Grad School, Migraines, & Hope

There are all sorts of quotes out there talking about how you shouldn’t live your life in the past and how you should look forward. Those are nice.

I’m finding them difficult to relate to and difficult to be inspired by when I’m wishing this blog was still about our motorhome travels and less about where our life is currently. But, hey, I’m the one who decided to relaunch it to talk about living life with a migraine disorder, so the only person I have to blame is myself.

Last night, I completed one of the most difficult classes in grad school to-date. It was not difficult in content (that was financial management), rather, it was difficult because of the professor. I don’t feel I need to go on a tirade about this professor, but let’s just say that I put more work into the last 8 weeks than I have in the last several months, and I realized that I have become my worst fear.

Let me explain.

When I started grad school in January 2021, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, filled with excitement, energy, and hope.

Actual image of me starting grad school.

I met some students in my first class who had this…haunted look to them. They looked defeated. Exhausted. Finished. Kaput. Walking zombies. They didn’t seem to care anymore. They were just going through the motions, getting stuff done to get through it so they could finish.

I promised myself I would never get to that level. There was no way! I was determined to get everything I could from this program — I was paying good money for it, after all. AND it was exactly what I wanted to be going to school for.

You see, the cool thing about grad school is that it is so focused to your career that there is little waste in content. It’s all useable stuff. And if you’re in the line of work already, you can put a lot of it into practice. After getting into the nonprofit sector in June, it became that much more useable for me. I was in. Awesome.

That first class was hard. I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into. It was a shock, an adjustment, but I was willing to make that adjustment because it was something I really wanted. The rest of my classes came and went, some easier and some harder than others.

I battled frequent migraines and a constant headache the whole time, in and out of the doctor for treatment, sometimes having to do homework or attend class from bed in a darkened room with an ice pack on my head because I couldn’t bear to be upright.

I transitioned onto two different medications. One of the new medications caused brain fog and an inability to focus. I had to retrain myself how to study and how to complete homework assignments.

“I feel like a haunted house.”

I held down a 4.0 gpa for the entire first year of grad school. I’m pretty damn proud of that accomplishment. Pretty damn proud.

But this class, man, this class. I tell ya.

Last night, at the end of class, when I was bonding with some classmates in a breakout session over zoom, commiserating over the loss of my perfect grades after this class, I realized something.

I was that veteran student now. I had the haunted look. The exhaustion. The defeated tone.

This class ground me down, and I’m so tired.

I feel like a haunted house, with empty rooms filled with dust, wheezing big gasping breaths filled with exhaustion and years of seeing and feeling too many terrible things. Yeah, not quite sure if that analogy works. See how tired I am?

My next class starts at the end of the week, and I’ll get to see some fellow classmates in person. I’m exhausted but excited. I know I haven’t lost all motivation if I feel excitement.

Maybe I’m not a whole haunted house, just one room of the house. Or maybe I’m like the farmhouse above – just a little broken, a little worn down. But with enough work it could come back to life. (Though I don’t know about this one in particular; I took this picture, and this house was in pretty rough shape – yikes.)

Maybe if I take a reaaallllyyy long nap, I’ll just be a little haunted, a little worn. Maybe my bushy-tailed classmates won’t see a walking zombie. Maybe my headaches will continue to get better, and this next class will be amazing (it does sound really interesting). I’m not sure that I’ll ever be as bright-eyed again (coffee can only work so many wonders), but perhaps I can get a little of my bushy tail back.

We can only hope.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

Helen Keller
Angela is attending grad school for a Master’s in Nonprofit Management. She currently works as a Development & Communications Director for a nonprofit arts organization. Her dog Teddy helps her keep her sanity – or lose it when she needs to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s