It’s been a rough couple of months, but you’re almost there! Just one more exam and you’ll be good to go, free to enjoy a whole month of family, friends, wholesome food, and just-for-fun reading.
I know you’re worried about your grades, but they’re probably going to be fine. Realistic worst-case scenario, maybe you’ll get a warning to do better next semester, and you’re already going to do that, right? (Less realistic worst-case scenario: You might get kicked out! Wouldn’t that be kind of AWESOME?! Then you could forget all about grad school and do something else like you’ve been fantasizing about all through finals!)
Whatever happens, you’ve learned some pretty important lessons this semester. These are things you won’t want to forget next time around. So here it is, advice from 2011-me to 2012-you, and here’s hoping it helps you become a slightly less anxious student and a much happier person.
1. Work during the day, chill out in the evening, sleep at night. Dad always said you had to treat grad school like having a job, and what do you know, he was right! (Like he usually is… damn it…) If you just get on a schedule and stick to it (no cheating and watching TV during the day!) you’ll find it a lot easier to stay on top of everything without all that last-minute panic and stress.
2. Write a little bit every day. Just like #1, writing those research papers is all about pacing yourself and sticking to a schedule. (Speaking of which, see corollary 2b: Add a rough draft step two weeks before your deadline; and 2c: Leave a full day at the end to fix citations.) Remember what you felt like after writing 70 pages in five days? It wasn’t pretty. There were panic attacks, and possibly borderline moments of actual insanity. Let’s not do that again, Self.
3. Exercise. You won’t even believe how much better you’ll feel next semester if you carve out one hour for the gym every night instead of watching TV or messing around on Facebook. There were a couple of weeks you were pretty good at that this semester, and it was by far the best you ever felt. (Anxiety? What anxiety? Trouble concentrating? What’s that? Seriously, get your ass to the gym — it’s the one-stop solution to all of your problems.)
4. Eat real food. Man cannot live on coffee and take-out alone. Neither can woman.
5. Go check out that church. Yeah, yeah, you never thought you were the church-going type, but this one looks really great, and let’s face it –– you could really use some personal guidance (not to mention a community!) right about now. With every passing year, you recognize more and more ways that pride and laziness have gotten in the way of good things in your life. So get over both of them and go.
6. Don’t let yourself think about the future after 8 p.m. Seriously, you will only freak yourself out. You know you’re not really going to drop the program, so why get yourself all worked up about it? You will graduate, you will get a job, you will pay off those loans, you will be fine, and what’s more, you know all of this whenever you think about it during the day! Stop thinking about it at night.
7. Go to things. Meet people. Talk to them. You’ll always be tired and you’ll always be busy. And if you keep making those excuses, you will also always be alone. Even Amazon Prime can’t deliver a social life to your front door in two days, you know.
8. Remember that you’re an optimist. Sometimes when things get really hard, you forget this for a few minutes. Stop doing that! You’ve made it through far worse situations than anything grad school can throw at you and still managed to hang on to your positive attitude and sense of humor. In fact, when you’re in your right mind, that’s one of your favorite things about yourself. Don’t let school change that.
9. Seek out inspiration. This field is so much bigger than that one thing you’re studying right now that you really hate. Don’t let school-related stress taint your love for the whole field. Go out and do something fun once in awhile and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place!
10. Give that $5 in your wallet to the homeless guy who asks. Because why not? (And let’s face it, if you don’t, you’ll spend the rest of the day wishing you had.)
Best wishes in 2012,