This week I have become the grad student that I hated.
I have been spending my days and nights eating, sleeping, and drinking maps. I’m in this mapping class, and for the midterm project and now the final, the best way I have found to do the work is to spend hours and hours–and I mean, all day, everyday–in the computer lab at school.
It hasn’t been terrible, really. It hasn’t been super stressful because i’m not thinking that much about grades, or about all that I have left to do. It’s been fun, in a way. Putting my heart and soul into a project like this feels like a luxury. Sort of like going out–but way more fulfilling. For so much of the past year, my doctors and my body dictated how I spent my time. Last fall, it was at appointments and scans. Last winter, it was at home, recovering from surgery. Last spring and summer, I was getting into the swing again–interrupted, briefly, by chemo that wasn’t working–figuring things out. Now, my doctors’ demands are fewer and my body is feeling good again, so I can decide how I want to spend my time.
And apparently, I want to spend it in the computer lab staring at maps. When I had periods of low-intensity treatment like this during in the past year, I would proceed trepidatiously. I would spend time on schoolwork, of course, but not this much time on school work. I always felt like something would happen and it would get taken away from me, like I would have to put it aside and not finish it if I put too much into it. Or, if I stopped thinking about cancer for one second it would come back and bite me (again). I saw my colleagues at school treating their classes like a full-time job. I didn’t understand why they put hours in every single day when I could get by attending support groups and watching movies and sleeping and trying to make sense of this whole cancer thing… and sometimes doing schoolwork.
I think part of the reason i’m working so hard is this is actually my first full quarter at school. I have a full load of classes and i’m on track to finish all of them (thank you, hours spent in the computer lab–today I present my work). The last two quarters I’ve been at school I’ve taken less than a full load, or last year at this time, a full load but still work leftover once the quarter ended.
Also, I think it helps that I’ve also been busy the last few months putting my life back together. Rather, putting my new life together–I won’t ever be the girl I was in Chicago again. Starting this blog was a big step in that direction. Staying in grad school was too. So was “coming out.”
I think I was jealous before of those grad students that I hated. I was jealous they could devote so much time and and energy and attention to school where I could only devote a small percentage of mine. While this period leading up to finals is unique and short lived and I don’t think I could sustain it for a whole ten weeks without air, I just want to reaffirm that staying in school was a good choice. It feels really good to finally be able to finish something big. And to not think about cancer.