Grad School, Then and Now, Part Two

Graduate school (and formal education, period) has changed a great deal in the eight years I spent out of school, as I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve also changed too, which is making my William and Mary experience quite different from my time at Williams. Today, I’ll highlight some of those changes.

  • Attention Span: When I was an undergraduate, I could read and take notes for hours. Or at least I think I could. These days it’s a lot harder to do. Technology certainly doesn’t help, I can consult Google on whatever random question pops into my head while I’m reading (e.g. why do racehorses have such peculiar names?), or any other distraction that keeps me from my work. Eight years of bouncing back between projects have also affected my working habits. Over the course of a day at Roswell, I rarely got to research or write exclusively. I’d go to meetings, consult with artists, assist with gallery prep, answer phone calls, sometimes all within the course of a day. I suppose I got used to being interrupted, so now that I’m working alone again, I find myself creating artificial distractions. I’m working on changing this.
  • Age: Fresh out of college at 22, I was one of the youngest students in my class when I went to Williams. These days, I’m one of the oldest at 33 (okay, almost 34). Initially, I thought being several years older would feel awkward, but I’ve found it’s advantageous. When I entered Williams, I was very insecure about myself and my abilities. I knew how to go to school and that was it, so getting good grades and keeping them high was extremely important to me because that was how I measured my worth at the time. Coming to William and Mary, by contrast, I had eight years of curatorial experience, 5 of them as head of the Curatorial Department at Roswell. Beyond work experience, I also took up printmaking and ceramics, and even participated in an art fair. I was a member of the Roswell Flute Ensemble for four years, playing music for nursing homes, business socials, and even at the museum itself. I’ve lived in Wyoming, Texas, Vermont, and New Mexico, places that are all highly distinctly from one another yet interconnected. In short, I’ve simply been alive longer and been able to do more things, experiences that not only inform my academic work, but give me perspective on the whole graduate school experience itself. I still work hard, but I know that my life doesn’t depend on grades.
In Russia with my fellow first-year students, 2009. I was very insecure about myself then. Really this picture is just an excuse to show off the fabulous winter coat I had at the time.
  • Health: I’m not old by any means, but I’m much more appreciative of good healthcare. When I was at Williams, I almost never went to the dentist, and ended up having to get five fillings shortly after I graduated. These days, I make sure I regularly see the dentist and other doctors. I also make sure I get enough sleep, don’t skip meals, and get enough exercise. While I didn’t deliberately abuse my body at Williams, I took its youthfulness for granted. These days I recognize that you have to look after it to maintain it.
  • Priorities: When I was in graduate school the first time around, classes were my first and mostly only priority. Nowadays, I’m in a committed relationship and provide a home to two cats, in addition to the hobbies I’ve had most of my life. In short, schoolwork isn’t my whole life anymore. More importantly, I don’t want it to be. All the efforts I’m taking toward reducing distractions and procrastination give me more time for my family, not more schoolwork.
  • Acceptance: It’s cliche, but you really do start getting more comfortable with yourself as you get older. As a young student at Williams, I never felt like I was good enough. My writing wasn’t insightful enough, or my research wasn’t thorough enough. Being surrounded by fellow art historians, I worried my clothes weren’t fashionable or that I would be perceived as some uncultured yokel. Looking back, I can’t help but notice how much more comfortable I am with myself. The imposter syndrome never entirely goes away, it’s a lot easier to ignore now.
Giving an interview on Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth for the New Mexico PBS program, Colores! in 2018. Between my time at Williams and this feature, I’d gained a wealth of experience and become much more comfortable with myself.

In short, I’m not the person I was when I went to Williams, but I wouldn’t want to be. After all, I’m getting my Ph.D. at William and Mary, not Williams. It’s a different school with a different program, so why would I want to be the same person anyway?

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