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From Bride to PhD: Combining Big Life Events and Graduate Work

For the last couple of weeks, people keep asking me how many days I have left to count down. As a child, I loved this question as there were only two options at the end of that count: food or presents. Somehow, when you’re an adult this question is a lot less fun. Truth be told, nothing terrible is going to happen, but in exactly 13 days I am getting married. Okay, so I’m not dying, and the idea of marrying my fiancé is very exciting, but the stress that comes with planning a wedding while also trying to finish grading student’s assignments and writing my dissertation sometimes feels like a lot. So, whenever people ask me how many days I have left to count down, my standard answer is “too many”. This pleases both the person who asked the question and myself, as I meant to say that I can’t wait to get it over with. 

Big life events can be very time and energy consuming, and whether you get pregnant, have a loved one get sick/pass away, or are getting married, it is not easy to combine these moments with a graduate life. They often take a lot of time out of our daily lives, and in combination with an already chaotic schedule, graduate work can start to fall behind. One of the most important things to keep in mind during these times is that it is okay to not get everything done perfectly (or at all). This, of course, is easier said than done, but there are ways to make your own life easier. For example, if you have a big event coming up, and you can plan for it, make an overview of all the things that need to happen and divide and conquer. Reach out to your supervisor, professors, and colleagues to discuss some alternative deadlines, and you will see that most are very accommodating. And don’t forget to reach out to friends and family to see if they can help minimize the stress of the big event coming up!

Obviously, many big life events are unplanned and simply happen to us. Yet, you are never alone, and Queen’s University and the Kingston community offer tools to help you navigate your life and your graduate work. Multiple locations at Queen’s provide breast feeding rooms for new moms, and the Ban Righ Centre and the SGPS provide emergency funding to support those that experience an unexpected event. If you need someone to offer a listening ear, or if you are looking for advice, you can either reach out to the SGPS to make an appointment with a Student Advisor or make an appointment with a counsellor through Student Wellness Services. It is not necessary to meet with someone in person, and as of September this year eligible students can also access support through Empower Me – a mental health organization that links students with professionals with expertise in the area the student would like to talk about. Empower Me provides both urgent and non-urgent services and is a great way to talk through how to combine big life events with graduate work. 

Now, if you will excuse me, I must finish grading my student’s assignments. Oh, and count down to the wedding of course, let me not forget about that!

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