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How I’m Realistically and Optimistically Preparing for Grad School

Tomorrow(!) is the day that I begin seminary, my path to getting a Master of Divinity and, if God continues to call me to this specifically, becoming a chaplain at a children’s hospital someday. If you know me in person, you know that when I talk about this, I practically jump up and down with excitement and dance with joy about this absurd gift from God. How I got the “call” to go to seminary is a totally wild story that involves God speaking to me through 4 different godly friends, me trying to ignore His words to me out of fear of not being “good enough” to pursue this, finally being willing to listen, receiving obvious signs from the school I’m now going to attend that they were hearing the same messages and thus were 100% on board, and finally switching grad schools and future careers.

Oh, and all of this happened within the span of 8 days.

I just stared at the sky for a while in disbelief the day that I got in and I’ve done it a heck of a lot since then, too.

[image description: Emmie looking out on a beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at sunset. Her back is to the camera and she is an outline against the beautiful orange, gray, blue, and yellow sunset].
It was, and is, absolutely as ridiculous as it sounds. I’ve never taken a class in religious studies. I’ve only been a Christian for 3 years. I was a quarter of the way done with a social work degree. The list goes on and on, to be honest. I’m still just as shocked and overjoyed to be going to seminary as the day that I got in. And thanks to my time this summer at Mayo Clinic in their Pain Rehabilitation Center, I feel comfortable going FULL-time instead of part-time and knowing that I’ll be able to keep up with the many demands that will be on me – HUGE shoutout to the amazing occupational therapists who got me to this point! My attending full-time might be the fact that I’m most shocked about – it seemed like a totally unattainable dream just a few weeks ago because of the chronic pain and fatigue symptoms that I face on a daily basis! My life is an often overwhelming and incomprehensible, always incredible adventure – to God be all the glory.

So, what have I been up to for the last few weeks in order to get ready for this new chapter realistically and optimistically?

  • Organizing.

From about November to July, I did very few chores (read: zero) because of the amount of pain I was in and how I was coping with it (read: avoiding anything that could give me pain – I’ll write about the chronic pain cycle at some point soon and why this isn’t an adaptive way of dealing with this). I came home from Mayo Clinic to a lot of messes that I was ready to tackle a little bit at a time. Yay moderation! Things aren’t entirely back to clean, but I’m learning that life doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be great. I have enough space on my desk to have my new comfortable, ergonomic computer set-up – an angled laptop stand, a keyboard tray, a super portable keyboard, an external mouse, and wrist rests.

[image description: Emmie’s messy, but workable desk with her laptop on an angled stand, a keyboard tray, external keyboard and mouse, and wrist pads].
  • Prioritizing.

There are certain health maintenance activities that simply have to come first in my life. My progress in my recovery and appreciation of what my body can do requires me to do certain things every day or almost every day, which I’ll write about in detail over time: eat well, sleep well, relax, stretch, move consistently throughout the day, get a vigorous 30-45 minute workout, take breaks and switch up the kind of activities I’m doing (cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and so on), do chores in chunks rather than all at once, moderate and modify my activities to make them work for me… you get the picture. It’s multiple hours a day of things that I simply cannot skip. I cannot take my health for granted in the same way that many people my age do, and that’s okay!

I also am coming to terms with the fact that I cannot attempt to do everything. I’m pick a few things to do well rather than picking many things to do halfheartedly because I run out of energy. A daily planner that moves in half-hour increments, but also has pages that help me plan the bigger picture, has been my best friend in coming to terms with my limits and keeping on target with what I’m most excited about in the short-term and long-term.

[image description: a daily schedule template that goes in half-hour increments from 6 am to 8:30 pm. In big black capital letters at the top and bottom, respectively, it says “It’s a plan” “and you rocked it.”]
  •  Praying.

A lot, a lot, a lot. Asking God to be the center of it all and to show me where to go and what to do with my precious and (compared to my peers) somewhat limited energy, like which new friendships to pour into, what 1-2 activities to pursue at school, how to efficiently and effectively study for my classes, which leadership roles in my church to take on, and how to be a light wherever I go.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

  • Separating my self-worth and self-confidence from my grades. 

As Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection, one of my all-time favorite books, I’m a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring good enough-ist. My grades are not me and I am not my grades! What matters is that I’m learning what I’m most interested in well, feeling like I’m getting the most of my seminary education (holistically – classes, activities, relationships with peers and professors, and so on), and bringing glory to God. That’s it. I’ve picked a random, attainable GPA to aim for and be satisfied with anything there or above.

  • Remembering that God, the school, and the people in my life believe in me, so I can, too.

To be honest, I’m quite nervous! I’ve never felt so thoroughly unqualified for an honor and gift I’ve been given, but at the same time, I’ve never felt more like I’m heading in the right direction. There have been countless (seriously, countless!) people who have encouraged me, prayed for me, and believed in me along the way here. There’s even an incredibly generous donor who gave grants to me to fund my first year’s tuition. WHAT?! All this to say, whenever I feel lost, overwhelmed, or not good enough, I’ll look around me at the evidence that contradicts my feelings, for my feelings are not necessarily facts, and doubts kill more dreams than failure ever does and I absolutely refuse to let these dreams go. I will continue to learn to believe in my own worth because I deserve to believe in and encourage myself the same way that I believe in and encourage others.

“I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” – Joan of Arc

[image description: Emmie standing on a wooden bench in a field of flowers in Rochester, Minnesota. The flowers around her appear to be related to sunflowers. Emmie is wearing a skirt with sunflowers on it and has her hands and head to the sky in a show of joy].
I simply cannot wait for tomorrow. Here’s to my newest adventure!

“I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.” – Will Reagan, ‘Nothing I Hold Onto’

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