graduate school, sober lifestyle


There are some things you never outgrow — I mean, I suppose you could outgrow them, if you snapped out of your unconscious stupor, got off your ass and put in some effort, but that would take…you know, effort. So, in some ways, I’m still the restless little baby who pitched a hissy fit every time an adult set her down and she had to stay stuck in one place for any length of time.

Knowing how much of a psychological game-changer it was for me to learn to walk, and how much movement has meant to me over the subsequent four decades, maybe I should take this master’s degree I’m earning and become an “eco therapist” who leads her clients on nature hikes. 🤔

Anyway, I think the fact that I sat relatively still through entire 3+-hour classes, all school year long, without completely melting down, is at least a small sign of maturity. And I didn’t knock anyone over, bolting for the door at dismissal time…I only shoved the occasional classmate out of the way when they took too long to clear the aisle!

I’m kidding, of course. 🤣 As of this past Thursday, my first year of grad school has come and gone without major incident, and while I head into the two-month summer break still waiting on my official report card, I’m pretty sure I got a passing grade in conduct.

I know I killed it in the “Participation” department.

I only did like 50% of the reading assignments for Social Justice class (it was sooooo much reading, y’all), and yet, I never had any trouble finding stuff to rant about in class discussions. 🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏼‍♀️ Funny how useful the brain can be when it’s not coated in toxic sludge, like those gestating mogwai cocoons in the movie “Gremlins.”

POV: Almost three years sober, flashing back to my drinking days…

My de-fogged sober brain has been super active over the past 10 months, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, now that there’s no schoolwork to dominate my every waking thought. I can’t even remember what it was like to have actual free free time, and facing an abyss of empty space in my schedule makes me a little nervous.

Today, I’m busying myself by reflecting on Grad School Act One, before I head into intermission.

Speaking of fog…my “After” photo on a gross, humid Friday morning at the track, celebrating my first “last day of school” in 22 years.

No doubt, you guys, my assorted Jen-isms definitely earned me a reputation in my cohort. You could count on me to be the first post on the discussion boards and the first one to turn in research papers — I’m literally incapable of doing anything at the last minute — and the first one to reach for the tissues when the subject matter got deep and heavy — it’s mental health counseling; it’s ALL deep and heavy! 😭 And yes, I was usually the first to arrive on campus, and always the first one out the door or off the Zoom call, because I’m a 44-year-old recovering alcoholic who’s 100% addicted to sleep. (I’m also currently incapable of getting up later than 4AM.)

Additionally, and I know someone out there feels me…if you were the conscientious kid in elementary school who everyone just automatically expected to take the lead on group projects, guess what? You are forever that kid, no matter how old you get. I challenge you to try breaking the mold, to sit back and wait for things to come together as you watch the deadline approach, and not give in to the irresistible urge to spring into action, seize that leadership role and take care of business. You can’t do it! Taking initiative is like breathing, am I right?

My personality used to perplex and embarrass me; I vacillated between worrying that people would take advantage of my take-charge nature, and worrying that they disliked me for being “too much.” I mean, both have probably been true at various times in my life, but I’ve lived long enough to see other people’s opinions for what they are: food for thought, and worthy of consideration, but in the words of a Jon Secada song that used to play on the radio in my teen years, “only as important as I want them to be.”

Shit’s gotta get done, and I’m able, willing and motivated to do it. You’re welcome to walk with me; it’s your prerogative if you want to stay behind. I’m going to move forward with the mission, no matter what.

I’m not for everyone. I get that. I own it! But honestly, I’ve reached a point where I’m grateful for this Type-A, “try-hard” personality. Without it, I might never have been able to push through my addiction, my mental health struggles, or the craziness of early recovery, with my family, my sanity, or my sense of purpose still intact. I might not feel the same level of commitment to staying on this path.

The steepest hill at Tyler State, aka my daily stomping ground.

The path has felt like a never-ending uphill climb over the past few months, with the breakneck pace of DelVal’s six-week summer session and all these weighty social justice topics to unpack and all the ongoing growing pains that come with a midlife career change, but I made it to the top. I did what had to be done.

As hard as it is for a perpetually restless soul with all this newfound extra brain space to slow down the hamster wheel in her head…

…that shit’s gotta get done, too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m due at the local wellness center for a 90-minute massage. 💆🏼‍♀️

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