Finally reached the spring semester of grad school, and two weeks have already gone by. To say the least, I am now feeling overwhelmed by all the assignments I have to complete weekly, while also keeping in mind of upcoming projects and deadlines for things within and outside of my institution!
As of this moment, I am procrastinating on reading a book for one class and a few PDFs for another class, or writing a draft for a semester-long project of a memoir piece, or trying to organize group ideas for a presentation due in one month… by writing this blog post, as a movie plays in the background of the room I’m currently occupying in my house! I have no idea where to totally focus my attention for more than a minute.
I keep thinking, “why is this?” For the majority of my life, I have been a student. By now, I should know how to prioritize tasks, plan accordingly, and take breaks to rest my mind. But since coming back to school, to pursue a master’s degree, I decided to actually question these things and to reflect on my past experiences as a student at other levels. What had happened to me, at certain points in my life as a student, that prevented me from achieving a more favorable status as a “well-rounded student” who could balance different aspects of her life…?
I get stressed out over prioritizing assignments I have to complete, but I could never express my concerns to professsors — mainly because I already knew how they will respond, based on the ways they carried themselves in the classroom and approach students’ vocalized inquiries. So I would keep to myself and suffer in silence… By “suffer”, I mean experience headaches, feel lost and directionless, have anxiety attacks, become easily irritable, and fall into abyssmal bouts of self-sabotage and negative thinking. And yet, I refused to reach out for help with anyone, for fear of appearing “weak”, “incapable”, and “overly sensitive”.
Family would not understand the complexities of student life, in so far as being a student at a four-year university under an American system (I’m the first in my family to be in such a position, as well as being the first to attend graduate school in the U.S.). Friends may not fully grasp the tensions of where I am now because of our different life paths and positions beyond the confines of suburbia. Colleagues do not know much about my personal life to become confidants for expressing my situational concerns, as I woud prefer to not divulge too much information that would lead me to self-reflect and appear as “imbalanced” or “complicated”.
I was always identified as being “a pleasure in class”, which I have come to learn as coded language for “she was always quiet and receptive to directions in class, therefore she is most favorable and not so much of a headache or a challenge to my personal stances in a place of authority”. (Or something in that vain; the only certain quality within that phrase is “being quiet”.) For this time around, as a first-year master’s student, my aim is to be more vocal about my opinions, but at the same time, more wise and discerning of how I present my ways of thinking and assessing. I try to participate more in class discussions, but I know when to fall back because of how I am feeling at the time.
My biggest lesson, from being a career-student, is to listen to myself more. I have done so much ingesting the thoughts of teachers and classmates, that I forget to hear my own voice.
Audre Lorde and bell hooks have been with me for years, through their written works, but it is only until now that their “philosophies”/pedagogies resonated with me at a deeper level. They do not speak to me as a student or as an academic, but as a (non-Black) woman (of color) who is nudged to take up or claim my spaces. My academic ninangs have been sharing their wisdom with me, from reading the books that house their words, and I feel like I am retreating to their safe-houses. I will elaborate more on how their work reaches into my psyche with gentleness and urgency, as I continue with my studies, but for now I can say that they are my main guides through my career as a student-turned-scholar.
For now, no more drinking coffee closer to evening, as it gave me a big headache that led to sobbing…