I'm married to a graduate student.
I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I don't know that I've ever actually explained what that means for me and my family.
My husband is 23 years old, and I feel like most people think that he's still in college when I mention that he's a student. He actually graduated with his BA two years ago, and got into a PhD program at UC Santa Barbara. I'm really proud of him for this. He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Now he's 23 with a Master's degree.
I get asked a lot if he's almost done with school, mainly by coworkers and other acquaintances just trying to make small talk. Honestly? He isn't even halfway done. The program takes at least five years, though that fifth year is an internship. That means that in two years, we don't really know where we'll be sent. I would love to stay in Southern California for the rest of my life, but I know that I need to support him and be okay with the thought of living somewhere else.
A friend of mine told me recently that when Robert first got into grad school, he and another friend of mine talked about how they felt like I shouldn't have given up on my dreams of going to law school. This is the same friend that tells me that he thinks the two of us could be president and VP, even though we're on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. I think he's right.
I know I would have been an amazing lawyer. And who knows. Maybe law school is still in my future, but it's definitely not in my immediate future.
I've heard it from a lot of people, really. An old friend once told me that she couldn't support my life choices, and I see it all over the internet: as modern women and feminists, we should be fighting for our rights, not chasing boys around the country and becoming housewives.
But see, in my mind, being a feminist means supporting the choices of other women. This is my choice, and if someone doesn't want to support me, then that's their decision. I'm doing what's right for me and my family. I'm doing what makes me happy.
This life is not easy. Being a full time graduate student means that my husband does not have a full time job, which means that I have to work enough for the both of us. He gets a stipend for part of the year, but those months that he doesn't are really difficult. This is one of those months, and I'm scared. But we've survived before, and we'll survive again.
Robert told me yesterday that he is going to take his comprehensive exams this fall, rather than wait for spring. It's probably a good decision in the long run, but it kind of brought me back to the reality of what it means to be married to a graduate student. Over the summer, we got to spend a lot of time together. He worked twenty hours a week as a bartender, but other than that, he was home.
Now, on top of the homework for classes, papers to grade (he teaches too), and clinic hours to fulfill (he's getting his degree in clinical psychology, which means that he has to get therapy hours), he gets to study for what very well might be the biggest test of his life. Oh, and did I mention that he's still bartending three days a week?
It may seem strange to some that I've chosen this life for myself, but I don't think that everyone necessarily understands the relationship that Robert and I have. We were high school sweethearts. We grew up together, and we've supported each other through a lot: death of family members, living hours apart, job loss and debt, and depression and illness, among other things. We both agree that if it weren't for me, he very well may not be in this program right now. And if it weren't for him, I very well may be still living with my parents. Some may feel as if their lives are defined by their careers, but I don't. I believe that our lives are defined by the choices we make and the relationships we have. We've both sacrificed things by staying together, but I know that I wouldn't be nearly as happy if I didn't have him in my life.
These past two years that he's been in graduate school count for barely a quarter of the time that we've been together. And in the long run, the five years that it takes him to get his PhD are nothing compared to the years that we'll spend enjoying the benefits of him having an education.
So I'll support him, now and forever, in any way that I can. I do this by continuing to work, and by making my little apartment into a real life home. I cook for him and clean up after him, and it brings me joy. He is able to focus on the things that really matter right now: working toward his degree. But it's not just one sided. He supports me in everything that I do, and I think that's what makes this relationship work.
Are you married to a full time student? I'd love to hear your own experience.
If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.