stress

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‘I’m Sorry, I’m Busy’: A Chaotic Schedule and Added Stress of Those Who Don’t Understand

Published December 13, 2014 by harleyquinnly

I am not writing this blog to sound pretentious or as a ‘look at me! I’m so important because I’m so busy!’ I am writing it because I have been under an immense amount of stress from grad school requirements but additional stress has been added by ‘friends’ that do not understand the work it takes and why I am unavailable for long periods of time. I constantly tell them ‘thank you, but I have to work on my paper’ and send them pictures of the piles of papers/books taking over my house, and yet every time I have a due date, I am bombarded with guilt trip text messages (“you could make time if you wanted to”) or people that flat out refuse to speak to me. I am tired, and tired of it. So here is a look at my typical week’s schedule. This is why I am unavailable and why someday I’ll be called doctor.

(Side note: I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends I have that understand my schedule, never complain at me, and appreciate when I am able to see them. Thank you.)

This is literally my home office. And I'm normally a super clean person.

This is literally my home office. And I’m normally a super clean person.

I will gladly acknowledge that it is not the easiest to be my friend. I have to check out for weeks at a time when due dates come up. I am not always available for a hangout. Sometimes I have to go months without seeing people. I could remember to check up on people more often. But I do not deserve the added stress just because I am an extremely busy person.

Just one pile of books.

Just one pile of books.

The Schedule

Weekdays: 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Work

Yes, I am a full time student and I have a full time job. I don’t choose to have this life, it was what I was dealt. I am financially unable to only attend school without working and I happen to like food and shelter. I am also unwilling to take out tens of thousands of dollars of student loans I will never be able pay off. There are next to no jobs for history Ph.D.s and those that do exist often do not pay enough to survive on, much less added loan payments. Excuse me for being financially responsible. (I am not throwing shade at those who have students. You do what you have to do. I’m meaning the unnecessary ones).

6 to 7:30 p.m.: Workout then Dinner

The commute home takes me an hour due to traffic, idiocy, and a lack of infrastructure for growing populations. I workout for half an hour (just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be healthy). I make dinner quickly and watch whatever is on tv at the time, usually a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory.”

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I'm in school.

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I’m in school.

7:30 to ~11 p.m. Schoolwork

I spend every evening of every single workday working on schoolwork. This month I have large essays due that require a lot of incorporated reading. I literally do not leave my ‘command center’ I’ve set up on my kitchen table every. single. evening. Therefore, I do not have time to do anything else.

My "command center" on my kitchen table. I live here.

My “command center” on my kitchen table. I live here.

Me in my favorite recliner.

Me in my favorite recliner.

My One Free Day

I usually allow myself one evening a week for free time. Think about if you were working from 8 a.m. until ~10 p.m. without a break. What would you feel like doing on your rare break? Sometimes I get free movie tickets and go see a movie with a friend/date. Other times I just want to veg out on my couch with my non-judgmental friend, Netflix. I apologize for not instantly running to you for your social needs. Also, with only one night out a week, I can only see so many people in that limited amount of time.

Weekends

Hey, it’s the weekend so I have all this free time, right? Nope. Because I work during the weekday, weekends are the only time I get to get work done for long spans of time. When I have papers due, these are the days that I write them.

9 to 10 a.m. Breakfast and Wake Up Time

I usually let myself sleep in until 9 a.m. This is catch-up sleep for me. I get up, make my eggs and tea, and relax for an hour on my couch. I am human and need a little relax time interspersed.

10 to 10:30 a.m. Shower

After breakfast, I shower. Unless I have to see something or do something outside my house, I don’t do hair or makeup and stay in yoga pants.

10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or sometimes until 4 a.m.

I work on schoolwork the entire day, taking about an hour for lunch and dinner. I sometimes stay up until 4 a.m. because I have a due date and it’s okay if I’m completely sleep-deprived at home rather than at work. These are full days working on schoolwork. I understand people don’t get that I have so much of a workload I have to work this long on weekend. I do.

My dinners usually look like this.

My dinners usually look like this.

So, in conclusion, I have taken time out of my study schedule to detail my schedule. Hopefully it inspires further understanding but I’ve done all I can do. This is my life, please understand or at least respect it.

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Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by harleyquinnly

9a9ec-existentialcrisis

I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 

scream

Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?

i-dont-know-who-i-am-any-more

In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)

tumblr_m2uy2sPqIr1qff4v2o1_500

I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3

Working as an Assistant…and Slowly Losing What’s Left of My Self Esteem

Published August 2, 2014 by harleyquinnly

Everyone has had a job in high school, during college, etc. that totally sucked (like fast food or retail) and was meant just to pay the bills or buy booze on the weekends. However, there’s always the dream ( *cough* expectation *cough*) that after college we will never have to do those jobs again because we can use whatever degree we’ve earned to do our dream job. Then you get to the real world…and yeah, it gets a little depressing…time for a shot of tequila.

Original post here.

desperate

I was actually a very lucky person to get my dream job right out of college. However, after working said dream job for about four years, budget cuts and inflation meant I could no longer pay my bills or buy food on that never-changing salary. After my family scraped together to help me pay a few bills and cutting down to eating only twice I day, I said goodbye to my dream job and looked for a job doing whatever that would enable me to buy food.

zooey

So I became a legal assistant. I was ecstatic. I could pay my bills for the first time in a long time working only one job and I had always had an interest in law (my degree is in history) so at least it would be somewhat interesting. Man, was I wrong. I’ve worked there for only three months now and I think each day I’ve lost a little piece of self esteem and my soul.

kill me

I found this great excerpt from Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent that I think accurately describes a little of what I experience each day:

“After a few weeks of working at an office, I realized I was becoming the kind of person who was finding joy in the little things-and by little things, I mean meaningless, stupid distractions from my shitty job. A reprieve of going to the copy machine and getting the pleasure of mindlessly staring at the wall for five minutes was magical. Trips to the bathroom were a joyous urination break where I washed my hands until they became pruney. And don’t forget about the absolute thrill of lunch . . . On the occasions that I went out beyond the office doors to buy a salad, you’d think I was being let out of prison after a twenty-year sentence . . . .”

It hit me yesterday, after being called varying forms of stupid and being cursed at all day long by someone less educated than myself, that I can’t continue to do this job much longer and remain sane. Like Alida Nugent, I’ve been taking breaks to hide in the stairwell on varying floors in my building to get away from it. I go to the restroom on different floors each time so my boss can’t send someone in to tell me he needs me at that absolute moment because he can’t walk to the break room to get his own f*^&%ing Diet Pepsi.

eyeroll

I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is, other than venting. But if you are in a job like this, working for a narcissistic, insecure, asshat that thinks of himself as a special little snowflake, know you’re not alone. Tell yourself every single morning before your shift begins and when you leave that you are intelligent, you are a good worker, etc. I find this experience similar to being in an emotionally/verbally abusive relationship. I’ve found myself in social situations where someone politely asks what I do and I simply say, “I’m just an assistant” despite the fact that I’m halfway through a Ph.D. (though a useless one) and am really excited about original research I will begin soon. The person I was with began inputting what I was doing with school and it made me realize that it’s sad another person has to speak up for my accomplishments and that it was a sign that I am slowly beginning to believe I am useless and stupid. That’s not healthy. There’s no reprieve since I work at a small place with no HR department and well paying jobs (aka I make enough to pay my bills) are rare.

sad

Just remember, “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.” And you are much better than these types of people, regardless of how much money they have. Rich white men put their pants on every morning the exact same we do: one leg at a time. Remember that when you become a supervisor.

kind smart im

via Working as an Assistant…and Slowly Losing What’s Left of My Self Esteem.

What We Hate About Valentine’s Day

Published February 4, 2013 by harleyquinnly
The unloved bear

The bear with no love

Ok I’m going to be a Bitter Betty for this post. Don’t worry, there will be a happy one to follow much closer to the actual holiday. And before you start thinking this, I am not the stereotypical single girl that is angry at her condition. I am in a long-term relationship and remember the stress I feel regarding almost every single Valentine’s Day. Not all single girls hate Valentine’s Day and not all those in committed relationships love it.

-Single or coupled, if you didn’t make a reservation in January, your options for going out to dinner are limited to the local fast food drive-through.

And seeing that in many situations the men want to plan the holiday, it is the day before and they have yet to figure anything out. Working at Walgreens with a convenient aisle de Valentine, the night before and the day of Valentine’s was busier than Black Friday with men frantically snatching leftover bottles of old-woman perfume and poor teddy bears. A holiday that requires men to plan? That’s like a recipe for disaster. (Although not all the time, depending on the man). And if I know I’m having to plan it, I get a little bitter that it’s just one more thing I have to plan in addition to the rest of my life.

 -The hour of our lives we waste every year in the greeting card aisle, looking for the perfect one. The stress of choosing an appropriate gift

Or the perfect gift. I sympathize with Sheldon Cooper on how difficult and stressful gift giving is. Is it too much? Too little? Too corny? Not appropriate for the amount of time dating? I find men very hard to buy for, especially those that are not into tools or sports teams. After two years I’ve gotten better but gift buying still brings on additional stress.

Sheldon Cooper’s theory on gift giving:

 -The often unrealistic expectations placed on men

I do sympathize with men on this one. They face many of the same difficulties covered in this entire post. In addition, it becomes even more daunting when you’re trying to please someone with unrealistic expectations of the fairy tale that their life should be. I blame too many Disney and romance movies.

 – The 24/7 romantic comedy marathon on TV during the month of February either makes you feel like a loser for being single or makes you resent your boyfriend for not being John Cusack.

This is why I hate watching “chick flicks.” I always get wrapped up in the story during the movie, thinking ‘oh my god how incredibly sweet and devoted they both are.’ Then when the movie ends, I find myself in a deep depression, hating my life because it never works out and that men do not have professional writers telling them how to say the perfect thing and be at the right place in the right time. By the way, my favorite ending to a movie is Easy A because Todd pays attention to her blog (gasp!) and recreates several of her favorite endings to ‘80s movies. It’s at least a little more realistic.

imagesCA6ZVY2W

The ending of Easy A.

 -If you’ve had anything resembling a date in the past two months, it always prematurely launches the “where is this going?” conversation.

In the words of Pauly D, “AWKWARD!” Or even worse you could not have the conversation. I once dated a guy who took me to lunch on Valentine’s Day but never once mentioned what day it was. I’ve never been a huge fan of the holiday but at the end of the meal I told him “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He got all flustered, drove me quickly to my parked car (that was elsewhere), and sped away. Wow.

 -If you’re single and lucky enough to have three close, single girlfriends, you can’t go out for drinks with them without being a cliché.

If I were single I would definitely go out with girlfriends just to get out of the house, do something fun, and escape those stupid non-stop romantic comedies. But the pitying looks from others is maddening. So is the assumption of many single men that since I may be single on Valentine’s I am going to pathetically throw myself into your bed.

 – They don’t make Valentine’s Day cards for friends-with-benefits or “I think I like you but it’s too soon to tell.”

For those of you in this situation, good luck. It’s another awkward time of life.

 -We just started paying off our credit card bills from holiday shopping – our bank statements can’t handle another gift.

Personally, with the way my finances fall, I am guaranteed to be absolutely broke and literally eating ramen every single day in January and February. This is not because I’m irresponsible with Christmas spending, but because several large bills come due at this time I am unable to save for previously in the year. By the time February rolls around, I really want to get that special someone something spectacular but then have to wonder how many meals I’m going to have to skip.

 -Finding enough of another thing as rare as money for me: time

Every February I like to do something for the holiday but in working two jobs and earning my Ph.D. it’s almost an impossible task. I usually have to pull at least one all-nighter or be an unpleasant bear in order to move my schedule around and get enough done so that I can be able to even go to that dinner.

 -The amount of chocolate and candy I consume

Easter and Valentine’s Day have the best candy and chocolate EVER. Most of the year I really don’t eat a lot of sweets because I really don’t have much of a craving for them. This is blown to hell in February and April.

 -It enhances awareness that your relationship is in a rut

Everyone’s relationship has those down times, or are in a rut at some point. If that happens around Valentine’s Day it really sucks and makes you feel worse about it. When commercials and other couples are perfectly happy being sappy together, you’re left wondering what to do with your significant other. The excitement in planning a dinner or getaway is replaced with the guilt that maybe you don’t really feel like it right now.

 -It’s engagement season

My addition is that it’s “engagement season.” While I am very happy for my peeps finding the love of their life with the courage to actually ask them, all these photos of engagement rings force me to wonder where my long-term nonmoving relationship is going. Or if single, it may make one wonder if that will ever happen for them. By all means share your engagement news but don’t overdo it and be conscious if you’re telling your friend as they are sobbing from a breakup.

What do you hate about Valentine’s Day?

 Some Notes

“Ten Reasons We Hate Valentine’s Day, Marie Claire http://shine.yahoo.com/love-sex/10-things-hate-valentines-day-175700295.html (accessed January 31, 2013).

Why are Holidays Difficult?

Published November 29, 2012 by harleyquinnly

Usually around Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, I deal with depression far worse than any other time of the year. I am not anti-Christmas, contrary to popular belief. I’ve been pondering why the holidays are so difficult for me. In addition, I’ve included some tips that may help. What’s your way to remain calm throughout the holidays?

 1. Winter was not a good time for my ancestors

Several far gone ancestors suffered and died during the winter months. In my lifetime, the deaths of family members have mostly occurred in the latter portion of the year. Not only do I always lose at least one family member, I am reminded of who is missing at the family dinners.

 2. Stress

I take more anxiety medication during the holidays than any other time, including finals week of the semester. Deciding which family members to see when in a short amount of time prove the largest stress. I love seeing and visiting with family but it often results in logistical nightmares trying to get everyone’s schedule to agree. Then there are overnight accommodations and a resulting lack of sleep for two days. By the end of the three day holiday, I am exhausted and sleep deprived, haven’t had a moment to myself except for in the shower, and tired from resisting from being cranky. Holidays require an extra day in which to recover.

It is at this time that it becomes more than apparent that I am not Suzie Homemaker. I abhor cooking (but not baking), which the holiday seems to revolve around. On the other hand, I am very good at gift wrapping.

Gifting also makes me nervous. On the show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spazzes over gift giving, worrying that it will not be what the recipient wants, appropriate cost, etc. I have similar worries, especially living on a student budget.

On top of all the personal stress, I also use winter break as a time to complete school projects that would otherwise be impossible to complete during the regular semester. Because I am not enrolled in classes, most people do not understand that I still have work to do. As a result, I am seen as avoiding people.

 3. I am not a Christian         

As an Agnostic, Christmas is a time when I am bombarded with “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” tirades against the term “Xmas,” etc. While I am not opposed to Christianity, I do not appreciate it shoved down my throat for three months. And heaven forbid you mention Christmas came from a Pagan holiday. I have often wished to leave the country for a less religious one during this time.

 4. I remember the dreams not yet obtained

For some reason, my mind chooses the end of the year to analyze my life. Most often these thoughts go towards what I want that I still have yet to accomplish. Most of this involves anxiety as to how my personal life will turn out. I overanalyze personal relationships and their possibility in leading to a happy and fulfilling future.

 5. It’s frickin’ cold

I am a person that doesn’t handle cold temperatures well. I have Raynard’s Phenomenon, which is a fancy term for extremities that turn colors and experience frostbite at higher temperatures than normal people. So not only am I stressed, my skin is dry and itchy, my hands and feet are in constant pain. On the positive side, they turn pretty festive colors.

If it snows or ices, I am forced to remain in an apartment for multiple days, with or without power. While one snow day is amazing, after multiple days of the same 1,200 square foot hell, it starts to turn into a small scale version of The Shining. I’ve been so desperate to get out I’ve walked somewhere. The lack of sunlight is also not conducive to any kind of happiness.

 6. Unrealistic expectations and overcommercialization

Due to the millions of Hallmark commercials and displays, Norman Rockwell arts, Coca-Cola ads, we see Christmas as a perfect, nuclear family-oriented day. Kids will be polite and quiet, excited for their Christmas gifts. The adult women will be happy to spend all day in the kitchen while the men will sit calmly watching football. In the evening, the perfect dinner with perfect tableware will be served to a quiet, mingling family. And afterwards, the dishes magically disappear, the kids fall asleep with their new toys, and the adults share a small glass of wine while marveling at the glorious Christmas tree. This does not happen, at least as far as I know.

However, due to these expectations we are often a little disappointed and depressed with the way our Christmases actually turn out. Maybe we have to spend the majority of time traveling between divorced parents, distanced siblings, or keeping some family members from killing others. Some relative will ask the embarrassing and inappropriate questions of ‘why aren’t you married?’ ‘Why don’t you have kids,” or ‘You’ve gained weight.’ This will also cause an acceleration of reason number four. ‘Yes, I’m not married, thanks for pointing that out.’

The “holiday blues” affect many people. If you have a family or friend that may seem a little more blue than normal, don’t simply call them a Grinch. They may be dealing with more than you know.

 Suggestions to prevent holiday stress and depression

 1. Snuggies, blankets, portable heaters, fireplaces, and hot chocolate

            Comfy conditions definitely help, especially when it’s cold outside

2. Make realistic expectations for the holiday season

            It is what it is.

3. Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.

            Learn to say no. And don’t feel guilty about it-you are only human.

4. Live in the moment, focus on the “right now”

            Rather than the fourteen million things you need to do, enjoy whatever is happening

5. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.

6. Find holiday activities that are free

Look at at holiday decorations, go window shopping. You could also have movie or video game marathons.

7. Limit your consumption of alcohol         

Alcohol is a depressant. Excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.

8. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way

            But don’t get too excited until you have the agreement of your significant other/family. Some are not as open to changing their holidays or creating new ones.

9. Spend time with supportive and caring people.

10. Make time for yourself!

“Me” time reduces the homicide rate

11. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks

12. Keep track of your holiday spending

Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.

13. Be crafty!

I find that doing a craft, which can be holiday oriented or not, can be very relaxing. Then you can give away your crafts as gifts. One year I made ornaments. I have also gotten together with a friend and made our Christmas crafts together.

14. Remember the holidays will end

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