10 Things I Learned in Graduate School (Year One)

10. Graduate programs really, really differ depending on what your focus is. My biffle Batman had 30 page finals and conferences to attend and research to do and calculations to run. Me? Oh, I ate dinner with my classmates and we talked about our writing a little bit.

That’s not to say what I did this year was easy. Far from it. But at least in my MFA program, finals are more of a “hey, see you later, let’s hug this out” than a “HAHAHA LET ME RUIN YOUR LIFE.”

I think I ate like fifteen cookies. And three slices of bread. And half a sandwich. And some popcorn. And almonds. And a salad. (Good thing I’m training for a Tough Mudder, am I right?)

This is what the website means by “tough mudder”, right? RIGHT?!

9. Cooking isn’t really as hard as I thought it was. I mean, sure, half the time I burn toast or I can’t flip an omelette correctly or I accidentally put cayenne where I meant to put cinnamon, but for the most part, I can put together a delicious meal without a recipe. Give me some quinoa, some vegetables, and some type of protein and I promise you I can make you a meal you’ll enjoy.

It really is all thanks to the quinoa. I mean, I made it with COCONUT MILK and it was like how I wish oatmeal tasted. I made it with curry-roasted sweet potatoes and I died a little bit. I made it with sauteed bok choy, tofu, green peppers, kale, and stuff, and GOD DAMN WAS THAT GOOD LET ME TELL YOU.

The sad thing is, every time I make quinoa I have to look at the box. Maybe someday I’ll learn the correct amount of time it takes to make perfectly fluffy quinoa. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to pronounce quinoa. As it is, I think I’ll keep calling it queen-oh-ah. It’s more fun that way.

8. Cross-country road trips are perfect for soul-searching and almost dying. This is the fourth time I’ve driven across the country. The first time, I managed to cut my shin open to the bone and get five stitches. That was pretty sweet. I still have this disgusting scar that looks like it’s bleeding and also happens to have absolutely no sensation whatsoever. My toes go tingly and I get a little nauseous when I touch it, which is every day (that’s what she said?). The second time, I almost died and then I ALMOST DIED. The third time was mostly uneventful except that driving 1900 miles is EXCRUCIATINGLY BORING when the only other living thing you can talk to prefers to lick his own butthole than learn how to use his vocal chords to speak English.

I also have written approximately ten thousand jokes for a stand-up routine that I will probably never be brave enough to do, and restructured my probable-thesis at least six times. I’ve also discovered that my dog is really, truly my soulmate. Even (or maybe especially because) with the butthole-licking. Beggars can’t be choosers, right ladies?

Also, road trips are the perfect times to listen to books that’ll teach you something on the drive. I listened to A Short History of Nearly EverythingOne Summer: America 1927What The Dog Saw and Other Stories, and now I’m in the middle of Outliers. I’m pretty much going to be a walking Encyclopedia when I’m done with grad school, and that’s perfectly okay.

7. The Universe has a way of putting the right people in to your life, and the exactly wrong people into your life, just to make sure you’re learning something. Upon moving into my house this past August, I had never spoken to or seen my roommate in person. She is now one of the most important people in the world to me, and her cat makes my dog the happiest dog in the world. They’re totally gay for each other, and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

Really though, I met so many incredible people this past year.

I’m not one big on socializing because talking to people is terrifying and they tend to not think I’m as funny as I think I am. But all of these people I’ve met this year feel like family. I have my roommate, who I secretly will kidnap and make live with me wherever I move to (I guess, not so secretly), my best bro/workout buddy/Frozen  sing-along partner, my Faeby, and at least ten other people whose presence has effectively made me a better person.

Then, there are the people I’ve met this year who have presented challenges for me. The ones that the universe threw at me when I set my intentions to “STOP BEING AN IDIOT” and  to test if, really, I am ready to stop being an idiot. I’m learning. I’ve learned how to set boundaries and to follow through, I’ve learned that sometimes anger is healthy, and I’ve learned that I am really bad at a lot of emotional things. But I’ve also learned what type of people are good to have around.

These. These type of people.
These. These type of people. (though one of these people is me, so let’s include the person that took this picture)


6. Do what scares you. I don’t mean drugs. I still haven’t done any of those. But I have stepped out of my comfort zone a lot this year, in terms of activities, my writing, and who I was as a person before I moved to New York.

I mean, I was writing terribly when I got to grad school (some might argue that I am STILL writing terribly). I was uncommunicative to those who mattered most, I was stuck in old patterns, and I was afraid of lots of things I pretended not to be afraid of, which didn’t help me at all.

So then I got out of a situation I needn’t be in. And then I went surfing in Costa Rica by myself. And then I signed up for a Tough Mudder. And then I reorganized my writing. And then I decided to be honest with myself and others about what goes on in my headspace. All of these things are terrifying, and yet, the only repercussion I’ve had so far is that I’m slightly more bloated because I’m eating a teensy-bit more chocolate.

And that’s a trade-off I’m willing to accept.


Part two of this count down will appear when the author is not currently at a hotel in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, USA.

27 thoughts on “10 Things I Learned in Graduate School (Year One)

  1. Having survived my daughter’s participation in Tough Mudder, I had to laugh at your photo. Your “Tough Mudder” would have made me much happier. Their Tough Mudder just scared the hell out of me.

  2. Those snake cups looks delicious! I hope they helped get you through many nights of studying – and road trips for that matter. I liked what you said about doing things that scare you. This is so important. I read somewhere that ‘face your biggest fear. After that, you are free.’
    I have recurring nightmares about escaping from a war zone. Wonder what that represents…

    1. It probably represents that you have a deep-seeded fear of bananas, or something strange. (It’s actually probably more a fear of conflict, but I am not a dream-ologist. Which is also not a thing, but who cares)

  3. Loved the list so far! And love quinoa. I usually pronounce it “You know…not brown rice, but like better and with a ‘Q’…” and most people get what I’m talking about.

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