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Leaning on Strengths

I work 40 hours a week at my desk job, at least 20 hours at school, and at least 20 hours as a tarot reader in Salem this October (I’d work more if my schedule allowed). While lugging my laptop across a classroom yesterday, colleagues gasped in horror when they saw the color-coded monster that is my Google Calendar. “How are you doing that?” they asked. The secret is suffering.

On a good day, I wake up on time at 6:30 in the morning and hop into my computer to read or write. Today is a good day.

On bad days, I wake up at 3:30 in the morning, doom scroll on my phone, force myself to listen to Seinfeld to go back to sleep for a few more hours, wake up with my alarm, doom scroll again, try to get back to sleep by spooning my new husband (the one I don’t see) before getting so hot or uncomfortable that I flop out of bed to admit defeat by putting on some clothes. On bad days, I sit at my desk and answer work emails even though I’m not technically “on the clock.” I have one of those jobs that always needs a little more of something, so it makes the best procrastination tool.

On a school day, Richie has me out the door with coffee and breakfast (shout out to supportive partners) at either 8:30 or 10:00, depending on which class is up first. There’s never enough time to get all the stuff done. There’s a lot of stuff.

Reading pages for class, writing assignments, posting to social media because that’s how you grow as a writer or artist these days, putting out work-related fires, getting ready for class, working on my own creative projects, thinking about my thesis, trying to find time to write an op-ed, learning what an op-ed is—on and on. We’re in week 6, and I’m already exhausted.

That’s not even us talking about imposter syndrome, that creeping sensation that you aren’t good enough or smart enough to be in the room, so you might as well be quiet. This isn’t true in my creative classes because, well, I’m a good writer. But those social medicine classes I have to take to learn about evidence-based research methods? It’s amazing anyone knows my name.

On top of that, I feel lonely (hilarious given my research interest). Most of my classmates are younger than me and live in the dorm on campus. They hang out a lot, have a separate group chat, take pictures of their adventures, don’t work full-time jobs, have a lot more freedom. I don’t feel integrated, as is often the case with me. I often feel like I see people more than they see me. I know this about myself, but It still feels bad not to be on the inside.

At the same time, I have a rich life outside of school that takes time from being social. If it’s not on my calendar a week before, I can’t go. Spontaneity has never been my strong suit, and I’m only leaning on strengths right now.

My friends and family ask me if there’s anything I can drop, but there isn’t. Work and tarot pay for school, social media grows my reach, and school is the whole point. There’s nowhere to set anything down. Am I complaining? Yes, but please don’t mistake me; I chose this for myself and am mostly happy with my choice. Getting this degree means a complement to my creative skills, or: “I’m learning how to tell stories that make people give a shit.”

For the most part, I’m okay. Grad school wasn’t hard last time because I didn’t have to do scientific research or manage the complex dynamics of working and going to school full-time in a bureaucratic machine such as Harvard. On the plus side, it’s exhilarating to be this busy. Always something to do, always somewhere to go, always someone to talk to…for a person like me, a Hell like this is Heaven.


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