A Year Can Change A Lot: Part 3

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Missed Part 1 or Part 2?

My inbox was flooded with your emails yesterday after my grad school posts. I felt so sympathetic for those of you who told me that you are walking in my same shoes right now. I sat there just thinking to myself…that was me. That was me just a year ago.

Nothing is worse that struggling in a place where you feel like you don’t belong or that you have to compromise your morals and beliefs in order to conform. That is how I felt during my two years in my Master’s program. As I walked through those doors in September, I felt like I had to step into some else’s shoes. And the shoes were a size 5 and I am a 7, so you can imagine how that went over.

Gillian left a beautiful quote in the comment section that really hit home with me:

“Humans are ambitious and rational and proud. And we don’t fall in line with people who don’t respect us and who we don’t believe have our best interests at heart. We are willing to follow leaders, but only to the extent that we believe they call on our best, not our worst.” ~Rachel Maddow

A Brief Way Back Play Back

As a teenager, I may have been that person who blindly followed the leader. Actually, I probably was that person more often than not. I had no sense of who I was or what I was capable of doing. So I went with the flow. My anxiety also held me back many times during my life. Anyone who suffers from anxiety knows how debilitating it can be to take a stand and be in the limelight.

However, as I progressed through the years of my undergraduate career, something inside me started to change. I started to feel powerful and confident. The more I learned and the harder I worked, the more I started to appreciate what I was capable of doing. In my first year of studies, I didn’t take it seriously. I skipped classes and didn’t study for exams. As a result, I obtained grades in the 60-70% range for most of my classes. But by the second year I figured that I better make something of this education and I started to use my brain. As an aside, during this time, I was also struggling with the disordered eating. I gained 25-30 pounds in my 1st year of my undergrad. That was also partly the reason for my poor grades. I couldn’t focus and I was depressed.

By third year, I was at the top of most of my classes, with my statistics and research marks in the 90’s. I started to believe in myself. My education didn’t directly open doors for me, but it allowed me to open the doors myself. Education gives you the tools and what you do with it is up to you.

My education gave me the power of choice.

Sure, some might argue that I had that power all along, but I sure didn’t think so. The confidence that my education gave me is truly invaluable. I learned how to write, debate, question, and become passionate about many different topics that I had never known before.

My mind felt free.

I guess the reason why I was so disappointed in my grad program was that my mind no longer felt free. I felt constrained and restricted when I should have felt inspired and liberated.

The Bad Decision of April 2008

In my last year of my Masters program, all I could think about was that I did not want to continue to the PhD program. Actually, I probably knew that within the first week there (the little voice did!!!), but I didn’t actually decide ‘on the record’ until late in my second year.

I was excited to be finished and to get a job as a researcher, or that’s what I convinced myself anyways.

Since I was little I have always wanted to help people. I didn’t know much about my passions and I didn’t have any hobbies, but that I knew.

In the spring of 2008, I applied for a research job that was sent out on the grad Listserve. I got a call and went for the interview. When I went for the interview I had a bad feeling about it, just like I did with my grad school interview. You know when you get that feeling in your gut, that says ‘fly like a bat out of hell’? Well, that is how I felt. You’d think that I would have learned my lesson, but of course I didn’t.

I was offered the job and started in 2 weeks. To this day I have no idea, absolutely no idea, what I was thinking. I thought that I could manage a full-time job, full-time grad student + complete thesis, and I was also a teaching assistant and a research assistant on top of it.

Some people like to learn things the hard way and I was certainly one of them.

I feared that if I rejected this job offer that I may not get another one for a while. What if I declined it and then didn’t get anything for a year or more? What would I do for money? We’ve all heard horror stories about new graduates not getting any job offers and I didn’t want to be a statistic. Plus, the salary was attractive. Very attractive to a broke grad student.

I took the job despite every fibre in my body telling me not to.

Eric and my family said I was crazy for taking it.

My supervisor said I was crazy.

I knew I was crazy (duh, look where I was the past 2 years!), but I figured that I would finish up my MA degree in May so I would only have to stick it out for 2 months of madness.

Do you see a pattern here?

1) I didn’t listen to my gut feeling. Again.

2) I took the first offer that I got. AGAIN.

I know what you’re saying right now…What the hell, girl!!! Trust me, I know. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

Things did not go according to plan with my thesis. Does it ever?? I was having tons of problems with my study and didn’t have a lot of support. I was in over my head with complex analyses that I had no idea how to do and were not even within the scope of what we were taught in our Masters stats courses. It dragged on and on and on.

Nails on a chalkboard. More struggles with eating.

My new job turned out to be very demanding. Very, very demanding. I often brought work home at night and on the weekends to do, on top of my thesis work. Looking back, I don’t know how I survived. It was a very poor decision to take the job and one that I surely regretted. I wanted to quit after the first week because I knew immediately that I had gotten in way over my head. But of course I didn’t. I was too proud to quit, but looking back, it would have been much better than suffering for that painful year.

Like many women, I was concerned about what people would think if I quit. It is often ingrained into our heads that we are failures if we can’t juggle it all. It is like the Superwoman Syndrome that I talked about before. I was much too stubborn to quit anything, but eventually a straw will break the camels back.

Oh Right The Wedding!

Did I mention that all throughout this time I was planning our wedding?! HAHA!!! I almost forgot about that (don’t worry Eric doesn’t read the blog, *smiles*). We started planning our wedding in January of 2008. I was so busy with my jobs and school that I didn’t even have time to plan many things for the wedding. Eric did a lot of it (Groomzilla!! No, just kidding). I was so busy with my thesis that I had to skip the taste testing and other appointments! I was quite down about it all.

My Thesis Oral Defense was finally set after about 100 drafts & rejections & edits. It was set for the end of July 2008 and I spent every single night until then preparing for my defense. It kept me up at night in fear. I started to have insomnia. I often cried myself to sleep a lot while Eric laid beside me unable to help. Eric was 3 years into his job and he was doing really well for himself.

I felt like that squeaky wheel that wouldn’t shut-up.

Finally the day of my defense came. I was on cloud nine. I heard that defense committees won’t set your thesis date until they pretty much know you are ready, so I was confident that I would pass. It was the hardest 3 hours of my life. My presentation of my research was just 20 minutes long, and the rest of the 2 and 1/2 hours was round after round of questioning. It was like the interview that would never end. After the defense, they excused me and after a couple painfully long minutes they came out and told me congratulations. It was one of the best moments in my life, only surpassed by this moment below which was the ‘official thing’:

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I have never been more proud than I was on this day. I couldn’t believe that I made it. I had tears of joy.

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It’s funny, we see so many graduates every Spring and Fall, but we don’t really know what it took for them to get to that stage. I always wondered what everyone else’s story was.

I was so excited I flew out my dad for my graduation. He missed my first graduation for my undergrad and I wanted him to be there for this special moment.

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I’m sure Eric was thinking THANK GOD THAT IS OVER. I WANT MY ANGE BACK.

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After the wedding, the honeymoon, and the graduation, I thought that our life would actually return to normalcy.

Boy was I mistaken.

Little did I know that within just a couple weeks, we would be packing our bags and hitting the road for another huge life change.

Stay tuned for Part 4…

Oh, and Happy Friday! :)

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 caitlin September 25, 2009

BAWWW I WANT MORE.

can you move to florida so we can be BFFs? please?

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2 Megan @ Megzz Wins At Life September 25, 2009

The way you wrote your story was simply beautiful… Everything flowed and it was absoloutly inspiring… I have not entered into grad school yet but I am serously considering it and I am glad I heard first hand that it is all not fun and games.. I have every intention of working full-time while attending full-time and now I am considering re-thinking that. Thank you very much Angela, as always you are such a wonderful person!

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3 Lori-Pure2Raw September 25, 2009

Angela, thanks for sharing you story. I totally agree with you in not going with your gut instincts. I have not followed my guy before and has lead to some pretty tough spots in my life as well. I do always put others before me as well. I wanted to make sure that everyone around me was happy than me. Eventually I started to do things for my life and now I am truly happy! Well, I think. HAHA. I look forward in hearing more of your stories.

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4 Jessica @ How Sweet It Is September 25, 2009

Oh geez, I feel like you are writing about the thoughts in my head. This is too cool. I love ‘sharing’ the experience with you.

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5 Julie @savvyeats September 25, 2009

Thank you for sharing all of this with us! I’m graduating in May, and in this economy, its so tempting to just take whatever job or program we are offered, but if it isn’t the right fit for you, you don’t have to take it! Thank you for helping me realize that!

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6 Courtney September 25, 2009

Thanks for the part about listening to your gut. Every time I have listened to my gut on something…good or bad it has been correct. Every time I didn’t listen I ended up regretting it later. Our instincts are there, buried maybe, but there and we should listen more. Trust ourselves and listen to that primal human instinct we have.
Enjoying reading your saga!!!
Courtney
Adventures in Tri-ing

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7 Ashley September 25, 2009

This story has been bringing tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing such a detailed account of your journey through school and the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

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8 Morgan (lifeafterbagels) September 25, 2009

I usually don’t tune in when it’s so much text, but Angela you have me glued to my computer screen. Thank you for sharing your story, although a very different path than mine, we have similar behaviors.

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9 Runeatrepeat September 25, 2009

I am completely loving each and everyone of these posts! I love the teasers at the end too – it’s like “On the next Grey’s Anatomy…” I can’t wait!

I think it takes a while for women to figure out that we should trust our gut instincts. Now that you know you’ll never make that mistake again (or at least it won’t take as long to snap out of it)!

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10 Mellissa September 25, 2009

I love the people can be so honest, lets learn from each others lessons.

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11 Melanie September 25, 2009

I am so very glad that you’re sharing this story. I can totally relate to you about undergrad building confidence and courage. I found it to do the same thing for me. I think it’s sad that, quite often, life *after* undergrad seems to destroy that. It’s just been this past week or so (and especially after reading your post) that I’ve been able to put my finger on what’s going on with me lately…it’s coming to terms with having totally lost that confidence and figuring out how to rebuild.

After undergrad (I got married during my last year), I was accepted into a great Grad program at Baylor…hubby did too. I had a nervous breakdown that summer and dropped out, and when we got to TX, I ended up having to take a job selling furniture (which gained me great friends). That, and some other very tumultuous issues left me with very little left. We moved back, and my disordered eating began again, and has continued.

I’m back in grad school now, and am working full-time (but in an “autopilot” corporate job, so school isn’t so bad). Rebuilding is so much harder than it seems like it would be (I’m sure you know that). Thank you for sharing this. It means so much.

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12 maria September 25, 2009

Yes. I have definitely learned the hard way over time that you MUST listen to that still small voice because somehow it knows what the heck it is talking about. I don’t know how… but it always knows. Always.

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13 Angela (Oh She Glows) September 25, 2009

I know its kind of creepy! haha

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14 Claire September 25, 2009

Oh my gosh,Angela!!I don’t know how you did all that.You are a strong Lady:-) cc

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15 Abby (Abbys Vegan Eats) September 25, 2009

I really enjoy your blog and am commenting for the first time! You certainly have a way with words and I appreciate you sharing your story! I could not agree more with listening with your gut instinct! Congrats to you! It has paid off in the long run! :)

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16 Shannon (The Daily Balance) September 25, 2009

I am loving these posts!

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17 Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) September 25, 2009

Oooh don’t leave us hanging like this!! I want more!!!! Please post part 4 today :-)

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18 Madeline @ Greens and Jeans September 25, 2009

Geez, why do we never listen to our gut instincts? I have to say, I’ve been lucky enough to have things workout anyway, but I sure would save myself a lot of time and heartache if I would just listen to my heart the first time around!

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19 Susan September 25, 2009

I’m loving this series Angela!! I’m fully aware that I took the first offer I got when I shouldn’t have. I do like my job, and more so the people I work with. Some day I’m going to give it up to pursue my own dream. I just need to feel a little more stable in my life first!

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20 Chloe September 25, 2009

This is EXACTLY the same stuff I am facing right now, just a couple of steps behind. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with school, as well as keep my parents happy. It’s been hard for me to tease out what is going to work for me, and I am definitely taking this series to heart. Thanks Angela!

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21 chandra h September 25, 2009

i love love love reading your blog, angela. you are a very talented, fun, funny, inspiring writer. I am sooo into your story lol please write pasrt 4!!

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22 Nicol September 25, 2009

Angela, you are so inspiring. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and this is the first time I’ve commented. I am so impressed by everything that you accomplished. Reading your blog has inspired me to start blogging my fitness story. I can’t wait til you are ready to ship to the U.S. and I look forward to hearing more about your story. Thank you for sharing.

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23 AGS September 25, 2009

Oh man. I recall my advisor suggesting all kinds of advanced stuff for my thesis — stuff that wasn’t covered in courses. I then spent hours and hours, days and days, researching and working on methods. Finally, at the end, I just told him I needed help — I needed someone to look at what I was doing and hash it through with me (something he just didn’t seem capable of doing). He put me in contact with a post-doc and within hours of meeting with the post-doc the methods problem was resolved.

I still remember thinking to myself after that meeting: WHY didn’t I admit to my advisor sooner what was going on? That I was in over my head? It was because I didn’t want to dissapoint him. What the hell?!

I’ve really changed from that point on. I’d rather have my SANITY and potentially dissapoint someone, then kill myself meeting an expectation that might not even exist. Period.

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24 Whitney @ Lettuce Love September 25, 2009

Can’t wait to read the next chapter! It is great to learn your story — thanks for sharing all of this!

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25 Sarah September 25, 2009

Wow, this is some story! I can’t wait to read the next part. It has definitely made me realize a few things about myself. Thanks :)

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26 Kristine September 25, 2009

Ange,
I am *sort of* in the same boat that you were in. I am currently pursuing my doctorate of Audiology (a 4 year program). It is a great and rewarding field, but I don’t LOVE it. I was faced with a similar dilemma as you, though, and was accepted into a selective program and I was 1 or 8 to get in! I knew i’d be dumb to pass that up. Plus, my undergraduate degree was in “communication disorders” and what the heck else would I do with that? Well now I am currently in my second year of grad school, and still not loving where I am in life. I am single and not particularly happy with my program. My whole problem is that I feel like I should finish it, because WHAT ELSE WOULD I DO with myself? My parents are currently helping me pay for everything, and I feel like if I dropped out, I wouldn’t have that luxury anymore, and I still have NO IDEA what else I would want to do with my life. My overall message here is that I think it is great that you pushed through and graduated, and now you are doing what you love, even if it doesn’t have much to do with psychology!! Thanks for reading! :)

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27 Kristin September 25, 2009

Oooooo…you’re keeping us in suspense! I am loving this topic!

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28 Voracious Vorilee September 25, 2009

I love how you have told your story, and am eagerly awaiting part four.

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29 s September 25, 2009

i am really enjoying reading these posts – you are a great writer. i gotta say, i’m in grad school right now and i feel like i can relate to some of what you write about. i find myself struggling at times to rebuild (as someone who commented above, put it) the sense of confidence that i had as an undergraduate.

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30 Brandi C. September 25, 2009

Ange, I think you are in the middle of writing your best series yet =] I can’t wait for the rest!

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31 Beth @ DiningAndDishing September 25, 2009

It is seriously so inspiring to hear that you came from such a difficult place in regards to what to do with your life and are now pursuing your true passion and dream! Way to go Angela :O)

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32 *Andrea* September 25, 2009

great post! i have super bad anxiety and can totally relate. i just wish i could get to the place you are, instead of obsessing over my weight/appearance/grades etc. you are gorgeous and such a great role model :)

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33 Carrie September 25, 2009

Great posts! Your honesty and personal growth is inspiring!

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34 Emily September 25, 2009

I just went back to school two weeks ago, and its nothing like I thought it would be. I’m tired all the time and rarely see my friends. Reading your blog gives me so much hope for the future.

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35 MarathonVal September 25, 2009

Oh my, you are quite the riveting story teller!! Haha I’m so intrigued after every entry ;)

Also, don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a year’s subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine if you are interested! :)

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36 EatingRD September 25, 2009

leaving us on the edge of our seat! I am nodding my head with every word. My job right now isn’t as intense as yours was, but is still 32 hours and takes up a lot of extra time. I too took this job right after my internship because I was afraid I wouldn’t find another one that wasn’t strictly clinical. Chris and I needed the money since we were still living at his parents. It’s good because it is a paycheck, we were able to buy a townhouse, and they are helping pay for part of my school, but I feel like it’s not advancing my experience or really appreciating me as an RD. It’s tough because I know I don’t want to stay with this job because it’s not making me happy, but I feel I have to stick it out so I can pay for school. I’ve decided I’m going to have to reduce my hours next contract because it will just be too tough to try to do research and thesis at the same time while trying to have a life and relationship. You just made my mind up for me, thank you!

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37 Sally September 28, 2009

Have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? It is all about the psychology of decision making and trusting our gut instinct. I think you would like it a lot!

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