Confessions of a First Year Grad Student: Accepting Your Disaster

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Advice / Lehigh Culture & Community

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First, allow me to offer you a window into my world: there is an upside down footstool in the middle of my living room. No idea how it got that way. There is a used, bloodied Band-Aid on top of the upside down footstool. Such is my world.

As a student who is also a mother, I’ve made a pact with myself to accept this world. After all, sometimes you are going to run across an upended footstool or a bloodied Band-Aid, and what are you going to do about it? Panic? No. You are going to right that footstool. You are going pick up that Band-Aid by the sticky part with your index finger and thumb and toss it in the trashcan. Maybe shake it a few times to get it unstuck.

Life is messy. Life with kids is ugly. If you don’t have kids, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. There is actual shit to clean up. So the question is: how does one transition from wiping actual shit off of an actual human being to theorizing about Foucault? Is such a move even possible? The answer is yes. And it’s all about accepting your own personal disaster.*

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Parents (and non-parents), how do you accept the disaster that is your life? The first step is to expect the disaster. Of course you are going to leave that carefully annotated and highlighted scholarly article on the kitchen table and realize it five minutes before the start of class. Of course you aren’t going to finish all the work that you need to finish in the time that you need to finish it. But if you expect the disaster, you learn to make a Plan B, or multiple Plan Bs. You learn to improvise. You learn to keep a little something in your back pocket for just such an occasion. Humor, humility, things of that sort.

The second—crucial—step to accepting your disaster is sharing it. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Bring the people in your circle—your cohort, your professors, random people you pass on the street, that freshman behind you in line at Starbucks—into the eye of the storm. Show them the chaos. Describe the ugly details. Then ask them for help. Or mercy. Never underestimate the human capacity for compassion. And don’t be fooled by our nation’s politics. People actually like and want to help other people. Ask for help, and accept help when it’s offered.

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Lastly, to accept your disaster, you must forgive it. Disasters happen. They are a natural part of the universe, and they affect us all. It’s okay. Really. It’s okay.**

*”Accepting the Disaster” is the title of a beautiful and heart-breaking poem by Joshua Mehigan. I highly recommend you look him up.
**Just in case it seems as though I have this shit all figured out, I definitely do not. Upside down footstools and bloodied Band-Aids are, like, the least of my problems.

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