Graduation is this week (not that I will be attending) and I can finally consider my grad school journey complete. I feel like I am finally closing the door on a very stressful chapter in my life. Hopefully I will find it easier to keep my sanity in tact for the next chapter. I should have graduated three years ago, but I went into post-residency instead. That was the right decision for me at the time. I was dealing with an overwhelming amount of stress and pressure and knew I wasn’t in the right place to add a thesis to my load at that point. It would have been nice if it hadn’t taken me a whole three years to finally complete my thesis, but I did it.
When I submitted my thesis back in May, I felt an enormous sense of relief. I had finally completed all of my degree requirements and I could move on now. I feel like the graduation date shouldn’t have any real meaning to me at this point. I have been done for three months and I am not even planning to attend the ceremony. For some reason though, as the date has approached, it has stirred up a lot of feelings for me.
I have found myself struggling with the decision to be a stay-at-home mom all over again. I find myself reflecting on my goals when I started grad school and feeling like a failure because I am not where I thought I would be. Logically, I know that a lot has changed since then and different circumstances call for different decisions. However, I can’t help but feel like my past self would be disappointed in my present self.
I know that it is not healthy to ruminate on negative self-thoughts such as these. I also know that I am being unnecessarily harsh on myself. However, I find it useful to type it all out and use this blog to help me process those negative emotions. So I am going to use this blog to correct some of my personal cognitive distortions.
1. NEG: I should have finished my degree three years ago, all of my classmates and peers are already three years ahead of me in their careers, I should be there too.
CORRECTION: It doesn’t matter how long it took me, a egret is a degree and I took the time that I needed. Most of my classmates were older than me and had spent time working on their careers before going back for their Masters. Instead, I rushed to go to grad school. I took a year off from undergrad when I had my son and then immediately threw myself into overdrive making up for what I had lost in order to graduate when I did. As a single mom, I jumped into a full course load plus volunteering and community involvement. From the time I went back to school after having my son, until I finished all of my graduate school coursework and fieldwork, the longest academic beak I had was no longer than about two weeks. I should have taken time off before starting grad school, instead I took it at the end. I did what was mentally healthiest for me, after really struggling with my mental health through grad school.
2, NEG: I have a Masters degree now, I should be using it and working in the type of job I had always planned on. I am a disappointment to my past self.
CORRECTION: There is nothing mentally healthy about this train of thought. Who knows what my past self would have thought of me now, and what does it matter? My past self also could not have envisioned everything that has happened between then and now. When I made plans for getting my degree and how I would use it, I was a single mom who had found a field that I was passionate about. Ryan was only two, so I had no idea what his needs would be.
Now I am not a single mom. I am happily married and even have another baby. These are positives in my life that I never could have predicted. The option to be a stay at home mom didn’t exist then, but it does now. Ryan is at a good place where I could probably work if I wanted to, but I am not ready to put Saoirse in childcare yet, and I like being available for Ryan throughout the day. THe more time I spend at home, the father removed I am from my experience and references, but I can figure all of that out. My degree doesn’t expire and if needed I can always volunteer to more easily gain recent experience. I am really fortunate to have the option of staying home wth my kids right now, and there is nothing wrong with that choice. Right now, I feel I am a better mom when I am not also trying to juggle working and so I am just doing what works best for me and my family in the moment.
I also think there is a lot in my current life that my past self would be proud of.
3. NEG: I am a failure at life.
CORRECTION: I find myself repeating this mantra when I am stressed or unhappy with myself, but the reality is that there is no such thing as failing at life no even if there was, I am far from it. I need to take time out to appreciate all that I have achieved and all of the rest things in my life that I may take for granted.
I have a healthy and happy marriage built on clear communication. Cal and I both have had a lot to learn about healthy relationships. We have been through (what felt like) hell and back. At the end of the day though, we learned how to work together, communicate and build a healthy relationship. THis was a major accomplishment for us and vastly improves our quality of life.
I have two incredible children who feel secure and loved and know that I am always here for them. This is another accomplishment I should be proud of and I am so fortunate to have so much love in my life.
We are able to provide for our children. Even if it isn’t our ideal home, we have a roof over our heads in a wonderful community where Ryan is embraced for who he is.
t is easy to always feel like I should be doing so much more, but I need to remember to take time to appreciate everything that I have done and the things that I do have, rather than focus on what I don’t.
Writing out these cognitive distortions and challenging them is a very therapeutic process for me that allows me to feel better about myself and deal with desires soon and anxiety issues as they try to crop up. At the end of the day, I am done with grad school and that is an amazing achievement that I should be celebrating!