I remember exactly where I was on St. Patrick’s Day last year: in Grand Central Terminal in NYC with my dad, returning from a grad school visit and generally trying to avoid the crazy people running around dressed in head-to-toe green. It’s amazing to think about how much has changed in that year.
Actually, I’m not sure if changed is the word – this year wasn’t really a year of change except for the fact that I moved over 700 miles and a time zone away (and a few climate zones as well) and started grad school. Okay, so maybe adjustment is a better word. I guess I just feel like so much has changed that I can’t even begin to classify what that word means anymore, and I need to find a new word to describe what’s happened, and along the way I’ve figured out a lot more about myself.
All this really struck me about ten days ago during preview days for my program, when we had a bunch of new prospective grad students on campus who came to our poster presentation session (one of the many things I never would have guessed I would do this year) and talked to us about our research and life at Northwestern. I remember being in their shoes and being amazed that these students were talking to us about their research, and now on being on the other side it’s amazing to me how second nature that poster session felt. I could have practically done it in my sleep, and I know all my classmates could have too – that’s how familiar we are with what we’re researching.
It’s also really hit me recently that in just another quick year I’ll be on the job hunt for real, getting ready to uproot myself again and move to another school to start my professional life. It was great practice interviewing for the NODA internship I’ll be doing this summer, but it was weird to think that I’ll have to go through that process times ten next year to apply and interview for jobs. This process has helped me think about what I want to look for in a job, how I’ll approach the application process, who I want to reach out to as I’m thinking about that decision, and what questions I need to start asking. I know I’ll have even more insight when I return from my summer in Nashville about what else I need to keep in mind. This was my third year in a row applying for something – first it was jobs, then it was grad school, now it was internships, and next year it will be jobs again, so I’m starting to feel like an old pro at it and really know what I’m looking for and how to stay true to myself throughout the whole process.
I think more than anything, that’s the one thing that’s been both the hardest and most important over the last year: I’ve had to figure out how to stay true to myself. From dealing with migraines and making choices that will allow me to live a more comfortable life, to showing my true personality in the classroom and on the job, I’ve found that it’s so important for me to be who I am. It really takes a toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally when I try to be someone I’m not or live the way I used to back in college, even if it’s just for a night out with friends or to get a paper done, so I have to put a priority on making the right choices for myself. There have been a few times in life when I’ve been forced to grow up pretty quickly, and I think this is just another one of them, but I’m thankful for everything I’ve learned along this crazy journey and I know it will serve me well in the future.
This is not where I intended to end this when I started writing this post, but hey, isn’t that the beauty of writing?