Today brought upon a myriad of emotions and a breakthrough that I think every graduate student has experienced. My girlfriend has the most amazing wardrobe, and to her credit, she takes the time to shop, try on clothes and network with boutique owners. I appreciate her style and get the privilege of borrowing some sexy pieces from time to time. I, however, NEVER shop, NEVER take the time to look for clothes, and what makes it worse is that * gasp* I’m cheap when it comes to clothes. I really struggle with spending hundreds of dollars on clothes when I firmly believe I can buy it elsewhere cheaper, or without the fancy designer label. As a woman out of my twenties, I am struggling with finding my “grown-up style”, and most comfortable in jeans, flip-flops and a ponytail. I acknowledge that I need to spend more time shopping, networking with boutique owners,browsing through fashion magazines and trying on clothes, but there is that one little detail.
You see, 9 months ago I made a choice. On the surface, it was a very simple choice. I want to go to grad school. When that choice became a reality, the tip of the iceberg was so easy to see. Below the surface was a hidden mass of sacrifices, compromises and inconveniences that were so much bigger than I had expected. We moved out of our totally awesome 100-year-old Craftsman bungalow in the heart of San Diego, to the boring burbs of North County to ease my commute and save money. We moved away from all our friends, our favorite hot spots, and noshing joints.
I reduced my work schedule from full-time to “barely there”- which led to essentially a demotion and losing out on an opportunity to move into the managerial position that I have essentially been waiting 2 years for. Talk about frustrating.
I am a total workaholic if I allow myself to be. If I weren’t married, I’d be eating, sleeping and breathing work. So reducing my work hours, getting demoted and getting passed up for the promotion was hard. To rub salt into the wound, every paycheck is filled with fear and disbelief at how small it is and how I am going to survive on it.
If it weren’t for my hubby, I would have to rely on student loans to survive school, and since we both have student loans from our times as Undergrads, taking out more loans was out of the question. This left us with the reality of paying my tuition out-of-pocket and making big sacrifices to be a student. It’s no surprise that the single biggest issue married couples fight about is money.
So now that I am a broke college student, it magnifies all the things I want, need, have to have and don’t have. It puts life into a triage of needs and wants, with many things getting left for dead. So naturally, I avoid the mall like a diseased leper!
Of course, today I accepted an invitation to go shopping with my girlfriend, and I watched enviously as she dropped $300 on shoes, pants, a blouse that I had seen and coveted before, and other items that, at this point, I can only drool over. I had emotions of anger, frustration, jealousy and uncertainty wash over me, not at her, but about the position I was suddenly in. All around me were things that I was attracted to, and wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford. I had to keep reminding myself that the inconveniences I was putting us through now was only going to benefit us later, and that someday in the near future, I am going to be in the financial position that will allow me the luxury of nice things.
I had to repeat the mantra of “short-term, loss-long term gain”. I reassured myself with all kinds of cheesy self-affirmations: You can do this. Hard work pays off. This too will pass, it’s only money. You’ll be graduated before you know it. Blah, blah, blah.
They didn’t help. The self-doubt is still there… like a child’s voice taunting me. It’s really is hard being so broke all the time, and I hate that my hubby is shouldering the added financial burden. Thank goodness he has been nothing but totally supportive during my moments of uncertainty and doubt. I never really knew that my one little decision to go back to grad school would require the understanding, patience, acceptance and flexibility of so many people, on so many levels. It’s also very humbling. I have learned that early on in this journey. Humility. Respect. Grace.
I KNOW I am making the right decision by going back to grad school. I know it. But DAMN, it takes a village to…..I keep reminding myself that those villagers are helping me travel down this path, and for them, I am really grateful.
It was an ‘A-ha!” moment that lead me to the understanding that when I examine my emotions through those lenses do I realize that being jealous over the inability to afford a cute top is worthless, and in order for me to keep my eye on the proverbial prize, I need to stay humble, my nose in the books, and my ass OUT of Nordstrom Rack!
Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler. Nietzsche