This time last year, I was on the phone at work, asking for the entrance exam results for graduate school admissions.
At first, I thought I heard it wrong, I had to ask the admissions staff to repeat the exam result to me, and I was told, “See you at the orientation.”
That felt unreal. It still felt like it.
Now, here I am, in my second semester of graduate school, trying to comply with requirements despite a pandemic, sitting in front of my desk bleary-eyed, trying to think of an objective for a certain topic for a research proposal.
Time flies so fast, doesn’t it?
But even so, I still couldn’t help feeling that I don’t deserve to be in graduate school. Yes, even after getting a pretty good grade during the first semester. I still couldn’t help but feel that everything I have achieved is a fluke, that I’m bound to flounder sooner rather than later. I don’t know if I am the only one who feels like that in academia–I sometimes feel like I am a stupid person passing herself off as smart.
I feel like a fish out of water; I feel like a fraud.
Yes, that feeling has a name, and it’s called impostor syndrome. I read that it is more common among women, and there are many causes of that syndrome. It may stem out of a need for perfection, or some long-repressed memories from long ago. But it helps people suffering from it when they talk about their struggle to trusted friends or colleagues–I do it with trusted friends. It is heartening to know that they believe in my abilities, even when sometimes I have trouble believing in them (I have a hard time believing in my abilities, just so we’re clear on that score, mmkay?).
Oddly though, pandemic and impostor syndrome aside, being in graduate school brings me a certain level of peace. A kind of peace that law school never gave me. Sometimes I wonder (and some friends ask), do I miss law school? Let me qualify that.
I love, love, love learning and studying the law on a more intensive level. Just not the stress that comes with it.
A few days ago, I was talking to a friend who is based in another country, and he was shocked at the amount of stress attached to studying law. The legal practice–and yes, the study of law, is admittedly a dog-eat-dog world. A world that I know I wouldn’t thrive in. I miss the people, I miss reading and learning the law. Just not the recitations.
What do I love best about graduate school? I think it’s the collaborative environment between the students, and yes, even the professor. I love that you can consult with the professor about some concerns about the subject. I love how interactive the learning environment is. I could go on all day about how I enjoy graduate school. I can even see myself going down the academic route–teaching, hopefully. And writing a journal article would be the ultimate dream. Who knows? Anything can happen.
But for now, I will enjoy learning and absorbing.