Always expect the unexpected

Some unexpected things came up in July. If you follow my blog, you know those “things” mostly revolved around becoming my grandpa’s personal assistant. The most problematic issue for my future in grad school was that too few people signed up for my thesis experiment in July.

My research assistant and I had openings for participants 10 hours a day beginning on June 1st. We could have finished by August 11th, the summer deadline for data collection. Unfortunately, three people experienced simulator sickness, we had to cancel numerous participants because only one person signed up when I needed two to do my experiment, and we had multiple No-Shows. There were too many experiments on campus, too few students enrolled in psychology courses and no funding available for me to provide extrinsic motivation to recruit people.

Some things are completely, utterly, without a doubt beyond our control.

If I didn’t defend my thesis in front of my Committee by mid-August, there were a number of significant consequences.

  • I wouldn’t graduate in August.
  • I wouldn’t get funding for my first year as a PhD student. (i.e., I would have to pay for tuition and I would not get an assistantship.)
  • Without funding, I would have to take out a maximum amount of loans and I would not be able to afford rent for my apartment without those loans.
  • I would have to work on my thesis during the Fall while doing a million other things.

Commence freak out.

I transcribed, coded, scored and analyzed whatever data I had in late July (which was only 1/3 of what I needed based on an a priori power analysis). I dedicated two years of my life to this research.  It seemed like such a waste to defend an unfinished product.  Not to mention, my committee would not be too pleased with me.

Life happened. Plans changed.

The good news?

I talked it over with my adviser and we decided to submit an appeal for an extension. That means I have another semester to finish my data collection, analyze my data, write up my results and defend it to my Committee.

The bad news?

I am definitely unhappy about the prospect of finishing my thesis on top of one of the more difficult semesters I’ve faced so far in graduate school. I’m taking three courses, teaching, working for the Navy and taking on more responsibility within a student organization. It’s too much for one semester, to be honest.

  • Because plans changed slightly, I do not have the time to write a Fulbright graduate research grant proposal. I need to wait until I can really dedicate ample time and resources to achieve that dream.
  • This semester I’m taking two courses that I know are going to kick my ass. I have to pull up my GPA .05 points so I am more competitive for research awards at conferences. This coming semester I can’t expect myself to pull off A’s, but I will definitely do my best.
  • I won’t be able to spend any time away from Hampton Roads unless it is scheduled around school or work-related travel. I’m incredibly fortunate this semester because I’m attending a conference in San Francisco. I am tagging on a weekend visit to LA! I will still miss taking trips here and there throughout the semester to visit my friends before the Christmas holiday.
  • I won’t be able to play on the Internet as often. Most likely, I will have to go back to only using Twitter on the weekends. I can keep up with my closest online friends with email, blogging, Skype, etc. I want to continue to focus on making my current relationships stronger instead of making new connections. Quality over quantity, as they say.

How do I plan to do all this?

I have no mother effing idea, but I think there are two keys to my success next semester: stay organized and remain calm.

  • I have been teaching myself some basic programming, web design, modeling and simulation this summer to prep myself for some of my more difficult courses.
  • I created a new, detailed budget using  I have all my bills set up to make my life easier (automatic deductions).
  • I have an updated, beautiful color-coordinated Google calendar and planner to keep me organized and on track.
  • I have a food planning calendar so I continue to plan my meals a week at a time.
  • I enrolled as a distance learning student for one course, so I can stream the lectures from the comfort of my home.
  • I set distinct boundaries with my grandfather by moving closer to campus.
  • I chose an apartment complex that will help me be successful this semester.  I am within walking distance of a grocery store and my yoga studio and there is a gym in the complex. I am paying a little extra to save time and my sanity.
  • I hope I can stick with my plan to practice yoga regularly, to eat healthier and to stay active.
  • I plan to spend more time in coffee shops, bars and restaurants with my friends who live here. Whether that time is spent studying together or socializing, spending time with people improves my mood tenfold.
  • I plan to continue to blog because my relationships online also help keep me sane.
  • With the prospect of not traveling, I hope my friends will come visit me instead. *hint hint*

Here’s to another busy semester. Here’s to my future. Here’s to never planning more than six month in the future because you never know what might happen.

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5 thoughts on “Always expect the unexpected

  1. Wow, you are a busy, busy lady. I can’t even imagine doing half as much and staying sane. Kudos to you for planning out. Best of luck!

  2. You have just brought up every possible fear I will have for the next 2-3 years of graduate/doctoratal school.

    You seem so strong and in control, I think I would have shut down in the face of all this, probably gone a wee bit catatonic. But, I’ve had a REALLY rough year in my personal life so perhaps if I didn’t have all that resting on my shoulders, I would be as strong as you. I love this post. I plan on printing it out, and posting on my wall, as an affirmation of sorts when I start to freak. Because, believe me, I’ll freak at some point.

    1. Yes, you will freak out. More than once.
      I may seen strong and in control, but I cried, got tension headaches and slept all day some days this summer. I just had to suck it up and figure out what I can control and work on those things. Crying over the things we cannot change serves no purpose. I am now about to begin my third year of grad school, so I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I have had plenty of practice at breaking down, freaking out and habituating to the feeling of drowning. I had such a severe breakdown my second MONTH of grad school two years ago and it certainly was not and will not be my last one. I broke down at home, at work, at school and usually in front of someone. We all have things going on in our personal lives and trying to balance grad school with real life is probably the hardest thing I try to manage.
      Grad school at this level is intense and life changing. But it will be OK. You have to stop and breathe and think about what you can do to make your own life easier.

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