While it scarcely seems possible, it was just a year ago that I moved into my first house and started my graduate school career. If the passage of life, and the measure of that life, is to be defined by the events within it, then for the past year I have done a lot of living. It is my intention to make this short essay about some of the challenges and learning experiences I’ve had over that past year with the emphasis on the lessons learned and what are hopefully some words of wisdom.

Moving to a new city where your list of contacts looks more like a name tag than the phone book can be one of the most difficult things we do in our lives. Leaving all that we know, and all the social connections that define us, to starting a new life is by our very nature a challenging and trying endeavour. Yet it is not without its rewards.

Tallahassee has turned out to be an excellent place for my graduate studies; and in addition, my colleagues and friends have really made this place a home. So to commemorate my first year of residence in Tallahassee, I wanted to take a quick look back at how I’ve spent my time and perhaps even critique myself in order to make my next year even better.

Working on the House

While not the most common among people my age, I purchased a house when I moved down. Not only is rent quite expensive compared to outright purchasing a property in Tallahassee, but my skills and background make for a compelling argument when determining where to live for a few years. Over the past year I’ve spent untold and sometimes endless hours working on the house at night and on weekends. My proudest accomplishments have included installing a mini-split HVAC system, renovating the kitchen and installing wood floors. While I hope all the large projects are behind me, there will always be a few projects simmering on the back burner. For example, landscaping in Florida is very much a touch-and-go battle against the weeds and vines.

Taking on some of the larger projects (i.e. HVAC system) is something I am not quite looking forward to doing again in the near future since the stress alone was a challenge; but, as a wise man once said, it are the challenges in our lives that define us. For the next couple years I’ll look forward to putting finishing touches one the projects I’ve already completed as well as check-off the last few remaining projects (e.g. master bath).

Graduate Studies

The first year of graduate studies in a new field, at least in my opinion, is one of the most intellectually exhilarating experiences since almost every topic is new. The first year is also one of tradition lessons blended with the challenges of your first graduate project and a conference or two. Looking back at it, a good first year certainly sets one up for success in subsequent years since once classes are over graduate school is less about school and more about research. That first year is the only transition you get, so make the most of it.

The Next Year

Moving forward it seems healthy to identify what has worked and what hasn’t over my first year here. All of the things I’ve listed above have certainly worked well for me, but looking ahead I think I’ll need to make more of an effort to travel. Whether it is to visit family, or take long weekends to checkout someplace new; adventures away from the house and away from Tallahassee will be important for my own happiness. Getting bogged down in routine and familiarity has never been a good thing for me, and I accept that.

Focusing less on my projects and more of hobbies which I can share with friends will undoubtedly be more fun. I should experiment with finding ways to blend some of my projects with down-time by having my friends over to either chill or even to help depending on their inclinations and the project at hand. This will certainly be a trial and adjust type of endevour.

Ultimately only time can decide how the next year goes, but I for one am looking forward to it.