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Taking stock

Doctoral student sends message to students to be 'gentle' with themselves

Student Life

By judyannet-muchiri

It is the end of the year and, like most people, this is when I take stock.

Judyannet Muchiri is a doctoral student in sociology at Memorial.
Photo: Submitted

I enjoy a look back at the highs and lows of the year. But this year being what it has been, I considered cancelling this little exercise that I look forward to every December.

That is before I got to thinking that a terrible year does not necessarily mean a “non-year.” And 2020, although terrible, has been quite the year.

Planning disruption

Looking back, most of my plans have had to be adjusted or abandoned altogether.

And while this is not too bad, for an international graduate student, any change in plans is significant.

You are thinking how an extension in your program will impact your funding, your study permit, visas and most importantly job prospects.

“This year has reminded me that there is a time to push yourself and there is a time to be gentle with yourself.”

You are also thinking about those who jokingly call you a professional student (ahaha). Just so many things that gradually take a toll on your mental health.

If there is one thing I have learned this year it is about plans and how much control we humans have. What do you do when you literally cannot do anything about the situation you find yourself in? Only so much.

Accept flexibility

This year has reminded me that there is a time to push yourself and there is a time to be gentle with yourself. This time is the latter.

This means that I have had to sit with discomfort and the unknown. I have had to tell myself that it is okay if things did not go as planned.

“I came up with a new plan that involved me doing what I can do at the moment.”

In other words, I have had to be flexible. Accepting that I definitely need more time to write this dissertation and redoing my timeline has been a challenge.

(I want to quickly acknowledge here that I recognize there are other members of our community going through more challenging times and I do not by any means intend to depreciate any of those struggles).

Once I moved past this hurdle, I came up with a new plan that involved me doing what I can do at the moment and, with the support of my awesome advisors, I am in a good place and I am writing.

Begin anew in 2021

I wanted to write this short piece just in case there are other graduate students – and anyone, really – out there who share my sentiments, to remind us all to be a little gentle with ourselves as we wrap up the year and begin anew in 2021.

If you are curious about my doctoral research on how safe spaces shape young women’s civic participation, I talk about my research project here.

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