Friday, March 9, 2012

General life update, Spring Break edition

It's been over a month since I've updated, and a good deal longer than that since I've written anything substantial, so it seems like a good time to write that I'm still here and doing okay.

This semester has been a hard one, which is why I'm grateful and a bit amazed to have made it as far as the halfway mark and Spring Break! I feel I've just managed to stay afloat, and even then, there are opportunities I've turned down, and other things I haven't done as thoroughly as I would have liked.

There are a number of things for which I'm grateful, though. As always, I've thankful that church has been my anchor in reality. When I see some of my good friends there, I can actually feel my heart warming (as dorky as that undoubtedly sounds!). I've been thinking about how God has brought me to particular places in order to teach me to love specific people (and even to be loved by them), and what a privilege that is.

I'm thankful that I get along with most of the people in my PhD program as well as I do. At times, I've honestly thought that doctoral programs are designed to push you to your breaking point, and that half the battle is owning the fact that you can't do everything well, but persevering anyway--even when it doesn't look pretty. It's amazing to me how often I'm faced with just how much I don't know and how much I lack. In the midst of all that, especially when I wonder why in the world I'm doing it, it's great to have colleagues I actually like! If I were in a really cutthroat environment, or people just weren't kind and supportive, I don't know if I'd be willing to go through this. When you're applying to grad school, everyone talks about the importance of liking your advisor, but you don't hear as much about the importance of chemistry with your cohort of fellow students. It's SO helpful to have people you respect, that you can commiserate with, and encourage/be encouraged by. And I say this as someone who rarely goes to social events in my department. Connection, in some form, is key.

All semester, I've been looking forward to our trip to California (in less than two weeks now). We haven't been back since June 2010, so it should be great! Also, my parents have gotten a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy (the third that's been part of the family), and I can't wait for a chance to visit and play with him in person! (If you don't know what a RR is, here's a link to an Animal Planet video profiling the breed. I can tell you for a fact that none of our dogs have ever displayed that level of athleticism. Or stared down a lion. Or been "immune to insect bites." Also, despite Animal Planet's claims, Ridgebacks are wimps about heat and cold. But they are charming and loyal and affectionate!)

Before I go, I'd ask for prayers that my anxiety would be kept in check; in the past few years, I've found that anxiety will creep up on me in physical symptoms especially when I'm not consciously dwelling on anxious matters. I guess it gets shoved under the surface and insists on making itself known one way or the other. It's not as bad as it used to be, but can still be rather a pain--especially because telling myself "just relax!" isn't necessarily effective.
Also, I need to write up a five-page summary of my tentative dissertation topic within the next week, which will inevitably be one of those stress-producing things. So prayers would be appreciated. I'll keep you posted.