Some of my graduate school experiences remind me of my experiences associated with the U.S. military. The thing that is perhaps the most similar is the fact that it’s hard to get close to people. It seemed that as soon as you would make friends in the military world, you or your friend would get orders someplace else.
I want to be clear that I was never in the military. I was, however, married to a U.S. Marine for 10 years. The first four of those years my now ex-husband was active duty, and we were stationed at Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan. We moved back to the States after that deployment, and he was honorably discharged. I don’t know what it is like to be a Marine, but I know what it was like being a spouse, so I got a feel for the military life style.
Graduate school is similar in that regard. People come from all over the country, or even the world, to work with certain advisers. After graduation, people often move back home or move away to take the jobs they can find wherever they can find them in the competitive job market. Whether they’ve been military or grad. school friends, when it’s time for someone to move on it’s hard.
While in grad. school we build connections with our fellow students in a few ways. As we progress through our program of study, we share experiences that are difficult to convey to those who haven’t worked in a research, academic setting. We share stress over pleasing our advisers, tears when we fail to do so, frustration at our families for not understanding what we are doing or why we are doing it, joy when we triumph, anger when we are taken advantage of and for granted… We also build connections through more general shared human experiences. We share our stories over beers and experiences while dancing and BBQ-ing. We share our hopes and dreams over dinners.
And then it’s time for someone to leave.
I’m always so happy and excited for my friends as they enter the next phase of their lives. But that happiness is tempered by sadness and a feeling of loss, perhaps a feeling of being left behind. With technology, certainly we can keep in touch. But it’s not the same.
It’s not the same.
So tonight I said good-bye and safe travels to two more friends who are dear to me. They have great adventures on the horizon, and I know they’ll be Ok. But I’ll still miss them.