28 October 2014

So how's grad school??!!

Just over a year ago, I made the decision to apply to UIC's MUSE (Museum and Exhibition Studies) program. I'm just over halfway done with my first semester, and the question that friends and family have been asking me at a near constant is how am I liking school? It's kind of a strange thing to answer, especially since I'm still very much figuring things out - but I do have some thoughts.

Grad school is hard. Not in the way that undergrad was hard, there's something markedly different about the way things in my life are moving as a graduate student. I'm in class three days a week, for nine hours total. I  know it must sound like I have oceans of free time, but I'm also working at the gallery fifteen hours a week, and interning with an archival collection an additional three hours. I'm just a shift short of full-time job status in terms of my hours - but then we factor in commuting, attending openings and museum / networking events, and this little thing called homework. I'm busy at all hours of the day, and if I have a moment to stand still, I'm probably discreetly thinking about all of the reading and writing I should be doing.

The most boring picture of the copious amounts of homework I do
But to a certain extent, the stress and time management (those words!) are the extent of why this shift from worker bee to student bee has been so strangely difficult. I think I'm almost in a rhythm with my schedule, and have finally factored in the time I need to cook meals for myself and space for quiet time to read. Lately I've been making basic meals, though some days I long for a work schedule in which I leave the office to go on endless dates with way less cares in the world. I also know the reality of missing my "non-student life" - I was fairly miserable at my last job. I never fully came out and said it to my blog or my acquaintances but my closest friends and family knew how difficult it was for me at my previous job. While I might have had my evenings open, I was in a negative work environment 40+ hours a week, and on my free time, I was also stressed about work things. Notice a pattern? I stress always.

So where am I going with this? Grad school was the change I needed. It was a drastic break from a cycle of working a job on a career path (fundraising for the arts) that I wasn't even sure I'd wanted to be on. Working so close to the art, research, and curators at the Art Institute was painful because I wasn't an active participant in the kind of museum work I so desperately wanted to be a part of. This program is giving me the tools to be a critical, thoughtful, and above all, prepared art/museum worker capable of employment in a much different department than development - I am elated. 

Visiting the Leather Archives & Museum, a space I'd never been to but have been thinking about greatly after my visit
And when I stress or whine about my homework, it's not as bad as I make it sound. It's a half-hearted whine, because the truth is, all I read and write about is museums. All we discuss in class is museum work. I'm learning to be a better writer and thinker, and my professors and advisor are pushing me harder than I've been pushed in years. I needed this, and I'm grateful everyday for it. 

So friends, when you ask me know grad school is, just know that it's going well, that I am hyperinvolved in what's happening in the Chicago museum/gallery world, that I've made friends, and that as I'm telling you how wonderful it is, I'm secretly thinking about an exhibition review I should be writing or a wall label that needs editing.

With love,


  1. I really appreciate your honesty here. Wow. I often think about stresses at jobs and what causes them; and how to avoid them. I'm sorry to hear it was hard at your previous job. I suppose ultimately for me, it's about how can we live our lives as creative beings. Creative, thoughtful beings.

    1. I'm trying my darndest to live my life in a meaningful way. Sometimes it takes living in an unhealthy meaningless way to realize there's SO MUCH more for us. Reflecting on where I was a year ago, and where I am now... it's unreal. I have a new community, a new routine, a new group of like-minded friends, and I've begun to radically rethink museum spaces. Life is GOOD.