Tater tots at midnight: How grad school has captured my soul

My graduate school runs on quarters rather than semesters, so everything seems very accelerated.

Last quarter — my first time back in school again — wasn’t so bad. In fact, I was sort of amazed by how easy it seemed, workload-wise. I must have jinxed myself.  Almost everyone I knew who was in  graduate school — or had already gone — warned me that it would suck the life out me like a vampire. I scoffed. Hell, I thought, it can’t be harder than working.

But this quarter?  This time, I’m pulling out my hair. I have been a huge stress monster ever since I came back from winter break and it’s been exacerbated the past two weeks or so. For the most part, it’s really not hard – with a few exceptions — it’s just a sort of tedium and time-suck that I’ve never before fully experienced and there are no fun dorm room experiences or undergraduate hijinks to balance it all out. I have four group projects to complete in the next 10 or so days, not to mention an audio project. I’m exhausted and depressed. I miss being in the working world. I miss having a real social life. I miss my love, my friends and my family back in New York.

All of this has taken a major toll on my diet. I’ve been at school until quite late the past few nights and constantly on the run. One night I found myself craving red meat, unexpectedly, and bought a steak at 10 p.m. to cook. The past few days I’ve eaten potato chips,  food from Chipotle, the Cobb salad from Cosi and take-out from Whole Foods’ hot bar. Not exactly the most nutritious fare…

It’s also leading to weird stress cravings. I’m like a pregnant woman when I get stressed out. And for some reason, this week it’s been tater tots at midnight.

I can’t wait to return to normalcy. I left my friends, my home, my job, my life, my furniture, my care all behind to come here, where I now live in a studio, sleep on a futon with my dog and drink white wine spritzers because someone left a bunch of white wine at my place after soup swap and the only way I like it is with ice and seltzer, and I’m thinking about how it seems like everyone I know is getting married, or shacking up or buying houses or having babies, or some combination of these, and here I am eating tater tots at midnight while playing word games on my iPhone and stressing about where exactly I’m going to find myself employment once again after I graduate in June. I’m having trouble breaking all of these thoughts down into smaller pieces so that they don’t completely overwhelm me as I try to slog through the rest of this work, but truthfully, right now obsessive thought is winning out and I’m feeling powerless to resist.

But really, I’m not complaining. Because somehow, someway, like my friend Mike reminded me, I’ll get to do what I love again. Eventually. I hope. Until then, there’s just joy to be found in cheap tacos, late-night fried foods and the opening scene of “Perfect Strangers.”

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One Response to Tater tots at midnight: How grad school has captured my soul

  1. I did grad work at RPI. I had a serious “what the hell am I doing?” moment at 3 am in a computer lab. I sitting there working on a homework problem thinking about my job that I had to be at in 5 hours, the warm bed in my house with my wife and 1 year old daughter in and how hungry I was because I had passed on eating to work on a computer that had the software I needed.

    I got up and left. A bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from Bob’s diner in Watervliet on the ride home helped. Tomorrow was another day…and in the end it was like the Indigo Girls Song – “I got my paper and I was free.”

    I feel your pain and hope the projects went well. This too shall pass.

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