As of last night, I am on summer break.

If you’re picturing two school-free months, beach vacations, frolicking in fields of wild flowers…stop. This is not that kind of break. I’ll still work. I’ll still write. But I will enjoy as much as I can of the 12 days, 6 hours and 41 minutes left before summer classes start.

I have needed a break. But don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love grad school. I’m working on my MA in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. It’s CRAZY (no pun intended). I’ve learned a lot. Grad school has changed me, in some ways I hope are permanent, in some ways I hope are temporary and in one that just needs to be tweaked.

Things that I hope are permanent:

  • I am far more organized. I’d be lying if I said all my important papers are filed in date order, alphabetically by category, beginning with “airline ticket confirmations” and ending with”Verizon bills.” But I’d also be lying if I said “Get a filing cabinet.” isn’t written on my to-do list so I can do just that. The workload deems it both necessary and common-sensical to, at least, keep a to-do list. And that’s far more organized than my ways pre-grad school.
  • I am far less likely to procrastinate. Do I ever choose to eat one of everything in the fridge when what I really need to do is study? Of course. Who doesn’t? But thanks to grad school, I more often find it worthwhile to do what I have to do now and what I want to do later. I have the willpower to turn off the TV (with the exception of the time I stumbled upon an unexpected Sister Wives marathon.). I no longer can stand to deny my responsibilities the attention they require.
  • I am a little more self aware. When all your professors are mental health counselors or psychologists, it happens. They pick up what you don’t even know you put down. And when you’d like them to — or, say, when you’re the client in an in-class counseling role play and the professor observes the student counselor and then adds his or her two cents — they tell you about it.
  • I am more compassionate and empathetic. Compassion and empathy came pretty naturally long before grad school (You’re reading the blog of a woman who’s found reasons to weep during an episode of COPS.), but because of what I’ve learned in school, the scope of when I can feel compassion is broader. I’m less likely to lose my patience with crazy callers at work (with a small segment of them, anyway) because I find it easier now to remember that the person on the line is, in fact, a person and one for whom “the desire to ruin Arleen’s day” is not what underlies his or her reasons for calling, 99% of the time.
Things that I hope are temporary:

  • I cannot justify talking on the phone when I’m at home. Gone are the days in which I regularly receive or make calls when I’m at home. There are, of course, exceptions: If a friend has an acute need to vent, if the phone call is scheduled in advance (Is that sad, or is that sad?), if plans to meet up need to be made or if somebody happens to call when I happen to have nothing to do. Otherwise, I purposefully stay as far away from my phone as I can while I’m home (but I check it now and then, just in case). I don’t think phone calls with friends will ever be quite what they were when we were ages 7 through 18 (frequent, long and blissfully rambling) — and how can they be, what, with our jobs and our educations and our marriages and our kids? — but I do hope to someday again have the time to communicate in ways that aren’t scheduled or email.
  • My social circle is shrinking. In fact, it’s not even a circle anymore. There’s no name for the shape of it now that I’m in grad school. (Although my decisions to quit Facebook and Twitter shrunk it more than grad school has, for the record.) The friends I have are fabulous, of course, and I still aim for something social once a week. But there are so many people with whom I used to spend time and with whom, I’ve lost touch. Plus, I’ve never liked “going out” (Do I look like someone you’d see at da club? I don’t think so.), but I officially almost never go anywhere where I could meet new people.
  • There can be no spontaneity. No, I cannot meet you at [insert name of coffee shop, restaurant, theme park, farm, mall] at [insert any time that occurs less than several days after your invitation]. As much as I miss the ability to get up and go where I want to go whenever I want to go there, I can rarely make it happen. There is always something to read or write and (thanks to my new organizational skills and aversion to procrastination) if I haven’t had [insert event here] on my calendar for awhile, I probably didn’t work ahead in a way that allows me to take that break. Someday, spontaneity and I will get along again. In the meantime, I appreciate my patient friends!
  • I can’t read on a couch or in bed without falling asleep. It’s uncanny. And an unending cycle of doom. Can’t a girl read fourteen pages about self psychology without falling asleep? Well, yes. Just not on a couch or in a bed, or what happens is I read the line about how Heinz Kohut spend most of his career at a psychoanalysis institute in Chicago, sleep for fifteen minutes, read it again and repeat. It takes all day. And I hope it ends after grad school.
The thing that needs to be tweaked:

  • I’m generally disgruntled. But if we tweak that, what I am is a visionary — a dreamer, if you will. The reality is that every time I leave my house, I lose a little more faith in humanity. But if you spin it another way, I, see the world through a lens that pinpoints all the ways in which the general public has… potential. If everybody made an effort to be a little more aware (whether self aware or aware of what goes on around us), the world would be a little better for it. And I’m aware of that, thanks to grad school.