Dear Universe.

Dear Universe,

 

It’s summertime and you’d think that I’d be happy as a clam with all that’s been going on, but the truth is

 

I’m not.

I feel so low that even ants tower over me. The darkness creeps in the back of my mind while I work and reminds me that my heart is struggling. That behind my friendly facade I am lassoed by thoughts of self-loathing and worry.

So I’m writing to ask for a little bit of help today. Universe, if you’re there, it would be incredibly helpful if you could send some encouragement my way. Something that can help me fight away the hurtful feelings that I harbor.

I promise that I’ll be here with an open my heart to accept it.

 

Yours,

Katie

 

 

How To Not Have A Good Time In Grad School.

Grad school is tough. Definitely tougher than my undergrad, and in a TOTALLY different way. From being constantly under pressure to get results in the lab, to preparing to TA two tutorial sections, and everything in between, I have been swamped. All the freaking time. And once it’s all  done, I only have time to grab a quick bite and crash in bed at home.

This is a fine lifestyle for me; I mean, I get paid, I’m doing what I’m passionate about, and I am not taking nearly as many classes as I was in undergrad. But last week I got hit with something that I was not prepared to handle: I got sick.

Usually when I say ‘I got sick’ I mean that some crazy thing happened with my head and seizures and memory loss and whatever and I’m just a sad heap because my brain is broken. This time, I had the stomach flu. Now, you might be saying to yourself, ‘Katie, don’t be dumb; having a broken brain is waaaay worse than a little old tummy bug’. But you’re wrong. Here’s the story of how catching the tummy flu was the worst thing that’s happened to me in grad school (so far):

On Monday morning, I woke up not feeling well. I threw up a few times and had a bad headache, but I thought nothing of it as my symptoms improved with rest and a bunch of water. I went to campus that afternoon and even managed to make it to my TA meeting. That night, I ate a healthy dinner and went to bed at ten; completely and totally fine.

Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling TERRIBLE. My body was achey, and I could not stop puking. I attempted to make myself feel better the same way that I did on Monday, but it was no use. As the day wore on, I got worse. I couldn’t keep anything down; not water, not gatorade, not ANYTHING. From about nine in the morning, to about four in the morning the next day, my routine literally consisted of this: drink a small sip of water, lay down for ten minutes, go puke up the water, go back to bed, drink a small sip of water…and on and on. I was not doing okay. Slowly, I was dehydrating myself little by little without putting anything back. I was absolutely miserable. I could barely focus on anything other than feeling terrible; but I still had to send out emails and work on projects. I remember one time during the day where I was writing a very short email and couldn’t even finish typing it before leaping out of my bed to the bathroom. My parter tried to help me in his short free time by bringing home Sprite and sugar-free popsicles, but nothing stayed down. All day I laid in bed alone wishing so badly that my body would accept some kind of food or drink. I knew that having some water and some calories would make me feel better almost instantly! But my body refused to let anything past. Tuesday, I was a slave to my body in the worst of ways. And I seriously felt like I was going to freaking die.

Wednesday, I woke up even worse than the day before. I could barely move my own body, and felt incredibly dizzy every time I elevated myself. The decision was made and I was bad enough to go into student health: as a graduate student, I am required to have student health insurance and thus must go to student health if I am in need of medical help (as per the student health insurance handbook that I read). They checked me in and took my vitals. Low BP and rapid HR when standing up after severe vomiting for like a whole damn day; it was pretty clear to me that I was severely dehydrated. But they required a pee test to confirm that I was indeed, dehydrated, and in need of IV fluids. So somehow I peed for them, and it was finally confirmed; Katie is gonna die if we don’t force some fluids into her. So I laid down on a little bed in one of the back rooms and they hooked me up. For about three and a half hours I was in a sleepy stupor as cold saline solution flowed into my bloodstream and gave my body the help it so desperately needed to fix itself.

I went home and slept hard for the rest of the day. It was incredible. When I woke up, I still felt pretty crappy, but I could hold down water and gatorade. Eventually, I got hungry and managed to eat a real lunch! By then, I was 1000x the girl I was the day before.

Happy ending, right? I got all better and everything was awesome.

Not in the slightest. What made my sickness the worst was not the fact that I was sick (although it was a damn shitty time), but the fact that I had missed two whole days of work/school/TA-ing. Thursday and Friday were AWFUL. I spent so much time catching up on all of the lab work that I missed, that I barely had time to prepare for the tutorial section that I was supposed to teach. Since I dedicated so much of my time to those things, I completely forgot to finish my class assignment, and ended up having to meet with my professor to make sure I was on the right track (which was time that I didn’t have to spend). The insanity of making up work in grad school is unreal. I keep re-reading my post here and I can’t get across how time-consuming everything that I had to make up is. And I’m still not done with it all.

So all in all, the lesson that I’m taking away from all of this is: don’t get sick in grad school. It’s just not worth it.

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Here I am taking a selfie as they replenish my body with fluids. I look so happy.

A Head Full of Dreams.

Last Monday, I was able to live out one of my lifelong dreams; I saw Coldplay live in Denver!

To say the least, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Every second, my heart beat full of happiness and my veins filled with pure bliss. The lights, the sounds, and the band all created a beautiful environment that allowed every person in the room to dance and sing as one heart and one voice. When the Xylobands lit up and the whole audience jumped up to the sound of the chorus, I felt as though nothing could ever bring me down. What made it even more rewarding was having my love right at my side, smiling through every moment with me.

Now, I knew it would be difficult for me to write a lot about the concert because it really can’t be described in as few words; a Coldplay concert is an experience that is not easily re-created. I want to share a few of the photos that I took at the concert, and hopefully convey a little bit of the magic that I was so blessed to experience that night. Enjoy!

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Transition Period.

In my last post I wrote about my upcoming graduation and how I want to put my whole self  into my research in the master’s program here.

Well, I graduated. I passed all of my classes this semester and I officially met all of the requirements for my degree. After five loooong years, I walked across the stage and into the next part of my life.

It’s been quiet so far. My partner (he graduated, too, yay!) and I took a vacation to Las Vegas and had a wonderful time relaxing before returning to summer work in our respective labs. Since we’ve been back, his advisor has had him working his buns off; my advisor, on the other hand, has been away at a lab visit with one of the PhD students in the lab, so I haven’t had much work to do at all here (Dr. Pratt: if you’re reading this, I promise I’ve been reading articles and working on my manuscript).

After this little transition period, my partner and I will be moving in together. With his roommate gone on a trip, we have been able to ‘test drive’ living together and so far it’s been working out really really well. I have so many dreams for the two of us, and this feels like the first step to making them come true.

I have so many things coming my way in the next few months; a new place, a new degree, and a perfect opportunity to explore within myself and find more pieces of who I am. In this part of my life, I am truly happy and hopeful. And it feels amazing ❤

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Fearless Pursuit.

Here I am, about a week and a half from graduation, sitting on my computer typing up this blog post instead of typing up the papers I need to have done for next week. I’ve been reflecting on my time here at UW and it’s been quite a wild ride. From marching band to organic chemistry, I’ve accomplished and participated in things that my younger self would never of even dreamed of doing.

Yet lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve done a good job here. After struggling in my transition from home to Laramie, college got incredibly difficult for me to handle. I was overwhelmed for a long long time here. Then I got sick. I fell down to my lowest point in college. I was failing three of my classes and finally had to give up the dream of going to optometry school. I struggled to balance my medical finances with my living ones. The person I loved was slowly slipping away in search of other women. My life had become a mess of chaotic sadness and my schoolwork was taking the brunt of the blows. I didn’t know what else to do but hang on and see where it took me. And I was incredibly scared that I wouldn’t be happy where I ended up.

Now I’m here in my final semester, in my final week of classes, and I still feel the effects of those low times. But I try to remember all of the good things that I have done here and all of the people that I have come to know and love. And most of all, how the way that my life has gone has led me to something that I feel very passionate about; my lab research. If I had continued on the path that I had planned out for so long, I never would have found my home in the research lab. I never would have gotten the opportunity to work in this place where I feel welcome and I feel able to discover and learn so much about what I love.

I want to continue on this path. After I graduate here, I want to take all of the old hard times from undergrad and outshine them with my work as a masters student. I want to pursue the research that I have started. I want to put my heart into this work. And I want to try my hardest to drive out the fear that I might not be the best; because I should not be afraid of that. Being the best is great. But doing what your heart calls you to and pouring your soul into something you believe in and love dearly is amazing, and not many people can say that they do it.

This ending of a time is my chance to dive in and start again – to show the world that I am fearless in my pursuit of doing what I love. And that doing that makes me the best ‘me’ that I can be.

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A Small Memento.

My partner is away on a conference trip for school, and I’m home alone for the weekend. It’s been difficult to say the least; bad things used to happen when I was left alone, and those negative feelings haunt me to this day. I’ve been doing well managing and all, but last night got hard. I was stuck in my sad feelings and ended up pouring over things that I shouldn’t have and making myself worse. I had a long talk with my partner on the phone, and eventually managed to calm down and get some rest. This morning, I’m determined to  have a good day and get the things that I want and need to get done, done.

One thing that I always try to remember that I have to help me remember that I’m not alone is a small necklace that my partner gave to me when we first began getting close to one another. He told me then that it is a reminder that I am loved and that I am never alone. He also told me that I could name the elephant whatever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t ‘Ellie’ because that was ‘too cliche’. So I call it ‘Not-Ellie the elephant’. It used to wear it on my person every day, but stopped after I lost it a couple of times. Every time I lost it I would be in a panic and frantically search high and low for it until it was back in my hands again. My parter always assured me that this necklace was special, and would always make its way back to me, no matter how many times I lost it.

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Not-Ellie the elephant 

When I moved into my current apartment, I thought I had lost it for sure in the move. I looked everywhere for it; my purses and wallets, all of my pants pockets, all of my desk nick knacks…it was nowhere to be found. Months went by and I slowly forgot about it, as it  goes with things like that. Then, one night when I had come home in a low mood, thinking the worst kind of thoughts, I found it in a random pocket of a random bag. There it was. I was flooded with reminders of my partner’s love and comfort. From then on, I had placed it on my nightstand, never to be touched or moved for fear of losing it again.

This weekend, now that I’m at my own house instead of his, I’ve been holding this little necklace close to me. When I hold it in my hand I try very hard to remember that I am not alone, even when I feel sad. I am loved, even when I feel unworthy of love.

I love this little elephant. It may be old and ugly these days, but the meaning it holds for me goes far beyond its humble appearance. I hold it close to my heart today as I wait for my partner to come back home to me safe and sound.

Here Comes A Feeling You Thought You’d Forgotten.

I had a nice long talk with a new friend the other day about how I got to be where I am, and I realized that I have a lot of feelings that I haven’t really found much resolution for. Maybe writing a post about it will help me feel better, or maybe some kind soul will read it and have something nice to say that guides my heart in just the right direction.

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I know I’m not perfect by any means. There are so many things about myself that I could sit and criticize for hours and hours. It’s not really a big deal to me that I’m not-so-great when I’m just bumbling through life on my own, but since being in a relationship and settling down a little with my partner, I’ve become hyper-conscious and critical of how I am.

These feelings started way back in the beginning of our relationship when I had first met him and we started getting closer and closer. We had the best adventures then; staying up late to watch old Doctor Who, freezing our wet hair off my balcony in -30 degree weather, and cuddling till we fell asleep next to each other are all some of my favorite memories with him. It was obvious that there was more than a spark between us, but there was a catch to this seemingly-perfect story; he had a girlfriend. She didn’t live in Laramie though, she went to school in Colorado and he would occasionally visit her on the weekend. I remember a time when we were cuddling on my couch together and she called him; without a second thought, he answered. ‘I love you,”I miss holding you, too,”Good night, my love,’ I heard him say as he lay with me. It was a bad situation. Every time we slipped up and got too close to kissing or fooling around, we would tell me that he didn’t mean anything that he did and that we would only ever be friends. Eventually he broke up with her and then our story started taking a (rocky) start. Even though he had left her behind, she stayed with me in a completely different way.

I would look at his pictures on Facebook and scour them at night time when I was alone in my room. They looked absolutely perfect together. No arguments, no fallouts, no typical high school relationship crap. Every dance was recorded with volumes of photographic evidence; him kissing her, her showing off her corsage, him hugging her from behind. Travel photos, school photos, friend photos; they all showcased their flawless love. They played Benedict and Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing; if that didn’t mean that they were meant to be, I couldn’t tell what did. They were a perfect couple. I don’t think I was ever really jealous of that. I was happy that he had so many great memories that made him who he is. I think I felt more sad that I didn’t fit that space in a relationship. My heart hurt because I knew I would never make a perfect girlfriend.

Looking at his pictures turned into looking at her pictures. She was (is?) beautiful. I would compare every aspect of my life to hers. Are my parents wealthy and supportive? No, But hers were. Did I have a great smile, beautiful hair, and a perfect body? No, but she did. Was I getting my degree in the most distinguished school in my field? No, but she was. Every single thing I could think of to compare, I fell short in. I wanted to be in a relationship very much with him, but it just seemed like the space I had to fill was too great.

After a while, things got better and I started going to the doctor for some mood problems that I had been experiencing. Things were starting to look up as far as being in a relationship went; we hung out a lot, spent the night together a lot, and pretty much did all the things that dating people do. In the back of my mind, I still felt like I was falling short; that I wasn’t enough to actually be his girlfriend.

Then everything happened with the other girl and again those feelings of inadequacy came roaring into my mind. Again I caught myself looking at her pictures and comparing myself to her. Again, I didn’t stand a chance at comparison. All of this happened within a month of finding out about my brain tumor, and I was in a dark place.

Eventually, everything fell into place and I ended up with him. We decided to be in a relationship and the rest is history.

Now, almost two years since the beginning of that story, I’ve found myself with those feelings once again. She is still living her perfect life in Colorado, more beautiful and popular than ever. I broke down last night about it. I cried and cried and talked it out with him, but he didn’t know what to say except that he loves me with all his heart and that he couldn’t imagine a partner who would be a more perfect fit for him. And honestly, that should have been what changed my heart. Those words are exactly the ones that could heal my heart and calm my worry. But I still feel so inadequate. I still compare myself to those girls and I still tell myself that I fall short. Somedays I wish I had a little pocket book that could tell me exactly what to do in order to move past my feelings and finally feel some inner peace.

I know that there’s no magic secret to getting over myself, but I’m going to keep trying every damn day to make myself into the person that I want to be and transcend those thoughts of comparison and self-doubt.

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PS – Here’s the song that inspired this blog post’s title. I had it stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this.