Graduate School: A mini-breakdown every 5 minutes?

When I was sitting in my sea-green graduation robe that fateful May morning in 2010, surrounded by my fellow Scrippsies and favorite professors, I did not really believe that a little over a year later I would be going to graduate school.  I had definitely decided against Medical School, as I had developed an aversion to both blood and people complaining about pain (sorry if that seems heartless, but a girl has got to know her limitations). Law school seemed too seedy (no offense to lawyers), Dental school seemed too teeth intensive (I hate floss), and, like Marie Curie, I knew I was happiest when in lab, working at the bench. But graduate school seemed big, foreign, and dark; a sort of iron curtain I did not know if I wanted to cross.  Sure I loved bench work and those blissful moments when data and ideology synchronize and reason is had by all.  But grad school? Really?

The speaker at the time, the author of the Secret Life of Bees, told us to be tenacious, courageous, and to “err on the side of audacity” in whatever pursuits we entertained in the future. Today, 16 months later, her words kept ringing through my ears.  I am not a scared person by nature.  Having, on multiple occasions, camped outside the Korea Times office on Wilshire Blvd in Downtown Los Angeles at 4 am to buy concert tickets, I fear very little.  So, naturally, when my friends already in graduate schools warned me to expect nervous breakdowns, mental anguish, and general misery on a routine basis this first year, I scoffed.  That would definitely not be me. After all, how bad could it be?

Well, as I write this post, I have not been in this scheme a full week and already I have undergone more than a couple mini-breakdowns.  I’m not going to bore you with the details, but they did entail me shaking my fist at the gods, pulling out a few tissues, and maybe even a call or two to dear old mom questioning myself, my abilities, and my general existence.  When my best friend from college texted me “Scripps Power,” I finally remembered why I am here. I am here to learn, to find my own place in this big world known as Molecular and Cellular Biology. And so I will be courageous, I will err on the side of audacity, and I will ask those blatantly obvious questions in discussion group and lectures that only I seem to have and everyone else seems to understand. In the words of my favorite animated chef, “Let’s do this thing!”

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  1. Genius! An honest and clever expression of how we all feel in graduate school.

  2. By virtue of writing this, you have already ventured on the side of audacity. And I’ve gained a renewed sense of uumph (it’s been a long first month). From one first year to another — we got this!! Let’s rock and roll

  3. The other students in discussion/lecture will thank you. They all have those same questions too!

  4. Thanks for the insightful analysis. I look forward to these mini breakdowns next year.

  5. Kayly,

    I look forward to following your first year – hopefully without too many breakdowns. :O)

  6. I’m right there with ya Kayly! We’re all in this together!

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A PhD candidate in Physiology & Pharmacology



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