Balancing Time: Grad School and Work

Graduate School with a full time job is difficult to make happen. It is a lot on one plate.

The School and Job Experiment

For six months, I attempted to hold a full-time job while trying to attend graduate school full-time. My school made this possible by offering my master’s degree online.


I woke up in the morning, went to work, went to the gym (sometimes), came home, ate, and did school work. I am not sure how people do it. Some do it out of necessity and kudos to them.


It wore me out. I never took time for me and became not pleasant to be around. I was losing friends and family. Everyone in my life could tell it wasn’t working for me.

The End Result of the Experiment


If going to school and having a full-time job is required for you to be in school, I will write about how I survived this for six months in an upcoming post.

The main goal is time management and making sure self care is one of your top priorities.


This lifestyle was not sustainable for me. I ended up having to choose one or the other. Finally, I let my school slide through the cracks and needed to pick one or the other.


I picked school. School is going to allow me to move forward in my life. I changed my full-time status with my work to part-time. The status change will enable me to spend more time doing school work.


The more time is crucial for me to have because of my brain injury. I required longer to fully grasp a concept that we are learning in my classes, I need to and can now spend more of my day focused on school work and bring my grades up.


I take what I do seriously and want to be the best I can be. My lifestyle change allows me to do my best in school and decide if I am indeed cut out for it.

The Single Life

There is this expectation that people of a certain age need to be in a relationship to be happy. I personally have found that I am happier being single.

From the time I was seventeen to now (24), I haven’t been single for more than a few months. After my first break up, I probably was searching for the next guy I dated but not too actively. I dated that person for about 2.5 years and dumped him, then found interest in another guy, and we dated for about 1.5 years.

The Journey

Now, I have now been single for about 9 months, and I love it. It turns out I was never actually searching for these men, except for the first one. So I spent a lot of years being in a relationship.

Finally settling into being single, allows me to revisit parts of me that were forgotten while in a relationship. I now have been able to figure out who I am as an adult.

As I grow into myself and figure out what I care about, I can find someone that actually supports my likes and accepts my dislikes without me having to change anything for them.

My routine

The life of being single has freed me to, as cheesy as it is, to focus on me. A routine has been created by me, for myself. I work, go to the gym, read, and write.

There are times, I have forgotten where I have put my phone many times. I am not waiting for another text to respond to. There is no technology in my hand when I go outside and enjoy it.

That need to be continuously connected was probably an issue coming from me and shows me that I haven’t found the right guy yet. I feel like I lost myself, and now I am starting to become myself again.

The Joy

My family has even noticed the change and welcomes it. If you are in a relationship with the correct person that is great. I am not trying to rag on relationships. I have just not found that person yet, and I am not enjoying the time I have with myself.

No matter where you are in your love life, it is vital to understand what you need and give your brain a break. The person you are with should be able to respect that and know that you and the health of your mind comes first.

Everything Changed

A brain injury adaptation. It is not just over when everything is healed. It is a process that takes all your life.

A brain injury is not like other physical injuries people endure. When someone breaks a limb, they go through rehab, and if all goes well, they are back to normal after some hard work.

A brain injury is, sadly, not exactly like that. After a brain injury, you are living with a new normal. Rehabilitation is a vital part after a brain injury. This will help you to go back to as normal as possible while learning how to live with your new normal.

A brain injury requires you to adapt to your lifestyle. This is possible. It requires times and patience. Trust me, this can be difficult.

I have lived with my brain injury for 24 years, and there are still things I need to figure out. For my situation, my brain isn’t fully developed yet so things will keep changing.

A brain injury tests people’s ability to handle adversity. Things may be going smoothly for a while, and then something pops up can be complicated. This is normal in my experience.

It has been years at times. I may forget that I have a brain injury, and then I face a new challenge. This new challenge reminds me of what I live with and that I need to enjoy every minute.

I am not condoning blaming all of your troubles on your brain injury. After years of living with your brain injury, there is no real way to know if this would have caused issues without the damage. It may be possible to have an educated guess as to if the brain injury does effect because of where the injury is.

I am not saying you are not allowed to blame your injury, just don’t let it be a crutch in your life.

The First Step

Support is vital to the healing system. A brain injury is new to their life and need to work on accepting what happened.

No matter when you get your brain injury, someone is going to give you the news that you sustained a brain injury. Whether it is the doctor or family when you wake up or if it is your parents when you are of the right age.

The news is difficult to hear, and I could imagine it tough to give. It is a life-changing event, and people handle rough news in different ways.

I think that the best thing people can do when they break the news to them is just giving it time. The person just heard something tragic about what happened to them.

It will take some time to accept it. There are days where I have not accepted it, and I have had my injury for 24 years. I have known about it for probably 16 years but still.

As the person telling them, let them come to you with questions. The sheer fact they found out they have a brain injury is overwhelming enough.

They will ask more questions about the event when they are ready. Some may be ready to ask questions right away and others it may take a few days to begin to wonder.

If it is you who has received the story, allow yourself to take it in. It is a lot to hear. When you are ready questions will come, and you can begin to understand what happened and what it means for your future.

There are still things I am learning about my brain injury. After one has come to terms with the event, they may start thinking towards the future.

Thinking about the future is a good sign, I believe. This may involve talks about therapy and ways to get back to their best life.

This is not a subject to push on. Let the person who gets the news come to you.

TBI vs. ABI

There can be confusion about what different kinds of brain injuries people have. And it doesn’t matter which one you have. It is a journey we are taking together.

Some people have heard the terms of traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury. Most of the time when you hear about brain injuries people are most likely talking about traumatic brain injuries.

A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain caused by an outside force. This force is usually a result of a violent blow to the head. This is common with athletes and especially football players who get tackled all the time.

An acquired brain injury is a bit fuzzier. It is an injury to the brain caused by damage after birth. This includes strokes, lack of oxygen, diseases or infection. There are multiple other causes of an ABI.

I understand that the prevalence of TBI is more significant than ABIs and sometimes ABIs occur because of sustained trauma. But ABIs are still a real brain injury. It doesn’t make your brain injury any less than others.

Own your brain injury no matter what type of injury you have. It is who you are, and you need to embrace it.

It has taken me years to decide that it doesn’t matter how I got my brain injury. I have one, and I am on a similar ride with everyone else who has a brain injury.

We are on a journey, and most days it feels uphill, but we are never alone. TBI or ABI, it is our journey. We can share in our accomplishments and share our sadness.

First Full-time Job

After spending time in school all our lives, it is a shock to have a change in schedule. It takes time to get used to the change in schedule but it happens and in the end we will get used to it.

Whether or not you have a brain injury, once we get to a certain age we will have to find a full-time job.


This is surprisingly different from a school schedule. This takes some time to get used to. The need to work a full eight hours is different between having class and then a break.


My job is explicitly tiring. It is a very physically and mentally exhausting. The mental component probably holds true for every job. The other difference between school and jobs are that jobs have the same routine Monday thru Friday, whereas school is different every day.

Give your new job time


I have found that finally after six months, I have gotten into a new routine and am able to do what I want to do. It turns out that a full-time job doesn’t leave much time for much else.


I have had to readjust what I want to do during the week and what I need to get done during the weekends. Throughout college, we get used to going to maybe three classes a day and having the rest of the time to do other things. Turns out, adult life is not like that.

Be Okay with Change


My job also forced me to change my schedule. I have to be at work at 7 in the morning. This requires that I go to sleep earlier than others. I get to be home before others are off work. After six months, I have finally changed my schedule.


I have also had to schedule time for me to do what I love individually. My sport is time-consuming, so I have found that the weekends are the only real time I have to partake in it.

After I have figured this out, I am happier. This allows me to get less fun stuff done after work, and during the week.

Understand the Difference in Holidays


A rude awakening was when I was still going to work, and my brother was home relaxing because he was on winter break. I have found that even though it was annoying, it is how life will be for a while.


All in all, I am happy to have my job even though it has required some getting used to. It is a rough realization, but we will get used to it.

Picking a New Challenge

It can be daunting to take on a new challenge after a brain injury. I find that if it is something you are passionate about, it will feel less like work.

Learning something new with a brain injury can be daunting. The first step is deciding what you want to learn. Pick something you are interested in. For me, this was figure skating.

Of course, you never really know what you are going to be passionate about until you try it. Sometimes you will have to change because you decide the effort isn’t worth it.

I tried different sports and hobbies. I ended up choosing figure skating as the thing to learn and put the effort in.

What about the activity you are learning is strenuous depends on where the brain injury is. This may dictate what you decide is more enjoyable to learn.

The activity or task that you decide to learn will probably take a lot of work. Unless you are born with the talent you need for the thing you choose to do, it will take some push, and a brain injury will make it need more of a drive and more time.

It sucks. I said I was going to quit skating many times, but I am still here. It took a ton of work to get to where I am in my skating. I am never going to be an Olympic skater.

I think that the main reason I have been able to stick with it is that I am passionate about it. I have found something I love to do.

This is essential. If you do not wake up and think about practicing or want to go to practice, you may want to try to find something else. That is okay.

You will know you have found the right thing when it doesn’t feel like work most days.

Coming to Terms

At some point after a brain injury you will learn what happened. You will have to learn a different way of living or learn to adapt. It can be tough at first but it gets better.

Since I got my injury at a young age, my parents needed to explain to me what happened. Of course, they had to wait until I was old enough to understand.


Before that moment, I remember thinking to myself that something ‘wasn’t right with me.’ I had this feeling that there was something that made me different. When kids are growing up, being different can be a big deal.


When my parents decided it was time for me to know, my mind went blank. I don’t really remember what I thought or how I reacted. It was big news.


This news was tough to wrap my head around. I am sure it is no matter how old you are when you get your injury. There are a lot of questions going through your mind.


Fortunately for me, I was able to take time to process it. I was young enough when I initially heard the story that I kept adding details as I grew. This made for a much slower time to process.


My questions came with that and not all at once. The question that appeared a lot was why. Why did this happen to me?


I am still trying to answer that question, but I have to believe that there is some reason it happened. There is a reason for everything.


Accepting what has happened to you will take time. It requires time to fully process and understand what your life is going to look like now.


This takes time, and everyone will have their own timeline for it to happen. It is a huge change. Allow yourself to grieve and be mad.


After that step, you need to be willing to learn what your new life is going to look like.

Routines

Routines allow a busy life to feel more manageable. Sometimes, the unexpected happens when you have to learn how to cope with routines being messed with.

Routines are a considerable part of my life. I have my morning routine and my after work routine. When something happens to break them, it causes anxiety.


When I have quirks like this, it is difficult to differentiate if this is due to my environment or my brain injury. Either way, it causes me anxiety.


Coping


The ability to cope with broken routines are crucial. Life can be unpredictable, and this means that routines are going to be broken.


Routines allow me to get done what I need to get done. I am relatively busy in life. I am trying to balance a full-time job and getting my masters degree.


My routine doesn’t have an exact timeline, but I know that when I get home, I shower and then eat dinner. After that, I do school work, and if I have, I will read a chapter of my pleasure book.


On the days where I go to the gym, it is the same routine just pushed back a bit. I try hard not to freak out when something happens, and I can’t do as much school work as I wanted, or I go to bed a little later than planned.


I try hard to remind myself that it is one night. It won’t kill me or make me fail. I focus on relaxing and figuring out what I need to do for sure that night and what can slide for a day.


The ability to relax when a routine is broken is a critical part because if you just let anxiety get the best of you, life will be very miserable.


I am not perfect. I am still working on not getting all worked up when something unexpected takes priority. Taking steps toward being okay with broken routines are essential to living an overall happy life.


I have found that one thing that works for me is telling the people around me that if I can have notice as soon as possible, I am then able to plan. This allows me to readjust what I want to get done.


Routines are great, but life is full of unexpected events. Allowing them to come and go with ease is the key to a less stressful life.

Attitude is Everything

When dealing with a brain injury, everyday tasks can become difficult. This is frustrating but there are ways to get around it.

When something terrible happens to you in life, it is simple to dig a hole. This hole is full of why me’s and feeling sorry for yourself.


I am only human. I have been in the hole before. It turns out that nothing about the situation changes or can get worse while in the hole.


If the hole isn’t too thick, it can be easier to come out of it. This doesn’t mean you can’t get frustrated or sad because you can’t do anything. It means to recognize the feeling. Allow it to sit with you for a little but then push it aside.


Pushing it aside can be difficult. Maybe it includes finding a different way to do what you want to. Perhaps it means understanding a smaller thing you have to accomplish first.


Everyone is different so what is needed to dig yourself out of your hole may be a different strategy compared to mine.


I have found that as tricky as it is, sometimes I have to step away from what I am trying to do. I spend a few hours doing something else and then come back to try it again.


This technique allows me to cool off, forget about what I was frustrated about and then come back with a fresh head.


This gives me a new perspective, and I may find a new way to try what I want to do. At times I need to walk away and come back a few times, but I have been able to get it.


Finding a technique that works for you may require some trial and error. One way may not work, but then you will find the perfect style. It may take some time and can be frustrating, but once you see what works for you, you will be able to glide through life.