burgeoning career, figure out a way to make it happen, and do it!
8. Learn to live in the present. My friend, Betsy, always said to me, “Bloom where you’re planted.” It resonated with me then, but especially now as we’ve entered a new city. Do I miss Oxford? You betcha. I miss our friends, the familiarity, the little family we made there. I also miss those things from Orlando and Atlanta (and if I’m honest, a pretty long list of our favorite restaurants). Even though these places are part of my story and woven into the fabric of my heart, I no longer reside in them. I am still learning what it means to embrace where I am placed.
9. You will change. Grad school changes you. You will not be the same person at the end that you were in the beginning. The experiences will mold and shape your character, teaching you so many wonderful lessons about life, love, and sacrifice. Some of it will be hard. Some of it will be amazing. But in the end, as your life words are being penned, allow it to permeate your soul and become part of who you are. There will be purpose and joy in your pain. I promise.
10. This will be an experience of a lifetime. As more and more time passes between our time in grad school and this new season of life, I have come to realize what an absolute irreplaceable gift it was. From learning and living life lessons, to being part of an amazing community of people, to watching my husband obtain one of his dreams….it was all a gift. I’m so thankful we were given this amazing opportunity.
As a former, current, or soon-to-be graduate wife, if you could add your own point to this list, what would it be?