The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of my all-time classic favorites, and lately her theme song has been stuck in my head as I have officially made it past the midterm and am halfway done with the first semester in my Ph.D program.
I last wrote right after we moved in when I was experiencing all kinds of feelings about the transition. Two months later, I am still experiencing some feelings, albeit of a much more reduced and calm variety most days. As a first-year graduate student, I remind myself sometimes daily to give myself grace as I adjust to our new life here; it was truly a drastic adjustment from working full-time in industry to becoming a full-time graduate student, from uprooting our life across the country and once again moving to a new city where we knew no one, creating new routines and schedules, owning a home for the first time, etc. Differing work schedules and a disconnect between expectations and reality made for the perfect storm in our first month here.
As the semester goes on, I have found myself getting my stride back, feeling more confident in why I am here and focusing my eyes on the end goal: working in my dream job as a communications professor. Luke has had his own adjustments transitioning from Army life to civilian life…The first time an employee didn’t show up for a shift he was “shocked” you cannot simply go to their house and pull them out of bed haha It is a different world for sure, but he officially completed his training period at Target and is flying solo in an operations management role. I am so proud of him and how hard he works for our family. As you might guess with retail, the holiday season is absolutely the busiest, and on the food side of the house, the distribution centers are working extra hard to pump out lots of pumpkins and turkeys for everyone’s dinner table. I like to joke that we both enjoy getting thrown into the deep end; if you may recall, my first day at Chick-fil-A in 2016 was Cow Appreciation Day of all days, the most momentous day of the entire year. But, when that happens, you either swim or you drown, and even if that swimming sometimes takes on more of the appearance of a doggy paddle, we are both making it at work.
I have been really excited to get to know the members of my cohort better, and we have tried to do some fun things to relieve the stress of semester 1, and one of the hardest classes in the program. At the beginning of the year, we formed a Friday lunch routine, and while not everyone can go every week, fellowship in small groups has been fun for whoever may need a break from work. We have also tried to celebrate our victories together by going out for dinner after our two major papers so far and to do a few fun things in between. Here are some pictures of a few of my favorite memories here:
Sushi lunch with Kelsy and MJ right after Perspectives class.
Photo taken on a lovely walk around campus with my friend April…we are trying our best to get some exercise in despite very busy weeks. The scenery here is so beautiful and peaceful, even if it is still pretty humid for mid-October.
Donghee’s birthday celebration with Yewande, April, Brett, Kelsy and I!
Going to see the movie When Cancer Calls presented by the STEM Center with Donghee and Brett!
Celebrating completion of our second major paper at Boca Fiesta. I finally got to wear my new green dress! Yay.
I am also really looking forward to our annual Halloween party that we are hosting for the cohort next weekend…the theme this year is *MASK*erade (intentionally misspelled…) Stay tuned. 🙂
While there has certainly been some fun mixed in, and I am feeling more connected as I get to know my fellow students, a lot of my days look like this…just me and my textbook.
I will be honest when I say grad school can feel isolating at times. So much of the work is independent, and it is hard to work with other students when you are trying to comprehend in depth readings. I tend to work from home a lot on those days because I find my sunroom to be cheerful and peaceful, and if I need a break I can always run outside for a walk around the neighborhood.
We have met several of our neighbors, but our next door neighbors are truly a godsend. It is neat how Jesus knows exactly who you might need in your life at any given time! We have never owned a home before, so when something would break around the house we would usually just call maintenance. Since we have been here we have had a series of unfortunate happenings welcoming us to home ownership and associated costs: broken AC unit, clogged garbage disposal, dishwasher glitches, a tree that fell in the yard after Hurricane Irma came through, etc. I have to give a shout out to Arnie, an older retiree whose garage resembles the most complete and intricate toolshed. He has something for every possible issue and is happy to lend a helping hand. He and Luke have worked together on a few projects, and in the absence of parents or grandparents nearby, it is neat that we have this person to call on for advice. I absolutely miss our neighborhood in Oklahoma; I don’t think we will ever find the same sense of community that Lauman Avenue had in terms of tight knit neighbors all in the same exact stage of life, but the group here has been very kind and welcoming so far! Several also work at UF, which is a neat connection.
I mentioned before about mine and Luke’s differing work schedules which we are still working to formulate into a blessing in disguise. I am grateful for more time to work on my schoolwork and for this amazing husband that supports me in that endeavor 100%. I do miss him a lot though, so as we have in other stages, we just try to make the most of the time we do get; it’s about quality not quantity. Today for example, we only had an hour or so before he had to go off to work, so we threw together a quick chicken stir fry for (our) dinner tonight and put it into our separate tupperware containers. I think we just have to find joy in those small moments as we are both focusing on our careers right now.
Since Saturdays have turned into work days for each of us, we have made Mondays into our Adventure Day this Fall. It really works out that I don’t have Monday classes and can be more flexible in my work. We didn’t feel like true Floridians until we made it to the beach! Each coast is only an hour and a half or so away, an easy day trip. We visited St. Augustine on a bit of an overcast day, but with a storm brewing, the waves were perfect! We enjoyed a day of R&R reading books, relaxing, and swimming together topped off with seafood for dinner.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much we needed this day. And, the wait was well worth every minute!
Another Monday we made the drive to Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast. A bit of a small town treasure nestled beside a “secret cove” (it was pretty deserted, one benefit of Monday beach days when everyone is at work!), we had a phenomenal day here as well. The beach area was smaller, but it would be a perfect place to take kids with easy bathroom access and a playground right there. It was a bit chilly; the Fall wind was definitely starting to blow, so even though we wore swim suits we did not really get into the water. It was the perfect place to read and relax though; if I have to read long textbooks, why not do so with surf and sand, right?
To conclude, we are enjoying our new life here, while it is not without its challenges and ups & downs. My Army wife motto was always “Each place is what you make it,” and we are doing our best to make this a home. Here are some photos of one of my favorite rooms in the house; after years of military housing I FINALLY have my dream kitchen! Woohoo!
The house is really coming together I think…I finally got my Fall decor up, and my overall goal moving in was to have everything finished for the annual Halloween party. I think we are (Semi) there. It may not be perfect, but just like us, it is a work in progress.
I keep thinking of the word “perseverance” since we arrived here. This is a season in time when things are going to be tough just by their very nature as Luke and I are stressed to the max, both completing graduate degrees and working so many opposite hours. But, we are investing in our future. Through perseverance and continued effort, day by day, we are going to survive and thrive here, and I hope to look back on this time with nothing but wonderful memories of the community we built and the family we formed here, just as we look back on our times in GA and OK now.
It is all going to be OK. God’s got us in the palm of His hand, and we are exactly where He wants us to be to accomplish His purpose. OK, I am off to spend part of this beautiful Saturday exploring a local Fall Festival with a sweet friend from Bible Study, and then it’s work, work, and more work on some research stuff. But, what a blessing that I am being paid to do what I love! What better place to be?!
We’ve got this! One day, and one palm tree at a time…