Friday, May 1, 2015

Facing Free Time and An Identity Crisis

Guess who's done with her masters? Oh, JUST ME. Gave my last presentation last night, all the paperwork's signed sealed and delivered (ahem I mean clicked and submitted, because it is not 1994), and I pick up my cap and gown next week.

And what now? My dreaded nemesis: free time. I crave free time until I have it, and then I freak out self-destruct and lose my mind. I am trying so hard not to let that happen this time around - making a real effort to keep myself occupied yet relaxed, and somehow trying to enjoy myself instead of feeling guilty.

I think I'm nervous because this time last year when faced with my schedule easing up, I let the running get out of control, which aggravated the nerve pain, which fucked up my fragile mental health and left me picking up the pieces for about six months. When I'm feeling short on productivity or accomplishments, I tend to ramp up the exercise and I cannot let that happen again.

But I've also been having an identity crisis of sorts lately. Like looking at myself as an outsider, who would ever think I don't actually have it all together? The type of person I seem to be—together, organized, competent, normal—is so totally detached from the person I feel like inside: terrified, irrational, lost, unsure of everything. Why can't I just revel in the fact that I get another set of letters after my name and am about to start a prestigious graduate program? Why am I not thrilled out of my socks with excitement? Why am I not swelling with pride?

After I gave my presentation yesterday, several people came up to me and told me I was a great public speaker and that I had seemed super confident and at ease and basically did an awesome job. It made my day....and caught me totally off-guard, because throughout my whole presentation I'd been worrying that my shoes (????) somehow made me look fat. Yes, that is a real thought that I had.  Like, why does my brain work like that? Why can't I  focus on the moment, and appreciate good things happening, and take pride in doing a good job?

Not sure where I'm going with this. I am proud of myself. But instead of patting myself on the back and looking forward to a couple weeks of downtime, I'm worrying about how to keep myself from falling apart.


  1. Congrats on your masters degree! I'll be honest, I'm a bit jealous! I lasted 1 whole quarter in grad school. I still wish I could get a masters but I need to work, I think. Plus, I think I lost my passion for counseling psychology. Anyhoo, this is so awesome for you! I hope your free time goes well. My only advice is to try to create as much structure as you can in the day. :) How much time do you have off?

    1. Thanks E. Graduate school is such a mind fuck in so many ways - like deferring real life, investing all this time and energy and money into something with some vague goal at the end. I believe that half the battle is good timing, and it is SO MUCH HARDER to go back into school after being a grown up and having a life for a number of years. I have no doubts you made the right decision for you, and if graduate school is truly worth it you will find a way to make it work. And if not, at least you figured it out after just one quarter as opposed to doing the entire degree.

      Creating structure is definitely the goal, so that I at least have stuff to keep me occupied while hopefully not creating more stress or's a tough balance! In terms of time off, it's tricky because my summer plans are sort of scattered. I may be going out of town here and there, but in general I'll be in College City working either at my job or on research. So there is potentially a lot of free time...

  2. CONGRATS!!!! This is so awesome!!!!! :) And hopefully, with you being aware that free time can be a trigger for unhealthy behaviors maybe can help keep you from engaging in them too much. Sometimes when we are "aware" that can make a huge difference. I would just try to maybe make a list of things that you enjoy that you can refer to if you do find yourself struggling with it. But seriously congrats because that is such an accomplishment!

    1. thank you!! yes I do feel like I already have a leg up on myself last year because I am being hypervigilant about NOT going backwards with the food or exercise stuff, lining up activities for myself that get me out and about, really taking care of myself etc.

      thanks, you are the best :)