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Seeking balance.

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Sep. 1st, 2009 | 06:09 pm
mood: sillysilly
music: But I won't. I swear.

And hoping to hold on to it for a couple of years, at least.

Graduate school starts in 45 minutes. I'm in the library, across the street from my building, and at 7:00 I'm going to walk over there for a welcome reception, then I spend the next three days in orientation and classes start the day after Labor Day. Once I confirmed the basic necessities (admission, funding*, a place to live) I moved my focus to ensuring success in this program. I'm a little concerned based on my academic performance as an undergrad, which I deemed good enough at the time but certainly could have been better, so I'm trying to step up my academic game and make sure I do well here. That doesn't limit itself to academics, either; I very much want to have a balanced life that includes ample social stuff**, good physical and mental health, and occasional sleep, too.

So far, I have implemented the following:
  • I'm trying to cook a bunch of meals on the weekend and stock the freezer so I can just grab good food and go during the week, rather than succumb to eating out all the time and messing up my diet and wallet.
  • I want to continue 5-a-week workouts, and also walk as much as possible given that driving is much less fun and less necessary here than it was in NC. So far the latter has been wildly successful, the former not so much due to some gyms being closed and only the old icky one being open.
  • I schedule my time very closely; iCal is my new friend. When juggling lots of balls in the past (particularly at work), I tried to keep a master queue of tasks in my head and often forgot things. This will keep everything somewhere that is not my head, so it can be clearer and hopefully more productive.


As for my particular program, I think it's going to be just what I want to be doing at this point in life. Though I had some issues with academia in the past, working for a university for four years allowed me to recast my relationship to it and I feel much more comfortable in an academic skin now. Finding something you want to do within the madness of tertiary education helps a lot, but the key for me was greater maturity, I think. In my application, I wrote in more detail than ever before about how I got through college and my jobs after graduation, and it summed up well that I can accomplish long-term goals. This program will be another and greater one.

Finally, I spent a lot of the last four years in my full time job wanting some aspects of the grad student lifestyle. Primarily this was about flexibility with my time and schedule (not going to the same place for 40-50 hours per week sounded like bliss for much of the last year), but also the dedication to the life of the mind and how to apply knowledge in the service of society. Now I'm here. I made it. And I've got at least two*** years of it to go.

*Despite explaining my fellowship to my parents when I received it in April, I was on the phone with Momma earlier today and she expressed surprise that they were paying me a stipend to go to school. Kind of an important detail, particularly because I'd be hitting them up for $ if I didn't have this. :P

**On the social side, I've met lots of my neighbors and their friends (we had sangria and pizza last night and traipsed around to various apartments enjoying our dwindling free time), so there is a true community already in place beyond my program, and I expect those classmates will come to be a large part of it. And I've had some interaction with Law School Gays too; ran into Sarah on the Law Quad today, and we mused about the novelty of running into each other randomly when we've spent the last three years living many miles apart. Also, her birthday party is on Friday! Oh, and I picked up my football tickets today, which are in a block with other first year planners. Row 95. I didn't even know there were 95 rows in that stadium. :( :( :(

***I am considering adding another master's degree, in environmental justice, to my program, which would make the combined MUP-MAEJ three years.

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Comments {11}

all these flavors & you chose to be salty

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from: cheesecaketart
date: Sep. 2nd, 2009 01:02 am (UTC)
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Yay! I'm so happy that you're starting your new program. Dude, I'm starting to apply to grad school (for real now, not like the false start of 2 years past) and I'm so freaking out about everything... except GRE. Small win. (And only a win because I'm not freaking out, not because I kicked it's ass or anything.)

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Sep. 2nd, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
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The whole process is a freakout from start to finish, but the reward for your diligence is great. Do you have a list of potential schools? :D

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all these flavors & you chose to be salty

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from: cheesecaketart
date: Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I do, but I found out that most of them are like top 10 for anthropology, which really freaks me out. I have to narrow down the list in the upcoming few days, but a few of them are Michigan, Berkeley, NYU... and the one that actually isn't top 10, but that I really really really (x10) want to go to is Brown. Like, don't get me wrong, I'd love to go to any of them.

I feel like I did a crap job in undergrad. How do I address that (and my newfound maturity, hehe) in my application?

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
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Brown is pretty awesome. Keep refining your list, you've got time.

I'm happy to talk more about undergrad experience by email if you'd like details, but the gist of what I put in my application (because *I* felt like I did a crap job as an undergrad) was:

-1st generation college student without a clear plan for how to think critically and balance competing demands, which got better over the years as reflected by rising GPA.
-Hard to navigate much of the world of financial aid instruments when neither parents nor guidance counselors had experience w/private universities.
-Had to stay competitive with the 55% of classmates at Duke that were not on financial aid and thus did not know the world of treading bureaucracy and piles of paperwork.

Edited at 2009-09-03 07:04 pm (UTC)

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all these flavors & you chose to be salty

(no subject)

from: cheesecaketart
date: Sep. 10th, 2009 01:58 pm (UTC)
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See, I can identify with this for the most part. I think my main problem was total lack of focus and guidance my last two years... I think I was completely burnt out all of senior year. And my advisors really didn't help me as far as letting me know what I could have done then to prepare for grad school (like, advising me to start thinking about my senior thesis long before senior year started, or even letting me know that I'd really need that to have a competitive grad school application. They were all like "You're brilliant! You'll get in." Gee, really? I need qualitative evidence for this so-called brilliance, and I feel I'm sorely lacking).

I will definitely email you once I get my short list sorted. Which needs to be soon.

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Sep. 10th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
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Cool. Use jtarr at umich dot edu as I'm not checking my Duke addresses anymore.

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Micahceous

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from: micahblitz
date: Sep. 2nd, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
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Very coolt hat you're doing UP. Though I did public policy I had a strong interest in transportation and all things urban, especially since alot of my policy stuff dealt with urban development and the like. Do you know what your concentration will be yet?

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Sep. 2nd, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
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No idea. I was partially attracted to Michigan to study cities losing population, but that could still take me in any direction. Ask again in a semester. :]

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all these flavors & you chose to be salty

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from: cheesecaketart
date: Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
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I hope you become the planner who turns Detroit into a model for newly sustainable, reasonably priced awesomeness.

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all these flavors & you chose to be salty

(no subject)

from: cheesecaketart
date: Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
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Of course, I do mean that in the "acknowledges things Detroiters are already doing to help their city" and not in a "Look Ma! I discovered a continent (with people already on it)" kind of way.

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jonathan

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from: silverthief2
date: Sep. 3rd, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
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That was part of my interest in coming here, and it turns out my department has *tons* of focus on neighborhoods all over Detroit so my thesis/capstone will almost certainly involve working with community folks to help make it better. I'll probably be blogging about it this year, first the scale of the issues and then some of our attempts to fix it up.

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