This post is a bit late, though I submitted the text in time for the release of the August 2008 Scientiae.
The topic for August's Scientiae is transitions. God knows I've had a few of those in the past year. Approximately six of them, in fact. Most of them have been life sneaking up on me with little relationship to academia. Some were primarily good, others primarily bad, but none of the major events were wholly one or the other because I learned something from all of them.
The first two major transitions happened voluntarily last August: I moved out of state and began graduate school. This wasn't as difficult of a change as I expected. When I moved a shorter distance from home for undergrad, it was much more traumatic. It was my first time living independently and so far from home. Most of first semester was riddled with anxiety attacks, but I shoved my way through them because I wanted a college degree. This time I had that experience behind me--only the location and distance from home had changed. I still moved to a new town where I recognized nothing and no one. The incentive to stay was much the same, to earn a graduate degree, but staying wasn't as much of a struggle. I started classes soon after I moved into my new apartment, which I'm sure helped the transition by keeping me busy. The classes weren't much different from undergrad and I had no time for research, so it only seemed like the same thing in a new place. I
The next major change was a shock. I got three calls on September 13th from my parents saying that I needed to come home that weekend because Grampa wasn't doing well. In fact, the doctors didn't know if he would live five minutes or five weeks. Of course, I rushed home that night, arriving at my parents' house around midnight. I spent the next five days keeping track of Grampa's medicines, taking care of Gramma, and making sure everyone else was eating. I didn't let my sadness show in front of other people if I could help it because they needed support and someone needed to provide it. I wasn't about to leave my family to fall over. He died September 18th, 2007. This was the first family death I've ever experienced (being the youngest of my cousins, I don't remember my great-grammas' funerals). The following couple of days I helped arrange the memorial. After we all said goodbye, I only had two days at home before I needed to get back to my classes. I'd missed more than a week.
A month minus a day after Grampa died, the universe threw me another life-altering event. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had my first date with the man I want to marry. This was a really good transition. Through all of undergrad I had occasional bouts of loneliness and depression because I felt so alone. I no longer have those. He is far from perfect, but he is all I want.
Transition five was closely related to transition four: the new boyfriend moved in with me. I'd never lived with a boyfriend before. It has been surprisingly seamless in our relationship (moving of belongings is another story). Finances have been a bit rocky because he lost his research assistantship and has had a very hard time finding other employment in our little city, but things are looking up in that department. We plan to get engaged as soon as we can afford it.
Transition six was not so much an independent transition as a reiteration of transition three. In May, my gramma (widow of the grampa who died last fall) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully she is doing well after surgery, but she still needs to go through many rounds of radiation.
Through all of this, I've seen a counselor a total of three times, two of which were to get help for my boyfriend's depression during unemployment (the third time was not related to any of these transitions). My boyfriend has helped keep me standing through my family's health problems and the general stress of grad school, so he is definitely a good change. I'm not sure what I'd do without him anymore. Even in the mostly bad transitions, like Grampa's death, I learned my own strength. I though I would fall apart when any of my family died. I ended up holding together as well as or better than most of my family. I learn more from transitions than any other part of my life, no matter if they are mostly good or mostly bad changes. I suppose that means I've learned more in the past year than I remember learning in any previous year, and most of it had nothing to do with formal education.