August 20, 2011

Recovering from grad school

It's been a long time since I've posted, and there have been a lot of changes in my life. New job, new diet (more on that soon), new apartment. No promises on how consistent I will be on posting, but with time comes perspective, and I wanted to share some of that. Just think of it as one of those reality tv shows, where the show goes in and changes someone's life and then a few months later they revisit them. In my revisit, I'd like to talk about what it takes to recover from graduate school.

Emotionally
I think anyone that has been in grad school will agree that it's enormously stressful and that they take solace in knowing that it is a temporary predicament. There's overwhelming pressure to produce either brought down upon you by your advisor or self-imposed by your desire to succeed. Not to mention the physical exhaustion from long hours, and the depression that can come from lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and the fact that your experiment failed yet again and you have no idea what to do next. Throw on top of that the fear of your future career (fear which is experienced by every grad I've ever talked with), and it's easy to end up a mess. For me all of this was pretty easily fixed after I started a new job and no longer had to deal with the daily stresses that come from the grad school environment. This was one of the best rewards for me in my decision to leave, I just feel happier and less stressed.

Physically
Did I mention the lack of sleep and poor nutrition? It's easy to succumb to a fast food diet, and I found myself indulging in comfort foods constantly. Sugary coffee drinks, cookies at every seminar, pizza when grading tests, beer at every social event, burgers, chinese, or mexican food for lunch and/or dinner when I felt too tired to cook. (Sounding familiar?) So not only did I put on the freshman 15 in college, I quickly put on another 15 during grad school. (On a side note, kudos to the grads who use some of their few hours of free time to go running or to the gym, I've never liked either and didn't find it a good way to relax.) I also developed acid reflux, which my doctor told me I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life by taking a pill every morning. To sum up, grad school definitely did a number on me, one that I will be recovering from for months if not longer. If you're on your way to or in grad school now, I encourage you to do what you can to eat well and get enough sleep to hopefully make life a little easier for yourself.

On a happier side-note, with my new diet I've already lost 20 lbs and my acid reflux has totally subsided. I'm following a Paleo diet (for a great introduction get Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet), which I highly recommend and plan to devote a whole post to later.

Socially
It was pretty hard to say goodbye to all of my friends and move into a new circle of people. And let's face it, it's hard to spend time with grad students when you aren't one yourself. I do still see a few occasionally, but not nearly enough. I'm working on making connections at my new job, and that's something that takes time whenever you make a transition like this.

Financially
Haha..this one is a joke. Having a real job is AWESOME. My salary nearly doubled and I have no complaints.

Do I have any regrets?
None. I'm as happy and confident in my decision as I was once I had committed to it. I have no desire to go back to the bench and I think the world of IT is a much better fit for me.

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