First weekend back

Westchester County, NY

It’s been a week now since I came back from my trip to Sweden, and I already feel like I miss it. It went by way too quickly, partly because it was actually only a short amount of time (6 full days), but mostly because the week was absolutely packed and filled to the brim with seeing people, doing fun things, and just enjoying being home. (I will write a post about the trip soon, as well as one about my friends’ visit earlier in June!) But being able to spend the weekend in New York at my grandparents’ place definitely alleviated some of that back-to-work-after-vacation dread.

On Friday, after spending a few hours in the morning at work, I drove up to New York and stopped to have lunch with my boyfriend on the way. As always when I visit my grandparents’, the weekend was wonderful and spent relaxing, cooking and eating great food, and having a fun time with family and friends.

One of my absolute favorite things is going for a run or brisk walk around the lake in the morning, when the heat isn’t yet too overwhelming, and the community is just starting to wake up. It’s something I do very rarely as I usually only have time to work out in the afternoons after work, but starting the day off with some alone time and exercise really puts me in a balanced state of mind for the rest of the day. Maybe “balanced” is the wrong word, but more at peace? Grounded? Even listening to music or a podcast (love listening to Swedish podcasts, it makes me feel like I’m at home!) and getting some exercise makes me so relaxed for the rest of the day.

I’m starting to feel a little anxious about my research project for the summer. It’s baffling that it’s July already (where did the first third of summer go?!), and I know my to-do list is still heavy and filled with stuff that I really should get done before school starts again in September — even things that are unrelated to my research.

How did I think I would have so much time to work over the summer, when I now find myself struggling to find time to even feel fully relaxed or do the social/fun things I want to do? Shouldn’t there be enough time in a normal week to go to work, exercise, rest, be social, AND work on my academic projects? Or did I just entirely overestimate how much time I would have (time during which I feel enough energy to work, at least) over the summer, not taking into account the fact that I almost have a full time job? I’m pretty sure I tend to overestimate those kinds of things, to be fair.

I think I just need to sit down and make an actual plan for the remaining weeks of the summer, and most of all start making use of the time I have at home after work on weekdays. And I need to be honest with myself; no expectations, routines, or due dates that I know I won’t keep. Although coming home from work at about 5PM and doing nothing for the rest of the night besides watch TV shows isn’t really the key to productivity, that’s still an important part of relaxing, too. I think I probably need at least some of that to have enough energy come fall.

I worry that this is going to be what the rest of my life will look like if I do decide to have an academic career; always feeling like there’s work I could be (and SHOULD be) doing outside of my scheduled hours, and never feeling like anything is enough. After all, if your work is basically doing research and writing, it’s not something you can leave at the office door at the end of the day. It comes home with you. Particularly over the summer, when there’s hardly any structure at all and you’re constantly feeling like you could be writing, instead of doing whatever else you might be doing. How do you even begin to balance that?

As far as I can tell, most accomplished academics are still trying to figure that out. So maybe it’s ok if I haven’t yet, either.

Is mindset really everything?

THOUGHTS — What really is a Sunday without stressing out about the week ahead? After not doing absolutely any work the whole weekend, I spent a good part of Sunday night frantically doing some reading for class and trying not to be overwhelmed by the upcoming busy week. Since I’m leaving for LA on Thursday night and won’t be able to go to work on Friday, I somehow have to find time to not only make up those hours at some other point this week but also to pack and start working on my first important assignment that is due October 5th. And yes, I am aware that I am complaining about “first-world” problems. But that awareness doesn’t make anything much less stressful, unfortunately.

I spent some time at work today listening to a podcast while typing numbers into an Excel spreadsheet (riveting, right?). I haven’t ever been particularly interested in podcasts, but more and more I’ve started enjoying listening to Swedish podcasts; in a way, it’s just nice and comforting for me to listen to people speaking in my native language when all I hear is English all the time. Also, I think listening to the language could help me keep up my conversational Swedish, which my mom always tells me is “so terrible!” whenever I visit home. The podcast I listened to today happened to be about “being grateful”, “mindfulness” and all that other stuff that I would normally dismiss as silly fantasy ideas for people who actually don’t have anything to be stressed about. However, in an attempt to embody a more mature and open-minded version of myself, I actually took the time to listen to what these two Swedish women had to say.

The main point they were making was basically that stress is manageable and that happiness is achievable as long as you just have a positive mindset. An important aspect of a positive mindset, according to these two happy and stress-free women, is about spending more energy on being grateful rather than seeing the negative in the situation and complaining about it. But is mindset really everything? What about the material reality of everything that is causing you to be stressed in the first place? Can thoughts really make all of that go away?

I like to think that I’m a pretty negative person. Just kidding, obviously no one likes to think that about themselves. But I do think that I’m usually rather cynical, prone to complaining, and generally avoid having a positive outlook on things. Rather than seeing these aspects of my thinking as inherent personality traits, however, it might be more productive for me to think of them as a mindset, which I can change and control at my will. Why should I be complaining about my situation and allowing the stress to overwhelm me when I can instead focus on the good things? The fact that I’m going to LA (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), that I’m in a PhD program and I worked so hard to get here (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!); these are all fantastic things that I should be happy about.

I am rather ashamed to admit that I clearly took this podcast episode to heart. But when I sat down to make a to-do list for myself for the week, with specific things to do on specific days, I ended up feeling positive about my situation rather than overwhelmed precisely because I thought to myself: I can do this, and I can get everything done.

The women also spoke about how your happiness can be dramatically increased if you sit down every day and write down three things that you are grateful for in that moment, as a way of teaching your brain to focus on the positives and practicing gratefulness. I think I might actually try this out and see how it works; after all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? That I don’t have anything to be grateful for? And there I go again being cynical, whoops. But all joking aside, I’m going to try to do this every night and see if it works.

Three things I am grateful for today:

  1. Fall weather.
  2. The people I love.
  3. Post-it notes.

flat lay photography of calendar
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Football game & tailgating

WEEKEND — Knowing that my days of being able to enjoy my weekends without much pressure to do school work are counted, I had another relaxing weekend of prioritizing pleasure over business. I also did a great job procrastinating during the short amount of time that I had actually allotted to studying. Yay me!

On Saturday, I decided to make use of my two season tickets to Rutgers Football and went to the Rutgers vs. Buffalo game with a friend from Gettysburg. Kickoff being at noon, we met up somewhat early in the morning, put some assorted adult beverages in my car, and headed off to the stadium. This was my very first time bringing my own car to a tailgate, let alone one of my first times ever tailgating at all, which all felt really exciting.

Now, there’s a lot to be said about the fun of actually watching a football game and being inside the stadium with all the fans (or in Rutgers’ case, a lack thereof, since most fans usually walk out by the second quarter). But I must say, I honestly think I enjoy tailgating more than I do watching the game afterwards. For any fellow Swedes who might be reading this and who are confused, I would describe tailgating as an intensely American social phenomenon that involves standing around (or sitting in beach chairs) in a parking lot next to one’s car for several hours prior to any sports event. In addition to simply standing or sitting around, there are high levels of consumption of alcohol (a level which is increased dramatically if the stadium doesn’t serve alcohol to patrons, which one can often hear loud complaints about), usually beer (only American brands allowed!) or drinks such as Bloody Marys if it’s early in the morning, and there is also usually grilling of an assortment of classic American foods such as hot dogs, burgers, and anything else unhealthy you can think of. Country music often plays loudly in the background, the source of which is probably someone’s car stereo (which makes you uneasy since either 1) their battery is probably going to die soon or 2) they are severely contributing to pollution if their engine is actually running). Socially, this is a fascinating phenomenon in which Americans are found in their most natural habitat. They can be spotted randomly socializing with any stranger who is wearing a t-shirt or hat with the same (often offensive) sports team logo as they are, forming temporary relationships that are synthesized just from a combination of the influence of alcohol and a shared interest in a sports team. In the same vein, the mere sight of someone who is wearing the opposing team’s logo anywhere on their body, or even a color that could be slightly associated with the opposing team, is widely accepted as legitimate justification for shouting profanity and making foul gestures at that person.

Absolutely amazing, right? I personally love it. Partly because of the generally positive, happy vibe and the beauty of day-drinking without shame, but also because it is so sociologically interesting.

Especially when going to see a team like Rutgers, you’re basically going 95% for the tailgating and only 5% for the actual football. I think knowing that you will be disappointed during the game (which is the case, again, if you’re rooting for a team like Rutgers) makes the tailgating all the more fun and rowdy, because no-one feels as though they have to stay sober in order to be able to pay attention to the game.

All in all, it’s great fun, and I’m happy I got to spend one day this weekend completely immersed in tailgating season!

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4 Months Post-Grad

This morning when I woke up and grabbed my phone off my bedside table (as we millennials do), I got a bit of a shock when today’s date caught my eye. September 20th? Already?!

September 20th means it’s been a total of 4 months since I graduated from college. And I have no idea where all that time went. I suppose it must’ve somehow flown by as I was spending time doing absolutely nothing this summer. And, as if this shocking realization isn’t enough, I have also been receiving heaps of emails from the college inviting me to my class’ first Homecoming Weekend at the end of this week, which is just baffling to me. I have several feelings about this that I’d like to air:

  1. Since when did it become OK to spring the fact that we are all of a sudden “alumni” on us, a mere 4 months after graduation, and invite us to Homecoming? We still have post-traumatic stress from senior year. I feel re-traumatized.
  2. Wouldn’t Homecoming this soon after graduation basically just feel like “going back to school”? How are you even supposed to distinguish between the people who are still in college and the people who just graduated? We all look the same! We’re still the same age, and could still basically be them!
  3. Isn’t the point of graduating that you don’t have to see all the people you dislike from your class on campus anymore?  I think the only people who actually go back for Homecoming are a) people who didn’t dislike anyone on campus (seems impossible) or b) people who have gotten old enough that they’ve forgotten who they disliked and for what reasons. Which brings me to:
  4. Homecoming Weekend is for adults who are 20, 30, 40, 50, etc. years out of college, who are reuniting with their class to reminisce about their college years and to judge each others’ successes to figure out who “won” in life and who didn’t. Which is all very nice. Homecoming Weekend should NOT, however, be for recent college graduates who are so unable to cope with the reality of being out in the “adult” world only after a few months that they’ll go to any lengths to feel like they’re still in college (including traveling back to the middle of nowhere-Pennsylvania and attend Homecoming Weekend celebrations).

Perhaps I’m being a little overly judgmental about this whole thing (I mean I definitely am), but I’m mostly just shocked at the sheer amount of time that’s gone by since we graduated. In a way, it feels like it happened so recently; at the same time, however, I feel like I am in a completely different place now than I was 4 months ago. When I graduated, I had no idea of what life would be like for me in this moment that I’m in right now — having completed my first three weeks of grad school. I was just looking forward to a summer of relaxing and figuring out my life before embarking on this next journey (and by journey I mean enslavement to academia). Looking back on it though, I definitely do not regret wanting to take my time over the summer to relax, spend time with the people I care about, and not really do much of anything. I think I would feel a lot more tired and stressed now, even this early in the semester, if I had spent the summer working and not had that time to just be a recent college graduate.

Thinking about all of this made me want to go back and look through my pictures from graduation weekend. I can’t even begin to express what an amazing time it was: having my whole family there all together, celebrating and constantly having a laugh, and seeing the look of pride on everyones’ faces — all of these people who I so greatly admire — when I got my diploma. It was the best weekend ever.

 

 

Last Long Weekend

THOUGHTS — Since I only have class on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I’ve had extra long weekends for the past two weeks. Today, I officially started my part-time job, which means I won’t have these long weekends anymore and will instead be working full days on Mondays and Fridays. And I don’t know how to feel about this.

Clearly, I’ve been very spoiled before now. Being able to basically have a 4-day weekend is not something most people my age (or any age?) get to experience. Especially since it’s this early in the semester, I haven’t even had that much school work that my “days off” have still technically been spent working. So, as you can imagine, these long weekends have basically just been relegated to Netflix/napping/eating/maybe going to the gym/decorating my apartment, and I’m definitely not complaining.

But in a way, I’m excited to get back to “normal life” by having a solid routine to stick to Monday through Friday.  Actually, I think I work best that way; thinking back to last fall, which was undoubtedly the most busy I’ve ever been, I was so incredibly productive precisely because I had a very strict schedule to stick to. (On the other hand, I was also on the verge of burning out, so I guess there’s something to be said about moderation…) So in this sense I’m definitely excited to start my job. I am, however, a little nervous about how I’ll fare once we’re a couple weeks further into the semester and the amount of work I have to do for my courses starts picking up. Will I then wish I had those Mondays and Fridays to just spend time working on my assignments, instead of pulling all-nighters just to get everything done that I couldn’t during the day because I was at work? Will I get that same feeling of stress as I did last fall, when I literally didn’t have time to do anything besides make it to all the classes/meetings/work shifts I had scheduled and get my work done?

I think only time will tell, and I’m not going to stress about it too much. For now, I’m just really excited to get paid (!!!) and to get back into that regular routine. Also, since I’m currently writing this blog post on my first day at my new desk when I’m supposed to be working, I’m sure I’ll be able to do a little bit of stuff for school when I’m at work too.

Anyway, I do feel like I managed to milk every drop out of this last long weekend and really enjoy it. On Friday I went to IKEA to buy some more stuff for my apartment (mostly decorative stuff, which I have been absolutely dying to get), and then at night I met up with the other students in my cohort to have drinks at a bar in New Brunswick. It was so fun to get to know everyone more, especially in a setting outside of the classroom! On Saturday I did some school work in the morning, went to a farmer’s market nearby with my roommate in the afternoon, and then went to spend the evening with my boyfriend. I made meatballs with gravy, lingonberry jam (all from IKEA, haha) and boiled potatoes for dinner that night, which temporarily satisfied my longing for Swedish food! And yesterday, on Sunday, I got a lot of work done for the week ahead and kept working on organizing my room. I finally put up some string lights and unpacked my fall wardrobe, which felt so satisfying. Now I’m just patiently waiting for the weather to realize that it’s time for fall.

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