A former classmate has been in a long-distance relationship for years - his job and her schooling kept them apart - and this separation pretty much defined her grad school experience. She spent those years pining for him. She worked hard, but didn’t focus on making friends or creating a life for herself, as she was just counting the days till she graduated, and could move across the country to be with him.
In late spring, she made the move. Soon, the bloom was off the rose.
She quickly found that living with him 24/7 is quite a different experience than longing for him from afar - but no matter, because she set a new goal. She became convinced that a full-time job - of any kind - would fill the gap she was beginning to notice in her life. She was excited to get a job as a retail store manager (which surprised many of us), and reported that she found the job fulfilling in all kinds of ways.
But in a few short weeks, drudgery set in. The hours were long, and the pay was small. She was in a new city, where she knew no one but her boyfriend. She missed her home, her family and friends. Now she’s casting about for a new goal.
I think all of us fall into this trap - I know I have - of thinking that a change of circumstance will finally make us happy. Then we get what we wanted, and find that it’s ordinary, not magical. We’ve traded one set of problems for another, that’s all. If we come to understand this, we realize: setting goals is great, making plans is wonderful, but the achievement of these goals and plans is not going to change our essence, the person that we are inside.
Grad school was crushing in many ways, but I think I went into the job search with my eyes open. I knew that I’d go through a period of adjustment, being the “new kid” and getting used to life in a new town. I knew the workload would still be crazy, although in a different way - and so it has been. There are new classes to prep, lesson plans to write, and piles of papers to grade - but now I have to worry about things like tenure as well. A new set of problems. Perhaps “better” ones, definitely different from before, but still, life isn’t smooth, and never will be.
I hope my former classmate will find a way to be happy in her new life, but somehow I don’t think a change of scenery, the “next big thing,” is going to be the answer.