Fake Grown: Engaged in Graduate school – A Semester Review

I’m excited to announce that this semester I got engaged; actually it has been about 5 months now. I’m so happy to be marrying my forever friend. However, preparing to do that while positioning my seniority in the doctoral program has kept me busy.

With that being said, I’ve still managed to stay on top of my research. I think what helps me the most is keeping the end goal in mind: successful graduation + successful wedding. All the other things that don’t contribute to either, should be done in moderation. I firmly believe that both are attainable; it’s just going to take a little more discipline to make sure they’re done.

This was the semester of being efficient at balancing personal life and research life and I want to talk about a couple of things I noticed that helped maintain both and my sanity.

Permitting and Predicting the Paper Pump

In between shopping papers at conference venues and shopping for wedding venues the paper writing show had to continue. I kept a calendar to keep both successfully going.

This is wear my super planning skills kicked in. If I know something important is coming up, making a timeline for how I’d get it done makes it much more realistic to complete. For this iteration, it was prepping for the wedding and papers to be submitted and putting them on my calendar. My fiancé and I sat down and set some hard dates when we needed to get some things done by. I in turn compared that with my paper submission deadlines and we went from there. Setting hard dates for wedding planning helped us commit to a venue.

In a way I knew the paper pump had to come for me to be on the right track this semester; but I also had to accept and allow it to happen for me to be successful.

I managed to pump out 5 full papers into submission this semester (3 of which have been accepted so far and waiting to hear back on 2 more). Honestly, that was lot to do in addition to everything else: finalize a wedding venue and date, present at research conferences, plan an engagement party, mentoring undergraduates, and more.

Caring MORE about my Partner’s Feelings

Now that my fiancé and I live together it has been even more important for me to be mindful of his feelings. To me, this means leaving the toxic energy that can be generated from the toxic work, people,or environment checked at the door when I get home. Bringing home that unresolved negativity home tended to create unnecessary conflict from my end.

Being mindful of the effect that it has on my loved ones was enough for me to reevaluate how I handled bringing the mess home to create more drama.

Setting non-negotiable time together was also helpful in making sure we kept each other in mind. One way we do this is having Tuesday date nights, an evening where we have the least going on. There are often $5 movies going on in the area, less wait times at restaurants, and not many good shows on tv. We also make sure we tried to eat dinner together most nights. We started fun DIY home projects together such as sanding our farmhouse bistro dining table and turning our coffee table into a stained farmhouse table as well. These home projects were a cool way for us to literally feel like we were building a life together.

Reinforcing that Research-Personal Life Divide

Honestly, getting engaged has helped me encourage this research and personal life divide. I had to get more comfortable with the divide and leaving it there. I DO NOT have to tell all my research colleagues the very minute details of my non-research related work. Someone once told me, “These people not your friends, they are your colleagues. There is a difference.”

This semester it was important for me to distinguish that difference. For those few that happened to be both friend and colleague we had be conscious of our dialogue among those who were not. This wasn’t as hard as it sounds. It actually made it easier for me when devoting spaces to getting a particular type of work done. For example, I was only doing paper writing at coffee shops and let my days in the lab be my meeting+social days.

I noticed that the people who did not respect this boundary I set(unfortunately there were many) ultimately did not respect my time or have my best interest in mind. In a way, setting this boundary was a way to understand other working styles that may conflict with my own.

I now see it as a privilege for others to know both my latest personal and research related updates. It’s a privilege that everyone does not need and getting comfortable with that has been vital to my success this semester. Having a lot going on made this divide easier to maintain because it was the only way to narrow down my decisions and approaches. Personally I think I thrive best when I have a lot going and preparing a thesis proposal and a wedding is the epitome of a lot going on.

Premarital Counseling

Some great advice my fiancé and I received from my parents is to seek premarital counseling. As a team, we decided to not to do it with a church pastor just yet, and I think that was probably the best decision for us. We’ve only been to one session so far, and already have homework, but we’re super excited to go back!

I’m excited and hoping this will be an experience for us to be even more vulnerable with each other and continue to grow as a pair.

Evolving

My favorite thing I learned from this experience was my ability to multitask on a next level. In a way I feel like I have evolved from a measly charmeleon to a CHARIZARD! I’m fired up and ready to blast off this next year!

When thinking of what was necessary to have a wonderful wedding and a successful trajectory on thesis, these were super important. Especially, now that I wanna be all fake grown and engaged.

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