Betzabel Z. Martinez
August 7, 2018
Your car has a flat tire.
Your coffee spills on your way to work.
Your laptop crashes in the middle of a paper.
But what happens when bigger things happen?
The death of someone close to you.
The end of a romantic relationship.
A natural disaster hits your hometown.
As a graduate student in an Educational Counseling program, the person I worry about the least often times is myself. I make sure the mental health of my students is okay, and if it’s not, I vouch for them to get extended deadlines, a day off work or school, and ensure that they seek the resources available to them. However, I forget to stop and make sure that my mental health is okay, to vouch for an extended deadline, to take a day off, to utilize resources available to me. It wasn’t until a traumatic event occurred that ultimately led to the end of a relationship, that I realized that I needed to give myself the grace and care I give to my students.
During the middle of my spring semester of my first year of grad school, my life inevitably took a sharp turn. The events that led to the end of a relationship, left me in shock and my mental health suffered. Prior to this, I had been a straight A student in the fall semester. I always turned in my papers and assignments a few days before their deadline. I was the graduate assistant at both my internships that worked overtime and was first to volunteer for a task. So it was no surprise to me that I found myself feeling guilty for not having the same motivation I had had the past 8 months, but I knew that if I wanted to do well in school and continue my projects at work, I needed to take care of myself first.
As many of you may know, life happens at the most inconvenient time, and this life happens story is no different. The day this happened to me I had an exam. Wonderful, right?
I had two choices to make:
I chose option #2. Immediately after being granted an extension, I felt guilt and embarrassment. What would my cohort think? Would they think I did it for extra study time?
In the days following, I had work at both of my internships, and again I took option #2. I asked for a week off to gather myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. Again, the feeling of guilt overcame me, but my supervisors were right by my side. I will never forget what one of my supervisors told me when I told her I wasn’t stable enough to work: “We operate like a family here. We provide a family for our students and also to our staff.”
I ended the semester with straight A’s and with two offers to return to both internships for the following academic year. It was rough, but I managed, and I learned the following along the way:
Take care of yourselves, whatever that may look like. We are stronger than anything life throws at us. In the ideal world, life would not happen while we are busy trying to complete a graduate degree while balancing one, two, or three internships. Since this not the case, I want you all to know that there are other graduate students going through similar experiences and we can come out of our life happens moments stronger than ever.
Betzabel Z. Martinez (she/her/hers) is a second-year masters student at the University of Southern California studying Educational Counseling. She works at Rio Hondo College as a student success coach and for USC’s Topping Scholars Program as a program coordinator. She served as NASPA’s Summer Graduate Intern 2018 in Washington, DC. Betzabel can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter at @HigherEdWithBtz.
Photo Credit: http://grangeconnect.com/reveal-to-heal/
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