I do love autumn graduations. What I’d love more is to one day be graduating myself!
Trying to finish a doctoral degree during a pandemic while having to juggle other responsibilities has really made the experience much like a cross-country marathon for me. Nevertheless, the inevitable arrival to the finish line will be all that much sweeter.
To alleviate some of the ‘pain’ of still being a student, some of my study breaks now consist of envisioning what it might be like when I do finish. Finish? Finish the degree or commence a new chapter in my life? I like the fact that in other countries, they refer to graduation ceremonies as commencement exercises. To the May 2022 graduates, I join your friends and family in congratulating you, and one day aspire to be facing the commencement of my post-study life! Here are some of my favourite commencement speeches.
- "You'll always be rushing and waiting at the same time." – Lin-Manuel Miranda
- “The world is calling you.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- “So Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.” – Shonda Rhimes
What’s one of the first things you’re looking forward to doing when you graduate? Celebrate? Sleep? Travel?
Now, for those of you like me who aren't graduating yet, here are some of the things I've found helpful when struggling to focus on my writing or studying:
- Quick walks: Get up every 60 or 90 minutes for a stretch or a quick walk, even if it’s just around your building or stepping outside for a quick stroll.
- Hydrate. Water is your best friend. It’s so easy to get dehydrated or get too busy to remember to drink. I always get a glass of water each time I get up for a quick walk around so I don’t forget. Otherwise, have a drink bottle in your workspace so you can make sure you drink enough. You can substitute for herbal tea or cold water tea infusions but ideally, stick with water. You’ll sometimes crave sugary drinks to give you energy, like cordial or juice, but it’s better if you can ‘dress up’ water instead (i.e. if you add some cucumber slices, lemon slices, or mint leaves and the like).
- Play music - if you need background sounds to feel less isolated, it’s okay to have music playing. Just find something that doesn’t distract you but facilitates your thought process. For me, it’s instrumental music (otherwise I end up singing along to songs!). For others, they find having a podcast in the background helps them work through a uni project.
- Take a real lunch break. If you can, eat outside to break it up again.
- Prepare - make healthy and easy snacks on the weekends or grab some when you’re shopping. This way you are less tempted by quick sugary or salty food. It’s better for your mental concentration and energy levels. Maybe consider some of the following:
- zucchini slice or muffins
- banana muffins or bread
- celery with nut butter
- hummus with carrot or cucumber sticks (cut the night before and leave sealed in a container in the fridge)
- corn chips, unflavored
- small bags of unflavored popcorn
- roasted nuts
- muesli bars
- granola/muesli and yoghurt
- cut-up watermelon or rockmelon (keep in an air-tight container in the fridge)
- small cans of tuna and crackers
- olives in jar
- papadams (microwaved not fried, much healthier!)
- wheat biscuits and cheese and tomato slices
- fresh fruit (i.e. apples, grapes)