It Be Like That: A Grad School Mood

Photo:  Adobe Stock

Photo: Adobe Stock


Races have a starting line and a finish line. And although graduate has a first and final semester, it doesn’t make it a race.


And I get it, it feels like one. You’re racing against the money because you’re only funded for three years but you may take four years to complete your degree.  It is a race against the biological clock—all your friends are on their second child but your readings are the only thing keeping you warm (or up) at night. It’s a race to the job market because somehow an idiot doesn’t think tenure should be a thing and education doesn’t need a budget.


I get it, you always feel like you’re running—hell, I feel like I am always running too! You’re doing all this running and you ain’t lost not one pound. In fact, you’ve put on pounds because you are stress eating your way through your degree.


Whew, y’all I was just triggered.


Any way, it all feels like a race, but I have news for you: it is not a race, its not even a marathon. This academic life is the embodiment of the phrase: “It be like that sometimes!”


Sometimes, I feel like the majority of the time I am responding to things like “oh well!” It is almost as though I am exhausted—Oh. Wait, I am (we are)!


We have been conditioned our whole lives to be better and do better. And if you are Black you’ve been trained to work three times as hard to be better. We have been brainwashed that we have to get everything right the first time because there is a deadline approaching. This deadline is all in your head. (I mean I understand there a things that need to get done, but I am not talking about those right now).


Someone of course will tell you to “run your own race” and in theory that makes sense; however, that analogy still insinuates that this is some type of competition and it is not.


Do not get me wrong, I am all for sports analogies but that’s all they are—analogies. We, myself included, have been running this imaginary race and we have been trying to win. And since we are being honest, I do not been know what the hell I am trying to win. I also am not saying a bit of healthy isn’t good for the soul. But do you know what is even better for the soul? Rest! Rest is good for the soul.


Twitter is full of the horror stories of graduate students who haven’t found a job. There are other stories of some quitting academia all together. We have seen the stories of all the folks who haven’t quite landed a job in the academy yet. These stories are scary and they make you want to run and try to secure every bag possible—but do not do it.


Trust the process and let’s face it: grad school is just one long process. You won’t understand it, hell I still do not understand it. But that is the point. Adulthood itself is a process in which half the time you are flailing around hoping to get it right.


Also, grad school is all about learning to take an “L” with grace and pride. Your advisor is going to not like something you do, and you’re going to have to do it all over again—that’s an L. You’re going to get rejected from some applications—a common L. Basically graduate school just hands out L’s for a living—literally, these faculty members get paid for this shit! And you know what? It. Be. Like. That. Sometimes.


So no, you are not alone. We are all going through some version of the same thing. And we all have wanted to quit at some point, but we keep going because we know why we are doing this. We have a dream. And we have to release the notion that our dreams must be achieved on some certain timeline. One thing I have learned during my graduate school tenure is that when I tried to rush my dreams, I missed a few steps and I didn’t allow for any room for adjustments. And by not allowing room for any adjustments that would inevitably happen is what caused me to think I was in a race. It caused me to compare myself to other folks. It made me feel like I was in a race with an invisible opponent.


Kevin Hart calls it the “shoulder shrug” in his book. This is the ability to just shoulder shrug your way through life when things do not go your way. My version of that is “It be like that sometimes.” By saying this it allows me to not take things personally and it also allows me to keep moving on to the next thing. Basically, it allows me to remain focused on my goals and not get distracted with wallowing in self-pity.


Grad school is not a race or a marathon. Its not even a game, even though you feel like they are always playing with you! Grad school is a process that will stretch you physically, emotionally, and mentally. And you are prepared because you applied and got accepted. You got this! Trust the process! And remember: “It be like that” is a mood!



Joy Melody is a JTG Contributor. She is a Master's student at the University of Iowa who studies the sociology of sports and health communication within the education system. When she is not busy complete work for class she enjoys writing for her blog , running with her dog, and hunting down guest for her podcast. She is a native of Fort Worth, TX.