Relationships (or the lack thereof) and the single graduate student

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

If I were to give you the easy answer, it would be “I am too busy.” This is probably true anyway. I take at least two classes a semester and teach two classes at my home institution. I also have been teaching as an adjunct (or lecturer as they call it there which sounds way better than “adjunct”) at another public institution. My class there is entirely online, but because of that they feel it is necessary to overload the class with students. When I was told the number of students for this semester I wanted to say, “but that is almost two classes worth” but then I thought well, I get paid per student and it is more money for Ireland. So I begin to tackle the “problem” and actually have devised a good, systematic way to teach the class to such a large group. Along with teaching and classes, I somehow find time to work on other research I want to do. (Currently this is a co-written paper on using literature in the writing classroom.) And yes, I still do find time to hang out with my friends. Remarkable, I know. You really should be impressed.

But the more straightforward answer as to why I seek out relationships (which I need to stop doing in the first place. This feeling of “needing someone and freaking out ” takes place usually in the last 3-4 weeks of any given semester, understandably) and then run like hell from them when they get too close is far more complex. [1]The answer is something I am constantly learning about and I have had many breakthroughs[2]. One of them was “I just don’t want kids. Simple[3].” And though there have been many others, many of them quite personal, the most recent breakthrough involved just how I have chosen to live my life. I value my privacy. I love living alone, even though when something goes wrong I am the one who has to be responsible enough to deal with it, which isn’t always fun. But I have also arranged my life and viewed my future in a way where I am the one who takes care of me.  I’ve set up my future goals and present goals for myself and for no one else. If I did ever imagine anyone around in a romantic sense, it probably echoed more of pure fantasy than any sort of reality. [4]

That is the problem with relationships and myself. The fantasy is far better than the reality. The reality is responsibility (and trust me, I have enough responsibility put on me currently. Thanks, but I don’t need anymore), work (again, I have enough of that), listening (in a group I can do this well. One on one I am not the greatest, I admit. I have to work on this.), compromise (let’s not even talk about this one. I’m as stubborn as the day is long), and many other things that I am not ready to know about.

I understand that relationships are rewarding and help you form the best friendship of your life. I see that in my own parents who are still married. I see that between one of my best friends and his wife. I have many great examples of relationships that are great in my personal life and at work and school. And I don’t deny that a similar situation could happen to me one day.[5] I am just not too interested right now.

Some have argued that it is a lack of maturity that causes people to avoid relationships. In my case, I don’t believe this is true. I am certainly not afraid of commitment because, as an ex and someone who is still a friend pointed out, I am very committed to the friendships I have, which are friendships of great depth. I’ve also accomplished a lot for my age and doing all that I have already done takes maturity. I’ve actually come a long way and my mom would definitely point this fact out to anyone who asked. And of course, I can function as a competent human being while I juggle all the responsibilities I have. [6]

I do think that people who have families and are in long-term relationships in graduate school do have an edge against us single folk, though. (I think there was even a study done about this that I read somewhere once upon a time.)[7] They have built in support systems whereas us single kids lean on friends, parents, and siblings. I am lucky to have a great family where such a thing is possible for me. But I think it causes us single kids in graduate school to form more meaningful friendships with others in our new environments. I know I formed many great friendships while at my first graduate program which was 8 hours away from my family. There is something to be said for those friends who feel like family. I also think we learn a lot more about ourselves than we ever did before. There is something to be said for self-awareness. And I’ve always preferred to be alone anyway. I shouldn’t have to defend that to anyone, but it still seems to come up in conversation now and again. And with the way society still views single people (particularly single women) well, you know. I am from the Midwest and I still live in the Midwest. [8]

Above all, I simply try to remain competent at everything I do and that competency has never included the Facebook status “in a relationship”. [9]


[1] I can’t describe each one in this post. It is much too much to discuss.

[2] If I had a psychologist, he or she would be proud.

[3] I once had a crush on someone and tried hard to think about having kids. I kind of imagined it. In reality, I knew the truth. I still feel the need to apologize to this individual.

[4] This is an INTJ thing.

[5] I would be just as happy to be single for the rest of my life. I am not lonely at all. I never have felt lonely. Thank you, friends and family.

[6] I am still proud of the fact that I never cried during the writing and revising of my thesis. I almost did, but mind you, I didn’t cry.

[7] I don’t know why they had to do a formal study. It seems pretty obvious to me.

[8] It never fails that if I am around extended family someone will ask if I have a boyfriend or when I plan to get married or some other similar stupid question.

[9] I couldn’t resist the Facebook reference. So Gen Me. So Millennial.


One comment on “Relationships (or the lack thereof) and the single graduate student

  1. Heather says:

    Yeah. Footnote #7 seems like a no-brainer to me.

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