Jennifer's Personal Notes

After Graduation

I’ve been ignoring you…sort of.  I had to get through my final exams and the the last week of school.  Then I was visiting family out of state which, despite my best intentions on every trip, is NOT a place for me to accomplish any work.  Admittedly, I have been home and without classes for two weeks. But something unexpected happened to me…I had to transition to non-student life.

It wasn’t unexpected that I would need to transition, besides, I’ve done this a few times before.  The joke at our house is that I keep graduating because I’m good at it. What was unexpected, at least to me, was how I would balance all the things I had planned to do with all the things I had been putting off while in school.  What was unexpected was that the rhythm of life as a student, and the organizational tools I used as a student, would no longer be effective for me.

For example, each semester I made a list of all the assignments and projects for each class.  I then put them in order by due date because this was when they had to be completed.  But now, I don’t have ANY due dates except the ones I put on myself. These seem somewhat fluid to me, not because they are but because I haven’t put any dates on the calendar.  So for two weeks I tried to work on things without having my normal prioritization scheme – and really only made progress on one project (which actually had an outside deadline, go figure).

Another example, during the semester I have classes at scheduled times of the day.  This gave me natural built-in work times with “breaks” that I had to take.  But now I have lost the outside imposed stop times, and the urgency of getting my work done before class begins is gone.  This has made it very easy to slack off, and over the past two weeks I’ve noticed I waste more time than I actually work.

Added to all these structural changes is the uncertainty of my next step.  We haven’t decided yet if we will stay in Atlanta or if we will move.  We don’t know yet what type of “job” I will look for.  This has made it hard to want to prioritize the certification exams – a step which is priority number one for most graduating midwives. I need to decide which to take first, nurse practitioner or midwife.  And I need to balance this part of my work with updating the website — a task that has been on hold for four years!  And this needs to be balanced with publishing the results of my thesis — a task that is time sensitive due to the nature of research.

You see, I didn’t really plan well for my exit from graduate school. I couldn’t really give advice on how to do this better, some of it may just be the initial “shock” that all students experience during the move from student to worker. But I wanted to be honest about how much more complex this piece of the educational journey is, especially since I had not anticipated graduation would be difficult.

Jennifer Vanderlaan (Author)