Feeling Like an Accident and Other Problems with Inferiority

Being in grad school is really weird.

For one, many of the people I graduated high school and undergrad with are moving on with their lives, getting Real Adult Jobs and starting families, while I’m still in school, running on an academic schedule, and trying to find a job that lets me go sit in the stats lab for hours at a time trying to get a handle on the math class I didn’t actually want to take.

But mostly, it’s because my entire academic career so far has felt like an accident. Like I ended up in this amazing PhD program because someone put my name in the wrong pile and now I’m just muddling along trying to trick people into thinking that I actually am smart. It might be because my cohort is very talented, and of them, I am the only one not funded by the university. I’m isolated from them except for when we’re in class, and I miss out on the collaboration and discussion they have that comes from sitting in the same office all day. So when we do get to class, they’re all on the same page, and I’m a chapter behind. When we discuss things in class I approach it from one angle and that angle is wrong because everyone else has decided on it before they even got to class.

Part of it might be because I took different classes from them last semester. I did my master’s degree at this same university so some of the core classes at the PhD level, I had already finished, and needed to substitute different ones. So they had an entire extra semester to get to know each other. They got an extra five months to discuss ideas and study together, while I was working off campus, a full twenty-five miles away. So even if they tell me about an impromptu study session now (they don’t), I can’t make it because by the time I get there, they’ve moved on. They can spend their entire day on campus focusing on school, while I need to have a job and schedule my day around commuting.

I spend most of my time on campus wandering around looking for a place to study. I don’t have access to the office, so I need to find an abandoned corner somewhere in the library to get my work done, which has left me feeling like I’m not actually part of the program, like I don’t actually belong there. And that’s a terrible feeling, the last time I felt this way I was kicked out of law school and just lost for six months.

I am tired. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t belong, like I have to smile and go along with things because everyone else came to a decision without me, and I’m tired of pretending I’m having fun.

But it’s not going to stop me, because I’m pretty damn smart, so fuck that shit, I have work to do.

 

Things you should know as a college freshman:

Clearly I am too lazy to make a new post, but since I’ve been away for so long (thesis writing, ughhhhh) I felt I should link to this post I made about helpful advice for entering college/university. It’s that time of year when everyone gets their roommate assignments, so I figured it was timely.

I’ll be back in August!

Something exciting.

So as some of you (two of you) knew already, towards the end of last fall semester and beginning of this spring semester I was putting together my application packet for the criminology PhD program at the university I go to. And this morning I got my admission decision.

I’m in! I’m starting in the PhD program this fall, upon completion of my master’s thesis over summer. I’m so excited, and a little scared. But mostly excited.

“Ballerinas don’t eat Popsicles,” and other ways people have told me I’m fat.

When I was four, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was freaking obsessed. I would twirl around everywhere, and even demanded a ballerina costume for Halloween. I would tell anyone who would listen how I was going to be a ballerina when I grew up.

Until someone reasonably important to me said I couldn’t. Because I liked to eat Popsicles. And ballerinas were thin, which I wasn’t, even at four, and obviously that meant they didn’t eat Popsicles. And since I liked to eat Popsicles, I couldn’t be a ballerina.

I’ve been heavier than I should be since I was a toddler. Around three is when my weight started “exploding,” apparently.

In elementary school, it didn’t seem like a very big deal. I was running and playing with all the other kids, and no one said anything about my size. Intermediate school was the first time I actually felt different, and it wasn’t because we had just moved to a new school district, of which I was the entirety of the Indian student population. I sat next to this kid in my advanced language arts class in the fourth grade, and we had those planners where you wrote down you height and weight and eye color. Even then, I knew to lie, so instead of putting my actual weight, I decided on a “safe” number, which was two digits instead of the three I hit in the third grade. I settled on 99. This kid who sat next to me glanced at my planner, saw my weight, and laughed, going “Really?!” in that derisive way only ten year old boys can do. It stung. Clearly still does, it’s been fourteen years and I’m still thinking about it.

Middle school I definitely felt different. All the rest of the girls were thinner than me, could fit into cute dresses for the eighth grade dance, and I had to get something from the women’s section at Dillards. It was black and shapeless and had these awful frills on the shoulder.

And of course high school was rough. We started learning about BMI’s in health class and every time the teacher mentioned overweight, I caught that barely concealed glance. From not just the teacher, the class in general. Whoever was stuck sitting next to me would shift uncomfortably. Like fat was contagious. And the dances sucked. My mom made my dress for freshman homecoming, because no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find one that fit me and that looked cute enough for a very picky fourteen year old. The dress was pretty, but it didn’t matter, I didn’t have a date. I spent that dance and every other one until prom sitting in a corner fiddling with my bag until the lights came up and it was time to leave.

But high school came with a diagnosis, of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, of which weight gain and difficulty losing weight was a symptom. That didn’t make it any easier, and literally the only way to control PCOS is to lose weight, but the PCOS makes it hard to lose weight. There’s no winning there.

University was different. I was away from home and could actually control exactly what I ate. Which turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Because while I loved eating fruits and vegetables and could buy and eat all of the fruits and vegetables that I could possibly want, I could also restrict as many calories as I wanted. This spiraled to a nasty point my third and last year at school, where I was limiting myself to less than 500 calories a day, and dropping five pounds every two weeks, and hating myself every single day, but really, no one could tell, because hey, I was still fat.

I had a series of strange conversations that I don’t want to revisit from various people in my life, who all felt the urge to remind me that I was fat, and also, apparently I would never date anyone/be in a relationship unless I lost a significant amount of weight. And while so far that’s held true, that’s not really something I needed to hear at any point, in that sort of accusing tone like I was being fat on purpose.

And I’m still the fat girl at the gym, getting weird looks from the stick thin girls on the elliptical. As if a prerequisite of going to the gym is to be small starting out. It’s heartbreaking and I hate going but I know I need to because the only thing that runs in my family is heart disease and diabetes and like hell I’m going down that path. I’m better about eating now, but I still have days where I have to essentially force myself to eat something, even though I feel horrible and my brain is trying to convince me I don’t deserve to have breakfast. Going to the gym is a terrible, horrible exercise in hating everything, but luckily I have Desiree to send whiny texts to before and after I work out, about that weird middle aged dude who wears too much cologne and collared shirts while working out or the crazy cat lady who tries dancing on the stairstepper.

Adulting is hard.

Books are like new friends.

Does anyone else have the unfortunate problem of buying new books before you’ve finished the ones you’re currently reading? I do that all the time and it’s such a wonderful problem. I’m trying to stop though, because I don’t want to get overwhelmed with all the books to read. And since I’m heading to Chicago soon, I’m going to try not to buy anything to read at the airport, and take along a book I’ve already got. But let’s be real, I’m going to have to grab a fashion magazine or two, because that’s what I do at airports.

books

This is what’s on my reading list currently. I’ve been on a nonfiction kick lately, and I’ve branched out from the books about doom and gloom and terrorism that I usually end up reading. I’ve provided links to Amazon* to make it easier if you want to grab one or more, but I bought these at Barnes & Nobles.

The one I’m actually reading right now is Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney. It’s a biography of Coco Chanel, and her advent into the fashion industry. It’s really fantastic so far.

Another one I’ve read a little bit into is Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It’s the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of my favorite books of all time. I first read it in high school, and Scout definitely reminded me of one of the kids I babysat.

When I picked up the Coco Chanel biography, I also grabbed The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank. I’ve never read anything by this author, but she’s supposed to be pretty great. I might take this one with me on my next flight.

Today while I was at Barnes and Noble, I grabbed Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book, In Other Words. I really enjoyed her previous books, and this one is a non fiction memoir written in both Italian and English. So one page of the book is Italian, and the opposite page is the English translation. Even though I can’t understand Italian, the dual language format is really interesting. Kat took Italian all through university, so Kat, you might enjoy this.

Finally, I picked up a copy of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. I’m fuzzy on the exact details, but it’s basically about a bookstore that’s more than it seems. This one might need to come to Chicago with me too…

I should really hold off on buying more books until I finish what I’ve got so far, but let me know what else I should read in the comments!

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and by email, thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com. And now, you can also find me on snapchat, my username is VrishaliMK, as usual.

DIY Date Night

Valentine’s Day is on Sunday. My plans include nannying most of the day, so the parents of the munchkins can have a long overdue date night. However, I figured I would put together a quick and easy collection of links for things to put together a reasonably inexpensive Valentine’s Day dinner.

All of the recipes I’m featuring can be found in my recipes section, plus more, in the sidebar to the right.

IMG_5097

I figured an easy snack or appetizer would be pesto, since it’s like four ingredients and two minutes in a blender. I like it on toast, you could cut a baguette into little rounds and top them with the pesto.

 

 

 

butternut squash soup

Then you could do a butternut squash soup, which can be made in the slow cooker in the morning. This recipe is vegan, but you could substitute the coconut milk with heavy cream.

 

 

 

 

 

roasted broccoliAfter the soup, I suggest garlic roasted broccoli. Since the soup is actually pretty filling, I didn’t want to include a heavy side dish. Usually when I cook I just make one thing, not a whole meal. Because y’know, there’s just one of me.

 

 

 

stuffed peppers 8As a main course, or rather, the only main dish I’ve chronicled, try the stuffed peppers. I personally can’t have bell peppers anymore, but my dad and brother like them.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0085And finally for dessert, I highly recommend masala chai macarons , on the left, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, or flourless peanut butter cookies, below, which are so quick and easy.

 

 

DSC_0047That’s all I’ve got, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Eat lots of chocolate. As always, find me on Twitter, Instagram, or by email, thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.

How to work from home and not hate yourself.

When I’m not chasing a toddler and teeny baby around and basically getting paid to play all day, I mostly work from home, since both my classes and thesis work are online and I work on blog posts from my kitchen. And I tend to get off track a lot, so I find myself two days before a deadline, panicking and hating myself for putting it off for so long. So I decided to make a list (because apparently I love making lists, no joke) of ways to work from home and not end up hating every decision you’ve ever made so far.

Have a set schedule.

Make sure this includes the end of the work day. It’s tempting to just work all the time or into the night, especially if there’s a deadline to meet. I found that sticking to a routine is helpful, which includes dragging myself out of bed at around the same time every day. For me, since I’m not much of a morning person, this is around 9:00am, and I’m at my desk by 10:00am. Now, since I nanny during the day, I’m not working straight through until the evening. I have to leave my house by 11:30am, so I work for a solid hour and a half, and then when I come back around 1:30pm, I have a solid chunk of three to four hours until I have to leave again. This seems weird and difficult in print, but it works for me because my attention span is mostly non-existent, so I get to pause and change what I’m up to every so often. This way, I can bang out a blog post in the morning, then do schoolwork and shoot pictures for the next blog post in the afternoon. I end my workday when I get done with nannying in the evenings, usually around 6:30 or 7:00. I go straight from the family’s house to the gym, and by the time I get home I’m exhausted enough to start winding down for the day.

Get dressed for the day.

This sounds silly, but when you stay in your pajamas all day, you work like you’re in your pajamas all day. At the absolute least, change from pajama pants to sweatpants. You don’t need to get all made up and business casual, but the physical act of changing from things you sleep in to things you work in helps change your mindset to “I’m at work now.”

Treat it like you’re not home.

For me, this means holing up in my study and not coming out unless it’s a set break. It’s like I’m working anywhere else, I can’t just get up and wander. I also don’t let myself keep other crafts and fun things on my desk unless I’m “officially” not working, because I get distracted so easily.

The most important thing about this is don’t let anyone use your time. Don’t let anyone say “but you’re home all day anyways!” and expect you to make appointments and run errands for them. That is a waste of your time. You are working. You are not a personal assistant, you are not someone’s errand boy/girl, you are not just sitting on your ass watching Netflix and eating cookies. You’re trying to get shit done and that can’t happen if you’re running all over town for someone else.

Make a to-do list.

This varies from person to person, but I like having a physical piece of paper with everything I need to get done sitting right on my desk. I make it as detailed as possible, with titles of blog posts I’m going to write and subject matter of emails I have to send. It helps me plan out my day, and keeps me on track in the limited amount of hours I have on my desk. Crossing things out also helps keep me from feeling like I’m stagnating at home, because I am very clearly getting shit done.

Hopefully this list helps, I know people work differently and somethings that work for me may not work for someone else. As always, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram, and by email at thisisnotaquickstory@gmail.com.