We have been the absolute WORST bloggers in history. We just up and went completely MIA on you, and we are so sorry. Life has been INSANE over the past few weeks. Tons of travel, freelance and this:
My graduate portfolio, completed, reviewed and APPROVED! I submitted on the 18th and didn’t think I’d hear back before Thanksgiving. The thought of trying to enjoy the holiday not knowing if it was approved killed me. My advisor must have felt my agony, because she emailed on Monday before we left town and said she had reviewed it and was passing it to the committee to sign off on. Needless to say, I ate and drank liberally over the holiday to celebrate.
A graduate portfolio is kind of a non-traditional approach to demonstrating mastery of the competencies acquired over the course of a master’s degree program. While most people have to write, present and defend a thesis or a body of work developed from research, my portfolio is more of a visual and written display articulating my assertion of mastering the competencies. I’ve maintained and developed the body of work over the course of the program, and the portfolio uses that work to demonstrate my understanding.
I started assembling it in September, with the goal to finish in December. My advisor tried to dissuade me, saying it would be too much to take on with courses yet to finish. Undeterred, I said I would definitely finish in December, and accept whatever burden came with such an aggressive goal. It made for a pretty miserable fall, and coupled with my grandpa’s death, really made my November almost non-existent. We cancelled our trip to Foodbuzz, cancelled camping trips and weekends working on the house. Everything pretty much fell by wayside, and it finally swallowed up my blogging time. Not optimal, but worth not having to take another semester to work. And really, toward the end I could barely assemble coherent sentences, let alone topics or things that we were doing that didn’t involve work.
As you can see, the work was ridiculously writing-intensive. I tried to follow the examples outlined by the program, but somehow still ended up writing several novels-worth of analysis and reflection.
I’m just so happy it’s over. During our Crossfit dinner a few weeks ago, I was talking with one of the guys in our class who is finishing his PhD. I said, “it feels weird to say, but I just can’t wait to have my life back. This degree was my endeavor, but toward the end, it just doesn’t feel like I’m doing it for myself.” He agreed, and said that he had tried to articulate that same point to several of his friends, who just didn’t get it because they weren’t doing it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always wanted this degree, and always dreamed of the opportunities it would bring Neil and I, but I seriously had to have a pep-talk with myself every semester to keep going, and toward the end, it didn’t feel like I was doing it for me any more. I’ve given up so much to grow my career. I’ve put off other goals, hobbies and things that would have made the days and weeks more bearable. I’ve lost friends because my lifestyle makes me unrelatable and mostly unavailable. It’s definitely worth it now, but I’m more than ready to take some time and LIVE, before deciding if a PhD is my next step.
I can’t let it go unsaid that all of this wouldn’t have been possible without Neil. He has been so patient with the wild ride I’ve made him endure the past two years, and really stepped up to help this semester. The house stayed clean, the laundry got done, he made dinner every night, and helped make sure my brain didn’t ooze from my ears. I think going into marriage, it’s easy to simplify “for better or for worse” and think that life is nothing but wonderful highs and terrible lows. The truth is that much of it is in-between, and happiness comes in knowing how to thrive in the “middles” and “halfways.” He does that better than anyone, and this degree is really our accomplishment.
So hopefully life can somewhat return to normal now, even though I have no idea what “normal” means or will mean yet…
How do you maintain a healthy work + life balance?