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?

Everything in its right place

The last year of my twenties begins today.

Yep, I turned 29 today.

Things have come full circle since my last birthday in more ways than I could have ever imagined. As I’ve mentioned before, everything just seems to be falling into place even if things aren’t easy. In fact, in the face of those difficulties, I am reminded how much happier, wiser, and stronger I am today than I was on March 7th, 2011. That seems to be the case each year. We grow, change, learn, and each year we are more like that person we are capable of becoming. It’s remarkable, isn’t it? And then we see people who don’t move forward, and our heart aches for them. Thing just feel “right” because of this forward momentum.

This morning I opened some gifts and cards friends had mailed or given me over the last week with the understanding that I’d wait until today to open them. These gifts are reminders that I have such extraordinary people in my life.

And again, I am thankful.

I unwrapped a gift from someone who was here through some of the highest and lowest points of 28. And I’m happy knowing she’ll be here through the roller coaster that will be 29. And I’ll be there for hers, too. Grad school is tolerable in part because she’s someone I can call a friend.

When I opened the gift, I smiled and held it to my chest. In fact, I got a little emotional. Music is such an important part of my life. It’s how I reflect inward and project outward. It’s how I express myself to others. It is a bond I share with my closest friends. Music IS Tao, The Way, who I am.

And this song makes the most sense to me in this moment (or this collection of moments over the last year or so) than it ever has. You may have even seen me quote it a few times. Clearly, some of my friends know me very well.

For those of you who don’t know, this is the opening track to Radiohead’s Kid A.

Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon
Everything in its right place
There are two colors in my head
What was that you tried to say

I can’t imagine a more perfect birthday gift today: the knowledge that everything truly is in its right place.

I’m proud to call you friends and grateful you’re on this journey with me. Thanks for all the love.

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.