Found: Two Missing Bloggers

LOST AND FOUND Hand Painted Sign on Wood

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Hi.

Remember us? :)

We can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since we’ve posted anything. Life has been busy, and we’d like to share some of what’s been going on with us.

About 7 months ago, I (Mandy) relocated with my family to Sheffield. My husband took a job at the University here, I started a new job, our son started a new nursery, and we’ve been settling and getting to know our new community. It’s a lot of ‘new’ that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. But, as with any major move, starting over takes time. More than I remembered.

In the next couple of months, I (MC) am about to leave Oxford to head back to the USA. With another baby on the way in a month, a husband hurrying to wrap up his thesis here at Oxford and then starting a new job, and settling into a new community back in the US, we are about to embark on a season of immense change as well.

We’ve been relatively silent over the past three months, pondering what to do with the blog. I (Mandy) have especially felt this, as I am in every sense completely disconnected from graduate life. It is no longer part of my everyday life. It’s weird to write that. M.C. is about to head in that direction as well.

For us, the graduate journey chapter has and is closing. It makes it difficult for us to keep a pulse on graduate life and how we can be encouraging to other graduate wives…

So……where does that leave The Graduate Wife?

We’ve spent quite a lot of time discussing this over the past three months. Talking about you, our readers, who have encouraged and formed our time in graduate school with your stories and support. We’ve both gone back and read almost every piece this blog has published over the past three years. The more and more we read, the more we kept thinking, “This can’t stop.” Just when we think it might be time to hang up the ‘blogger’ titles, we get another email from another graduate wife to say, “I am so glad I found this blog….I can’t stop reading.”

Your stories continue to encourage us and others, and we don’t want that to end.

However, the longer we are away from graduate life, the harder it will be for us to keep current with what’s important to you. Yes, our new readers can go back and read what’s been written in the past, but it’s also important to us that what is said here reflects what’s going on out there. Does that make sense?

We have decided to ask for your help. We are looking for 4-6 graduate wives who would be willing to work alongside us to run The Graduate Wife blog. This is not a time intensive deal; It would only require 1-2 hours of your time a month. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, what school you’re attached to; If you’re interested, please get in touch with us by 30th April at thegraduatewife@gmail.com and we’ll give you a few more details. We’re excited to share with you what we think the next season of The Graduate Wife should look like.

We hope you’ll bear with us over the course of the next couple of months as we attempt to deal with the changes our families are embarking on. We hope that the momentous life changes ahead of us won’t significantly change how this blog operates. We want this blog to continue to be a catalyst for your graduate stories, if you’ll allow so.

Thank you for continuing to read and follow our blog even though we’ve been radio silent over the past three months. Thank you for sharing your life stories, struggles, and celebrations with us.

With grateful hearts,

Mandy & M.C.

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An Alternative to Micromanaging

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Written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

In the life of a graduate wife or husband, I think it’s typical to feel as though so many things are out of our control. “Will my spouse get the grant she applied for?” “Will his advisor be supportive of this new direction the dissertation is taking?” “Will we end up in the same time zone as our families?” Not to mention other worries about the educational and job-finding processes. As a result of this perceived lack of control, I’ve noticed that it’s easy to shift to micromanaging those things I feel I do have some say over. While there are undoubtedly books written on the topic and how destructive this tendency can be, I thought I’d just share a little bit about how it’s possible to turn this around for good. Just because there may be significant decisions with far-reaching consequences over which we may have limited input doesn’t mean that we can’t inject the everyday motions of our lives with intention, gratitude, and significance.

Intention

When I get up in the morning, or when I get home from a long day at work, I have decisions to make. I may feel that my day will be, or has been, nothing but a long string of hustle and bustle, none of which is particularly significant to me. But if I take the opportunity to choose how I spend the free time I do have, I am more fulfilled, and our marriage reaps the benefits. Nobody makes me turn on the television; I could just as easily choose to run by the library and pick up a book or two that look interesting or take my violin out of its case and play a few favorite songs (insert your skill here!). No one makes me sit down and waste an hour surfing the internet with nothing to show for it; I could have just as easily taken a brisk walk outside for a few minutes (or better yet, asked my spouse to accompany). I find that life is so much more fun when I see it as a series of choices to make, instead of something that simply happens to me.

Gratitude

I think (and hope) there have been several posts on The Graduate Wife about gratitude, but I’d like to restate the importance of this small virtue. I find it to be an excellent way to inject goodwill into my life and our marriage. In this specific context, I am talking about being intentionally grateful for the “small things.” For me, these include taking a few minutes to pet our cats, or even just notice how beautiful they are and how calming it is to watch them sleep. I love having a deliberate cup of chai and enjoying the sweetness and spiciness of the flavors. When the weather is cold, I take special relish in wearing my flannel pajama pants (with mugs of hot chocolate printed on them) for as much of the day as possible. It’s the small things.

Significance

There are certain tasks that we all have to do, or at least find ourselves doing frequently, so from time to time I look for ways to make them more meaningful. My husband and I enjoy cooking together, so I often plan meals in advance that are healthy, cheap, and easy to make. It’s so much more fulfilling than grabbing fast food or pizza (although I adore this occasionally!). There have been many posts on this site about home decor as well, and about making the most of the small spaces we often live in by refurbishing cast-off items or making something beautiful from something plain. When my husband and I kiss goodbye in the morning, it can be a regular old “Have a good day” peck, or I can think about it for two seconds and make it something we both remember throughout the day. A significant, free way to make the day better.

Obviously, there are ways to live with deliberation and significance through the work we do and through caring for our spouses and children (and cats) in more overt ways. However, I have been surprised to find how much little adjustments like these can add meaning to my life and make me less anxious and/or resentful when I am feeling as though so many decisions are out of my control. Marriage, under any circumstance, is a three-legged race that one person cannot run alone, and I have found the Graduate Wife experience to mirror this illustration aptly. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share with one another on this website, and to encourage each other to fight for peace and significance in our lives and marriages, even when the going gets tough!

5 Ways to Cope with Uncertainty

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The post box door flung open and I winced as our mail flew around me into a heap on the floor.  As I knelt to scoop pieces of mail back into a neat pile, I saw it.

A thin letter. The glaring University logo in the corner of the envelope. I felt my heart sink in despair.

It was THE letter we had hoped to never receive, the one that began with these paraphrased words, “You’re awesome, but not awesome enough to be teaching at our school; good luck finding a teaching post at another school.”

I knew what the coming evening would bring: reflection on what could have been done better, comparison to colleagues, conversations on publish or perish, all done with an overarching sense of failure. In the long run, this also meant another option had been scratched off our ever-shrinking list. There was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid the oncoming train of discouragement that was about to hit us.

As I wandered back up the stairs to our flat, the cloud of uncertainty fully enveloped me, and I wondered how I would once again garner enough strength to be the cheerleader he needed me to be. How many more times could I do this?

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How many of us have lived that scene of uncertainty, or one similar to it? Maybe in your world, it’s your students’ applications to graduate school, law/medical school, a fellowship program, or in my own case, a teaching post. How are you dealing with the uncertainty? And how do you remain hopeful? Can we, as supportive graduate wives, maintain a level of positivity during the midst of constant change and uncertainty? I hope so, but I know I struggle with it!

Here are five ways to deal with uncertainty; this is not an exhaustive list by any means, but things I’ve learned from fellow graduate wives and my own graduate journey:

How do we accept this uncertainty?

1.   Acknowledge that you may face several possibilities.  In our world, for the last two or three years, my husband has had a different job (or in some cases, jobs), every year.  As of right now, since he doesn’t have a permanent post, we have no idea from year to year where we’ll live and what we’ll be doing. At one point last summer, he had applications out in four different countries. With so many possibilities, I found it difficult (and still do) to try to plan anything. My anxiety kicked in, and I began to panic and worry over things I had no control over. It was only after I acknowledged that it was just a possibility that my anxiety slowly dissipated. I learned to wait for an answer, be it a ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘you’re on the waiting list’, and dealt with it then.

How would you deal with the idea of several possibilities?

2.    Focus on what you can control. I may be able to control some things in our lives, but I can’t control a hiring committee, a school reviewing applications, or post-doctoral funding. I can control the atmosphere in our home, working hard at a job that will pay our school bills, and at the cleaning of laundry and dishes. It’s often unfair, if not difficult, when your husband’s future is determined by someone sitting on the other side of a desk. But if you can learn now to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can control, life will be a lot easier.

How do you deal with control?

3.    Manage expectations.  What happens if your student spouse doesn’t get accepted into the school of their dreams? What happens if you don’t end up in the city you had wanted to live in? Learning to manage expectations by having an adaptable plan is important in the graduate life. Sit down with your spouse and write down your non-negotiable and negotiable desires. Make a plan from there. When your spouse has fourteen different job/school/fellowship applications out in three different countries or six different states, an adaptable plan will come in handy.

How do you manage expectations?

4.    Be honest about how you’re feeling. But be wise in your timing of sharing it. Pick a time that your student will be in the right frame of mind – if you choose to do it during a particularly stressful season (i.e. exams, etc). then you may not get the response you were looking for. Over the past eight years, the sweetest moments in our graduate life have occurred when I’ve been able to share with my husband that I was fearful and frightened of what his future in the Academy may not hold for us. Such honesty allowed us to have an open, frank dialogue, reminding us that we were a team. While it’s important to have these conversations, it is also equally important that they are done in a respectful and understanding way.

Are you honest with yourself, and your student spouse?

5.    Keep moving forward.  It’s not easy feeling caught between the place you came from and the place you’re headed. It’s difficult to gain momentum when you feel trapped in the same place doing the same things. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last eight years it is this: you have to keep moving forward by developing yourself, investing in relationships around you, and learning from those pesky, teachable life moments.  Those experiences are the things that will define and refine you, and those are the things you’ll be able to carry into future endeavors.

How do you keep moving forward?

If you’re in the middle of uncertainty right now, how are you coping with it? Would you be willing to share in the comments below?

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity” (Gilda Radner).

~Mandy