A few thoughts on surviving my first semester of grad school

I was scared to come here, honestly. Moving to a new town, switching majors, being in a long distance relationship – this all sounded terrifying to me.

Fortunately, the last few months have been nothing short of wonderful.

I made new, amazing friends. My empty apartment became a cozy home. My days settled into a happy routine – and always began with a lazily made latte. I tried cooking new things. I went out to bars and danced to live music. I found time to actually read. I learned so much in my classes (and also learned how to swing dance). I worked out, went to yoga classes, and was even convinced into trying Zumba. I got a haircut. I flew across the country to work at a national lab. I wrote my first song.

And throughout the course of all these things, I started to feel a little different. A little brighter. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was so until I stumbled across a poetry book at Webster’s today.

Inside the front cover, the author himself had scrawled a note to his mentor: More than anyone, your influence, your passion for poetry, sparked these poems, he wrote. Without your teachings, I’m not sure I would have arrived as a ‘poet’ until much later in life. For that, of course, I must thank you. I can assure you, what I become in this world owes no small sum to your dedication and kindness. I would be honored to have a fraction of your sincerity and compassion. I hope these young poems show something like potential. They are yours, somehow – your passion working through me….

For some reason, these words touched me deeply. Maybe it was because they were handwritten and felt like such a personal glimpse into a stranger’s life, maybe it was the inspiration and gratitude that was so evident in his tone – but for whatever reason, this note made me realize what was different these past few months: I’ve felt inspired.

Much like the poet who just published his first collection of poems, I have just begun a new chapter of my life that I am passionate and excited about, too.

Sometimes, our days just blur together and we find ourselves on autopilot. Sometimes we get so caught up in our schedules that we lose our true sense of what we’re waking up for every morning, what we’re ultimately fighting for. But I realized that I felt different these past few months because it was the first time in my student life that I had both the time and the interest to truly appreciate everything I was learning. And it turns out that when you are actually happy with what you’re doing, you live with a little more...purpose.

You live more deliberately.

And even though I’ve been warned that it’ll get harder, that research will be tough and that I will grow jaded and tired – guess what? I like living deliberately, so I am determined to hold on to the optimism and zeal that comes with new beginnings. I’m going to stay inspired, and stay curious.

Because why do what you’re doing if you can’t find meaning in it?

You win some, you lose some

I went to a poetry reading a few weeks ago—or rather, I went to a cafĂ© with the intention of studying, only to discover that I had walked in on a monthly poetry reading event. As it turns out, I think I learned a lot more from the poets than I ever could have learned from my thermodynamics textbook.

My favorite poem was titled “Why A Pansy.” The woman reading it explained that she had recently gotten a tattoo of a pansy—because it is the symbol of remembrance. The pansy represented the things that we’ve lost: the ones who have passed away, the lovers who left us, “the versions of ourselves that didn’t make it to today.

That particular line stuck in my head. It reminded me of all the risks I didn’t take, the challenges I shied away from, the accomplishments that I never achieved because I was too afraid to try. It made me realize that there are far too many versions of myself that didn’t make it to today.

And that’s such a shame.


I’ve been trying to learn how to do headstands lately. Now don’t judge me, but I follow all these beautiful, fit women on Instagram who are always posting pictures of fancy yoga poses and videos of effortless inversions. Feeling ambitious (and a little jealous), I thought, hey—I can do that too!

Except that…I couldn’t.

I tried over and over again, but to my utter disappointment I just could not hold my legs up straight. Being upside down felt unnatural and scary and I didn’t like the way my room looked when the floor was suddenly the ceiling. My body felt heavy and my arms felt weak—

Until I flipped over, landing flat on my back with a resounding thunk. Ugh, my downstairs neighbor is probably judging me right now, I thought, being self-conscious about what other people think of me, as per usual.

But wait, that actually didn’t hurt was my second thought. Because it really didn’t.

And suddenly, headstands got a whole lot easier.


I know that most things in life aren’t this simple, but I’m a sucker for metaphors.

And the truth is, the concept still holds: it’s scary to put yourself out there, to try something new, to tackle a challenge when you’re not sure if you’ll come out a victor. But for what it’s worth, even the most perfect person will not be successful in every one of his or her endeavors—ironically, it’s the realization that it’s okay to fail that will ultimately make you successful.

During my Thanksgiving bus travels, I listened to Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me? She said that a little girl once asked her, “Mindy, how are you so confident?”

Her response wasn’t what I was expecting, but it sure was the truth. She said that confidence is like respect—you have to earn it. There’s no magical formula for becoming that smart, confident person you want to become. You just have to work hard. Put in the effort. Try.


I know it’s a little early for new years resolutions, but I always thought it was silly for January to be the only month you could rise from your phoenix ashes.

The way I see it, you can’t wait around for a sign to finally do the things you’re scared of. Maybe it’s a hard physics problem that you don’t think you can solve. Maybe it’s a hobby that you’ve been meaning to pick up “when you have time.” Maybe it’s admitting to that cute girl that you think she’s really somethin’.

And maybe you won’t solve the physics problem. And you’re horrible at that hobby. And the girl says you’re just friends. But even if you don’t succeed in everything, you’ll succeed in enough that your confidence starts to grow just a little tiny bit…

So forget new year resolutions. Just start now, because that’s what this is all about anyways: always trying, often losing,

sometimes winning. It’s the only way we move forward.