Love, Written on My Heart

mandy pic

Last week, I completed the graduate life.

Chaotic excitement are the only words I can use to describe our current lives; we are living out of boxes and suitcases – life sort of half in, half out. I never know what’s in the fridge, what we’re having for dinner, if there are enough cups to go around when guests visit, and where did I leave x? We drink wine out of plastic cups, eat off paper plates, and yet it’s a small price to pay for the next season of life ahead of us, one well worth the present disorder.

As our family moves into the next chapter being written for us, and as my husband moves into the next season of academia for him (teaching, researching, writing), frankly, for me, it’s been a lot to process. As we’ve been handling the millions of details for moving and moving on, in parallel, I’ve also been thinking through the last nine years of graduate life, and what it has meant to me. I have lived and learned so much, have taken none of it for granted, and all of it for granted. I have lived in plenty and want; blessings and disappointments; happiness and anger; running and waiting. In some ways, I am the same, but different. There is no doubt that this journey has changed me, my husband, our family.

In all of that living, that processing, that thinking, a theme of the last nine years started developing. I can trace it from the moment we packed up our Atlanta house to move, to where I sit now, surrounded by boxes in our tiny Oxford flat. If I had to pick one word to describe the last nine years, I would choose “love”.

I grew up in a very loving family, so I thought I knew a little bit about what it means to love. Turns out, I didn’t really, and I continue to learn more about it everyday. As I’m sure every season of life teaches us something, I can attest that this season, in the midst of all the difficulties, taught me to look at love in a completely different way.

I learned that putting aside my own dreams to make my husband’s happen was sacrificial love.

I learned that homemade lasagne and chocolate chip cookies given to friends returning from travels or having a difficult time was caring love.

I learned that love means loving things about other people, cultures, religions, that are different from my own. I can have a differing opinion, but I can still love.

I learned that making myself vulnerable by letting people into my life (no matter where I was at) gave them the opportunity to love me, and in return, gave me the opportunity to love them.

I learned that a hug could mean the world to someone who just needed to feel loved.

I leave this graduate journey knowing what it means to love and be loved. I am filled with heart-stopping gratitude, and look forward to the delightful life moments that await us in the next chapter.

Each one of you will take away something different from the graduate journey. You’ll take away a different theme that you’ll use to describe this season of life. I hope that whatever the theme, that you will take it, savour it, and remember that no matter how good or how difficult, it was there to make you a stronger individual.

What word would you use to describe your graduate journey?

-Mandy

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Our Transition Beyond…

written by AB, a former graduate wife

Our graduate adventure began with my husband and me working on our master’s degrees while living in Dallas, TX.  Following my graduation, I began working as a speech therapist while my husband pursued further graduate qualification.  When the time came to make the transition into a PhD program we decided to move to Oxford. It was our best option and we had nothing holding us back, so we went for it! For two relative homebodies, the decision to change continents was a difficult one. It was by far one of the craziest and best decisions my husband and I have made together.  Over the past five years, or the majority of our marriage, we met our dearest friends, and expanded our family not once, but twice. And now, after our time in the UK, we find ourselves once again back in Dallas, TX.

As we make the transition into life outside of our graduate study, I find myself desiring the same sort of community we enjoyed in Oxford.  Sadly, it was not until the end of our time there that I realized what a gift we had been given in the friendships cultivated during this time. We were surrounded by like-minded people with similar goals, that loved us, treated us as family, and would do anything for us.  We gave of what we had, celebrated accomplishments, shared in difficulties, and sharpened one another.  At a time when we were so far from home, this community became our family. Although it finds easy expression in the graduate community, I am convinced that such community can be cultivated in countless different contexts. The challenge is finding it in those seasons of life where it doesn’t come so easily.

Since returning to the States we have been very blessed to have our family close by; family who have supported us through every leg of this journey.  Despite this support, I find myself feeling a bit behind in some way, often asking myself ‘what have we been doing the past five years?’  Yet, even as I struggle with this I am surprisingly not envious of those around me who I am tempted to consider ‘ahead’ of us.  We have neither finances nor job security, but there is so much beauty in a shared adventure, and I would not trade any amount of security for our time in Oxford.  For our family this adventure has lead to a greater trust that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. As hard as parts of this process have been, given the opportunity I wouldn’t change a thing.

As a graduate wife, how are you fostering community where you live?  

Has it come naturally or is it a challenge?

If you have transitioned to ‘life beyond graduate school’ have you had a similar experience as AB’s at finding community?