Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So Freakin’ Done with Grad School

For those of you who aren’t keeping up with my blog or haven’t had the chance to read some of my most recent posts, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my grad program over the last year. After this summer, I was ready to drop out, but decided I just needed to finish. However, here I am with three weeks left in the semester, and I still can’t help but to feel like I’m wasting my time.

 I’ve also been MIA on my blog for a few weeks, and I really get frustrated at myself for not keeping up with it because, honestly, it’s really the only thing I enjoy doing. BUT my other “responsibilities” keep getting in the way: I have to keep up with my school work, plan lessons for the classes I’m teaching, and grade grade grade all of the freakin’ time. And on top of all this, I’ve also been battling severe anxiety and depression.

Because of this, I sought out therapy to work through my mental health issues and to help myself find clarity about whether or not I should drop out. I’ve been dealing with this internal conflict all semester, and it hit me a few weeks ago that the program I’m in isn’t going to help me be the best version of myself, give me any skills that I’ll need to be successful in the career(s) I’m interested in pursuing, and just doesn’t seem to be fulfilling in any way. And coming to this realization seemed to be making my depression even worse.

I mentioned to my therapist last week that I feel like I’m wasting my time in this program, and that I should just drop out now (even though I only have two classes left…) to get on with starting my life / career. I told her I thought being in the program was making my depression even more difficult to cope with, and I didn’t think there was anything I could possibly get out of the program by finishing it. This is the advice she gave me:

  1. Thinking that your wasting your time is wasting your time.
  2. No matter where you’re at in life, always try to find some purpose in what you’re doing.
  3. If you’re not putting 110% into what you’re doing, you’re always going to feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it.
  4. If you feel like you are wasting your time, what can you do about the situation?

Hearing this, I was honestly floored. I sat in her office, contemplative about what was I doing to make the situation better for myself. I knew I was under contract to teach for another semester, had already taken out student loans, and didn’t want to regret any decision that I would make, but I also knew that I laid in bed most weekends throwing pity parties for myself because I hated that this is what my life had come to.

I quickly realized that I was half-assing all of my assignments, put minimal effort into planning my lessons for my students, skipped classes more than I had my entire life (and if you know me personally, you know this is a huge deal), and wasn’t giving 100% in my relationship with Josh. I was living every aspect of my life in mediocrity, and I needed to stop. But how?

It’s not as easy as it seems to stop thinking that you’re wasting time when you’re truly unhappy in a situation, but until you’re giving 110% effort to at least try to get something out of whatever you’re doing, that feeling won’t change. I don’t want to look back on my time in grad school five years from now and feel regret, but I also don’t want to feel bitterness if I continue the program and still feel unfulfilled.

As the semester comes to an end, I have a lot of reflecting to do. If I do continue, what can I do next semester that will ensure that I make the most out of my classes? But also, how will I be able to utilize a degree in English in a way that will help me reach my goals after graduation? I need to ask myself why did I even decide to get this degree?

I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the mindset that we’re wasting time when we’re at a place of uncertainty in our lives. However, it’s what we do about it—what actions we take and the positive mindset we create for ourselves—that is the only way to overcome this negative thought process. I truly believe that there is always a rhyme or reason behind where we’re at in our lives, and although it isn’t always clear, there is always something that we can learn from it. I’m still searching for that purpose, but I am trying to start giving 110% in all areas of my life (which means more blogging and doing more that makes me happy!!!) in attempt to find it.

What are some ways that you overcame feelings of uncertainty or feeling like you were wasting time? Let me know in the comments below!

Xo,

Ashlyn


*S/o to Blackbear ft. Gucci Mane’s “Do Re Mi” for the inspo for the blog title!! I’m obsessed lol.

Putting Down Roots

Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with the idea of putting down roots. When will it happen? Where will I eventually settle? Am I wasting away my life moving all around or am I gaining experience?

I moved to South Carolina for undergrad and each summer I would move to a different city with my boyfriend and work your typical minimum wage summer job. We moved in with his grandma in Myrtle Beach one summer, then we went back to my home in Orlando to take classes the following summer, and finally after graduation, we moved back in with his mom for a few months in Wilmington.

Now, we’ve been living in Bowling Green, KY for the last year and have finally had the opportunity to start building our own home together. However, it’s really not our home: it’s a college apartment that’s fully furnished with things that aren’t ours. Sure, I can decorate it all I want. But it’s still hard to make it really feel like ours.

I feel like this has been our living situation for the last five years: dorm rooms, our families’ homes, and college “apartment-style” housing. We’re always moving, never staying. We can’t put down roots because we always get up and leave.

And while I genuinely feel like home is wherever I’m with Josh (and now Fitz), I think for me the most difficult part of this never-ending cycle of moving is forming relationships with other people. It’s really challenging for me to create relationships with people that I know I most likely won’t see again; I struggled with this in high school, in undergrad, and now in graduate school. I’ve always had a tight circle of friends that knew my innermost secrets, and I never felt the need to go beyond that.

It’s also often hard for me to find a reason to network professionally when I move to a new place. Josh is always encouraging me to go out into the community to meet people (especially some of the people he works with or coaches), but I don’t. I always talk myself out of it, or if I do meet someone that could potentially be a good networking opportunity, I usually don’t follow up.

I think this is one of my greatest pitfalls. I’ve been so caught up in the idea that the place I’m currently living isn’t permanent and that the relationships I form don’t really matter. I’ve been slowly growing out of this mindset, but I sometimes catch myself drifting back into my old ways. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to be cautious when establishing new friendships, but I think relying on my “clique” as the only relationships I’ll ever need to form is really unhealthy.

I’ve started to realize that it isn’t about putting down roots. I’m only twenty-two and I have a lifetime ahead of me to grow and move around. I don’t have to settle yet; I can wander wherever my heart desires. I think what I’ve finally learned is that I don’t have to put down roots, I just need to plant seeds. I need to create relationships with people with the understanding that they could be some of the greatest bonds I’ve ever formed or they might not last at all. Both of which are okay. I need to be more vulnerable. I need to network. I need to put myself out there. I need to stop worrying about “settling” and enjoy the present.

It’s so easy to get caught up in societial pressures and pressure from family: When are you getting married? Where are you going to live when you graduate? Are you going back to Florida or are you going to the Carolinas? What are your career plans? What’s your five-year plan look like?

I don’t know. I really don’t. But I’m going to do my best to plant seeds and watch them grow. As cliche as this sounds, I know nothing is ever guaranteed in this life, so why not just take chances on people?


Have you ever experienced a similar feeling when you moved? How do you or did you try to overcome it? Let me know in the comments below or via email!

Why I’m (Still) So Obsessed With My Study Abroad Experience

On September 5, 2015, I got on a plane to study abroad for the semester in Shanghai, China. Prior to this, I had only traveled outside of the US once and that was to the Bahamas on a cruise (which, let’s be honest, to a Floridian that’s basically the equivalent of going to your next-door neighbor’s). So, needless to say, I had very limited worldview.

I knew Shanghai was one of the most populated cities in the world. However, I didn’t anticipate feeling too much culture shock, given Shanghai’s status as a huge international hub for finance and trade and its equally large international population. But, I quickly learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Longji Rice Terraces, Guilin

While Shanghai is full of wealthy citizens and expats, it is also ridden with extreme poverty: pollution floods the streets, and it’s especially hard to take a full breath of air without a mask during the fall/winter due to the intense levels of smog. People work at least 14-hour days (mostly labor intensive jobs) and still struggle to make ends meet.

Of course I’ve witnessed poverty and pollution in the US before, but nothing like this. And, of course, I did have an idea about the extreme poverty and pollution in China, but it never really seemed tangible. Studying abroad makes you see things in a new perspective. Being an outsider looking in was surreal; it really makes you think about how privileged you are to be living as a visitor in a country solely to study.

Essentially, my American privilege slapped me in the face—I was so appalled by my ignorance and it was a much needed reality check. It’s so easy to share a post on Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness or express your abhorrence for problems going on in the world; however, when do you actually do something about such problems?

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The Great Wall of China, Beijing

At what point do you go beyond “Wow, that looks really shitty…I’d hate to live/be there” and actually put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or better yet, figure out ways you can make a difference? We make a mockery out of these problems by using hashtags like #firstworldproblems, but do we ever really stop to do anything about the very real #thirdworldproblems?! Poverty, access to education, human trafficking, pollution, as well as so many other issues are rampant in Chinese society (and many other developing countries). So ask yourself this: How do we live in a world that makes it so easy to distance ourselves from such real issues going on in developing countries?

I could say that studying abroad was thrilling: I got to live as an expat, traveled whenever and wherever I wanted, was treated like a VIP at clubs (thanks to promoters and my “foreign”/Western appearance), and never worried about spending too much money (I could live on $3USD/day). And while all of those things are most certainly true (and extremely shallow), I’ll say this: studying abroad made me come to terms with my severe ignorance of global issues and cultural differences. It made me realize that my dreams aren’t big enough, and that I need to think more globally, as opposed to stressing over the blatantly trivial matters that so often consume my thoughts.

And while many students think studying abroad is just going overseas to party and travel (which, to be fair, I definitely did my fair share of), it’s so much more than that. Although all study abroad experiences are different, no matter which country/countries you study abroad in, you’ll leave with a more global perspective and a real awareness about what the hell is actually going on in the world. I’m certainly still ignorant on a lot of issues, but my experience abroad has forced me to think outside of my protected, privileged, first-world bubble, and has made me more passionate about human rights issues than ever before. And this is exactly why over a year later I’m still so obsessed with it.


*My study abroad program was through International Studies Abroad (ISA)

*I received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to apply toward my program costs. If you receive the Federal Pell Grant and want to study abroad definitely apply!

*I had the chance to visit the Shanghai Marriage Market for my Chinese Culture & Society class, and it was one of the most eye-opening experiences that I had while living in Shanghai. Watch this video to learn more about the “Leftover Women” and many of the other stigmas women face in contemporary China: SK-II: Marriage Market Takeover.

You’ll Regret Going to a Small College

During my last semester of high school nearly four years ago, I was dead set on attending Florida State. I had my roommate picked out, and paid my deposit for our summer dorm room. I was anxiously waiting for the time where I would be able to rush, go to all the football games/tailgates, and do the plethora of other exciting things that would be sure to happen in Tallahassee with all of my closest friends.

Then things changed.

I had an unforeseen opportunity to play lacrosse at a Division II school in a small town in South Carolina. I can still remember touring Coker College with my best friend (Hey, Dan!) and being in shock that we had driven nearly eight hours to what appeared to be a town located between two cotton fields. Nevertheless, we decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, that we would try it out, and if we hated it after two years, we’d transfer.

My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea, and I still think to this day my mom believes that it wasn’t the right choice for me. I heard multiple times that I would regret going to a college that was literally half of the size of my high school. That I wouldn’t get the same experience and networking opportunities that my friends who were going to FSU, UF, or UCF would. That a school in rural South Carolina wouldn’t offer nearly the amount of diversity that I was accustomed to while living in Central Florida.

They were wrong.

While I’m no mathematician, I think being 1 out of 1,200 students is a lot better than 1 out of, say, 40,000? I was somebody at Coker. I felt like I could make a difference, and the faculty, staff, and my peers made sure that everyone felt that way. Along with being a student-athlete, I was involved with multiple organizations and often held leadership positions within them. The President of our college actually knew my name, and even gave me a shout out during our commencement ceremony (which is something I will never forget, so thanks, Dr. Wyatt!).

Diversity in rural South Carolina wasn’t an issue either. Albeit Coker College is not the most diverse higher education institution, students are required to study abroad. And even better, students are often given scholarships and funding opportunities in order to do so. So, while I was not immersed in the amount of diversity one would typically find in Orlando, I was exposed to not only a rural (read: complete opposite of what I was used to) area and a variety of international students from all over the world, but I actually had the opportunity to live in a foreign country (!!!) thanks to my small, private college.

If that isn’t enough, the small (read: roughly 5 students per class) English classes I was able to take at Coker influenced a new-found interest in writing. Such small classes led to personal relationships with professors, which in turn led to my decision to pursue a graduate degree in English. Because these close-knit relationships existed throughout my duration at Coker, I am a more confident individual, have a better grasp on both my strengths and weaknesses as a student, and know that I will always have mentors to rely on should I need it.

Like most students, I still often question whether the college I chose was the “right decision” for me; however, I am confident in the woman who graduated just a few short months ago with a fresh outlook on the world and a thirst for knowledge—all of which would not have been possible if it weren’t for Coker. So no, you won’t regret going to a small college. If anything, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have because you’ll get the opportunity to be somebody.