I graduated from college 233 days ago. I wrote this post and talked myself into believing I was “ready.” The truth is, I had absolutely no idea what was about to come.
In the 170 days since I moved to Cleveland, I’ve learned more about myself and being an “adult” than I ever thought I needed to. You see, when I left Creighton I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was educated on everything I could possibly need to know and experienced in everything that could possibly be thrown my way. In reality, I was a 22 year old B.A. with a whole lot of growing up to do. News flash: I’m still 22, 1/4 of the way to an M.A., and still have a whole lot of growing up to do.
I’ve spent 170 days in this crazy #SAGrad lifestyle that only a few can understand. That’s 170 days of living on my own, in a new state, starting all over again. That’s 170 days of my professional reputation developing. That’s 170 days of long nights, early mornings, and weekend work.
I’ve laughed uncontrollably, cried uncontrollably, felt like this is exactly where I belong, and felt like an imposter. You see, grad school has a way of challenging you to the limit. Grad school challenges you to your end but gives you just the right amount of support as to not fall off. It’s a balance: challenge and support.
So what exactly have you been doing, Mattie? Allow me to explain myself. I blinked and I’m already done with my first semester. To be quite honest, I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve been doing besides what I like to endearingly refer to as neversleeping-alwaysgoing-drowinginreadings-respondingtoemails-perptuallysayingyestoeverything.
I’ve been writing this post in my head while showering for months. It seems these days that the shower is the only place I am alone in my thoughts and solely focused on me. Yet, I’m still not even sure what I want it to say. Dropping truth bombs and wisdom, reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned, inspiring others to get up and take risks? Who knows.
I suppose I’ll just leave you with a list of 10 things that made my first semester memorable.
- Finding my people. It’s hard moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone. What if they don’t like me? Will I even make friends? Well, it’s only been a few months and I can confidently say that I have one of the best support systems here. There’s something about experiencing this alongside other people who just get it. I’ve made some of my best friends and worked with some of the best and brightest future colleagues in the field.
- Learning how to Res Life. I was never an RA in college and never wanted to be, yet somehow I found myself as the Hall Director of a residence hall full of young, active, and eager students. Let the panic set it. I may not have had it all figured out in the beginning, but I was blessed with 4 amazing RAs who make my job easy, 8 fellow Hall Directors who are fiercely supportive, and an awesome supervisor who pushes me to be my best. Residence Life is one of those functional areas you sell your soul to, but hey, it’s lifestyle that I have actually come to enjoy.
- Men’s Recruitment. Recruitment is just the best time of year. I love the energy and long days that turn into nights for the purpose of finding an amazing class of new members to carry on the legacy. Since the other half of my job is advising IFC and the fraternities on campus, there I was thrown into fraternity recruitment. I’ve never identified more with the saying: Fake it ’till you make it. But hey, this PanHellenic woman figured it out and is continuing to learn about the nuances of the fraternity world while trying to make an impact as typically the only woman in the room. Breaking down toxic masculinity and creating opportunities for vulnerability– all in a day’s work.
- Whole30. I wasn’t kind to my body in college. I didn’t fuel it with nutrient rich foods, didn’t care what kind of crap I was eating, and as a result gained way more weight than I care to admit. As soon as I moved to Cleveland I made a decision to change my life. I started Whole30 in September, you can read more about it here. I lost 15 pounds in 30 days just by being more conscious of what I was eating, I didn’t even hit the gym once. I had more energy, clearer skin, got better sleep, learned how to cook, and was happier than ever. I stopped using food as an emotional crutch and I’m excited to continue a modified version of these guidelines in my every day diet.
- Checking my privilege and critically reflecting on my own development in college. My academic work this semester completely turned me upside down. Creighton obviously laid a foundation for me to begin thinking about these things but let me tell you, when every class session involves a fruitful discussion about privilege and oppression and identity and the entire focus of my grad program is about inclusion and bringing new voices to the table, I can’t help but think about things differently. When you’re told to come up with your own personal paradigm and philosophy of student affairs, you’re forced to stretch your brain farther than what it’s done previously. If anything this semester, I’ve been challenged academically and cognitively and for that I’m grateful.
- Klicker Wedding. Just as the semester was starting to take a toll and the honeymoon phase of being in a new environment was wearing off, I got to attend the wedding of a family friend. It really is a small world that this wedding just happened to be in Ohio not far from where I live. It was a beautiful weekend and exactly what I needed to recharge, get a little slice of home, surround myself with people who make me feel at home, and continue on for the rest of the semester.
- Breaking my foot. This may have not been the best thing I did, but it was certainly memorable. I spent a good 6 weeks this semester hobbling around in a boot that was so loud and clunky you could hear me coming from a mile away. How did I break my foot you ask? I dropped a textbook on it. If that doesn’t sum up grad school, then I don’t know what does.
- Weekend trip to Syracuse. Do you have that friend who no matter how long you don’t see each other, you just immediately pick up where you left off? I hadn’t seen my best friend since 7th grade for 2 and a half years. So, one weekend I decided to pack up and take a road trip to Syracuse, NY. It was only around a 5 hour drive and I so needed to get away from the chaos. We had so much fun and I’m so happy that somehow we both ended up in this corner of the country for a few years.
- Life as a Kappa alumna is just as sweet as an active member. I joined the Cleveland KKG Alumnae Association and celebrated a wonderful Founder’s Day as my first event. With tears in my eyes, I witnessed an incredible woman receive her 75 year pin #goals. I also got to meet some wonderful women from the Lambda chapter at U Akron who surprised me at work on sorority bid day. I even decided to become the education advisor for the Eta Zeta chapter, so next semester I’ll get to have even more Kappa in my life!
- AFA Annual Meeting. Speaking of Kappa, while I was in Atlanta at the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to network with wonderful sisters in the field and congratulate them on their accomplishments. I learned a lot at the educational sessions on a wide range of topics from mental health in fraternities to the experiences of people of color in predominately white organizations, all while surrounded by campus and headquarters professionals. The experience definitely showed me that I’m exactly where I want to be and that the fraternity and sorority experience is something I whole-heartedly believe in.
If you’re still reading this post after way too many words, props to you. I wrote these 1,500 words faster than I ever wrote any papers this semester.
Maybe after reading the highlights you’re thinking how great this all seems, maybe you’re not. In reality, my days aren’t full of sunshine and rainbows at all. I’m not out here perfectly acclimated to my new life, traveling the country, and seeing old friends every day. In reality, my days mostly consist of a lot of meetings, a lot of readings, and a lot of not sleeping.
So, here’s a short, non-comprehensive list of resolutions for the next 500 days until graduation: Breathe. Just breathe. Give myself grace. Stop comparing myself to everyone else around me. Do my homework just a little earlier. Recognize that I can’t do everything. Learn to say no. And, just breathe.
Life on an academic calendar has it’s perks. Every 5 months or so you get to hit the reset button. So here’s to 2018, here’s to a new semester, and here’s to the next 500 days.