Category Archives: The Way

Robert Nagle’s Straight Talk About Grad School

I will finish my PhD coursework in about five weeks. (Yay!)

People keep saying, “You’re almost done!” Or they will ask, “How much longer do you have?”

I say the same thing every time: “Well, I still have my Comprehensive exams this summer. It’s an 8 hour written exam followed by an oral exam. Then if I pass those, I can start on my Dissertation, but most people don’t finish it in a year. And I still have to get published in a journal to meet my requirements. It’s hard to say when I’ll be done, honestly.” Then, of course, I start feeling the anxiety take hold and the person standing in front of me is either annoyed, confused, or both.

I’ve talked a bit on this blog about feeling as though I don’t belong in grad school. I keep moving forward because the light is more visible at the end of the tunnel now. Plus, I know it’s what I need to do to  get the kind of job I want. I am so thankful that I will not have to be as present after this semester. I am ready to move forward. I am ready to finish grad school. Obviously every discipline, every program is different; however, there are are some common themes to many Doctoral programs.

I have read many articles and blog posts about grad school over the years. Probably hundreds by now. This is, by far, the one that captures almost everything I would want to share with others before pursuing a PhD. It definitely summarizes many of the articles I’ve read and it touches on some thoughts I’ve had myself the last four years.

Straight Talk About Grad School – Robert Nagle

I highly recommend reading through his lengthy post if you’re struggling in your own Doctoral program or if you’re considering pursuing a PhD program in the future. It contains updates as recent as this year. I also think it’s beneficial to read through some of the comments and the original articles he cites.

Do you have any advice you’d give someone who was thinking of pursuing a PhD?

Then you meet someone…

That someone you’ve been waiting for.

Hoping for.

With all your heart.

Someone who makes you laugh.

Who makes you feel completely, utterly comfortable with your whole self. No, he makes you understand that you are complete already. He tells you how beautiful you are and you know he is telling the truth.

You kept putting yourself out there, taking risks, with the knowledge that he existed. The Universe just hadn’t brought you together yet.

That someone who would not have come into your life unless you were ready.

Content in solitude.

Unless you had spent the time getting to know yourself and what you needed and wanted in a partner.

Unless you were able to pause and abandon some of the fear of being hurt. Unless you knew with certainty that you deserved a good man. Unless you stopped making excuses for those men who hurt you, used you, were unsure about you. Who were not as deserving of you. Who made you question how amazing you are.

Unless you were willing to accept him into your life.

Because a year ago, we would not have been this perfect for each other.


We are together because we both know we are deserving of love and we are open to the kindness.

I knew in one moment early on that he was the one I wanted to be with. I knew I did not want it to end. I was so scared, but I can tell you exactly when I knew he was the one I deserved to be with, the one who was good for me. The one who would make me a better person. The one who wanted to be a better person for me. Yet, the one who accepts and cares for all of me. The one I accept completely. The one who is not perfect and the one who doesn’t expect me to be perfect.

The one who will sit with me at my coffee table while I do work late into the night. Without judgment. Because sometimes he has to work late into the night with me. But we are able to be together, so we are happy.

The one who tucks my hair behind my ear. Who kisses me all the time. Touches my hand across the table at a restaurant.

The one who who sends me texts that make my heart stop. Who makes me want to be cheesy. Corny, even. The one who brings out the hopeless romantic in me. The one who is romantic even though he doesn’t realize it. Just don’t tell him I said that.

The one I want to care for, but the one who wouldn’t ask me to take care of him. The one I don’t want to fix. The one I would never ask to fix me.

The one who makes mistakes. The one who is honest in his apologies. Who is thankful. Who is forgiving.

The one I can call a boyfriend, the one who can call me his girlfriend. Yet, I don’t refer to him as anything but his name. Two syllables, by the way.

The one who wants me. All of me.

The one I met last March via a mutual friend at my birthday party. He chose the most excellent music in the jukebox – Radiohead and The Killers I remember in particular. He seemed nice. And cute. We chatted.

That was that.

Months later, we met again.

And we are happy. Together.

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day. Mine is, once again, not so sexy or revolutionary. But it is different this year. I am in a place filled with contentment. I can share my life and this day with someone.

I will go to bed knowing this man I have come to adore also adores me.

I am grateful.


Thank you, Universe.

More please.

Preparing to live vs. being alive

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to prepare to live instead of living one’s life. A number of bloggers have touched on this topic recently. It might be that we put off something that we want to do because we think we can do it when we are done with something else. Or it might be that we’re afraid to take a leap or follow a dream or an intuition or a passion. It could be a number of things, really, that keep us from being content and peaceful and alive in the moment.

Some time around my birthday, I realized I was actually living my life again. I thought about the moment when I stopped living my life. It happened some time after college, I think. Maybe that’s what my quarter life crisis was. It wasn’t so much that I had a crisis so much as I just ceased to exist. I was nowhere to be found. My family, my friends, my enemies, my lovers, my exes, my coworkers… my past… sometimes even my present… they were in there, but I wasn’t. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I wasn’t so much alive for myself as I was alive for others. Then I spent probably five years preparing to live my life. I have written about my choice to go back to school and how my first year of grad school changed my life. It did. But it was all leading up to something else. I was waiting for the next thing and just called it preparation. Spending those last few months with my grandmother also changed my life. It changed me in more ways than I could ever express. It’s almost like losing her set a fire in me.

I continued to trudge along, doing what I was supposed to do. School, work, school, work. On and on it went. On and on I went. I knew that all of this was worth it because there was a light at the end of the tunnel. That light was a job I loved, stability, happiness, flexibility, a dog, and no student loan debt. Somewhere in all the preparations I was making for my future, I forgot to be alive. It isn’t that I haven’t been happy or that I wasn’t fulfilled. I am incredibly fortunate and have lived a great life. I love where I am and who I am and I am happy with the path I chose. It isn’t always easy to be in grad school full time, but whose life is always easy?

Things have felt more natural, less stressful, and downright peaceful for a little over a month now. I’m incredibly busy, but it just feels… different. I feel different. (And it isn’t just because of that one thing going on right now, which some of you know about.)

The moment I started taking care of myself again was the moment I started feeling alive. I can’t pinpoint the moment exactly. Maybe it was a series of moments leading up to the day I was accepted in the PhD program or the day I signed the lease on my new apartment. And those moments led to other moments that led to a series of breakdowns in November and December.

Maybe it happened the moment I defended my Master’s thesis. In that moment, I realized I could do just about anything when I work hard enough. I also realized it came with a price and it was time to choose. Either I could keep pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion just so I can prepare for this future life while I lost myself. Or I could slow down, breathe, and find my way again. I think when I finished my thesis, I let go of the need to prepare. I made a conscious decision to no longer put pressure on myself to be everything to everyone. A load was lifted and I started living. I chose to eat healthier, to work out with a trainer, and to start online dating. I started living for myself. Maybe that is why I feel so calm.


We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.
~Thich Nhat Hanh~