When “You and Me” Becomes “We”

For the vast majority of my young adult life, I have been a bit of loner. An introvert at heart, I do not have a huge group of friends, nor do I see my friends as much as I could.  I never really dated in college and hadn’t had a proper boyfriend since high school. I’ve always been pretty independent and satisfied spending time alone.

So, when I first started dating my current boyfriend in my last semester of graduate school, the idea of not being single was somewhat hard to get used to.  I didn’t immediately think about inviting him to family get-togethers or group outings with my friends. I was thrown off when friends and family members asked where he was or what he was up to when I showed up to an event solo. I forged ahead with my own plans for a Halloween costume because the idea of a couple’s costume never even crossed my mind. I didn’t view my boyfriend and myself as a collective unit; I viewed him as a complement to myself.

I’m not sure when the shift occurred, when I stopped thinking of my relationship as “him and me” and started thinking about it as “us.” I suppose it was around Thanksgiving, when we went to each others’ family holiday celebrations. I had never spent a holiday with a significant other before, and it felt weird to be attending each event as a single entity. Although the experience was foreign to me, it was also pleasant. After that point, I resolved myself to the fact that we were truly a collective unit. 

Now, the idea of an existence completely apart from him is frightening to me. I now think of things in terms of us as a couple, rather than myself individually. We talk openly about trips we’d like to take, plans for our second year of dating, and ideas for activities we would like to do this fall. We hint at the possibilities of someday living together, getting married, and having children. And, not only have I opened myself up to the idea of doing a couple’s costume for Halloween, but we’ve actually already discussed potential costumes. 

This transition into the “we” versus “you and me” mentality is scary for an independent and reluctant introvert like myself, but it is also really exciting. It’s the start of a new chapter in my life, and I can’t see where the road takes us.

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Academic Incest

One concern I often face as a young professional is the fear of committing academic incest.

When I was in college and applying to graduate programs, I received mixed feedback regarding my decision to apply to the M.A. program at my undergraduate institution. Some thought that staying at my home institution would be the best decision I could ever make, while others warned that earning my B.A. and M.A. from the same school would reflect poorly upon me later on.

Since I was offered full funding, I did indeed stay at my home institution for graduate school. This experience, as I’ve mentioned before, completely altered my career path and changed my life in so many ways, so I certainly wouldn’t change that decision. But, when I approached graduation, I was faced with the same conflicting feedback again. On one hand, friends and family were lamenting the fact that I couldn’t continue on at the same school to earn my PhD. On the other hand, some of my mentors celebrated the fact that I would finally be moving on, either to further my graduate studies or to start a career.

Of course, that didn’t quite happen either. While I am gaining teaching experience in other schools and contexts, I am still at my home institution as an adjunct instructor. I am now hired to teach the undergraduate student body I belonged to just three years ago. And, if I get things my way, I have no intention of leaving. If a full-time position at my university became available, I would apply as soon as possible. And I firmly believe I would be quite content staying in that role for the foreseeable future.

Several members of our department completed their undergraduate and/or graduate degrees at the university. In fact, many of the full-time lecturers were teaching assistants in the same program I was in. So many of us were so content with our experiences as students that we wanted to return to our roots and stay put. And that’s one of the things I love the most about my department and my university.

So why is there such a stigma against academic “incest” anyway? After all, who knows the campus and the students at a university better than those that have been students there themselves? Doesn’t this show commitment to the university’s values and a loyalty to the department that bred us? I’m not sure I can buy into the idea that this is a negative thing.

What are your thoughts on so-called academic “incest”? Share them below!

 

Mile Markers

Today, two of my friends announced their engagement. Of course, this announcement was not out-of-the-blue; the pair have dated for several years and have lived together for a couple of those years. But, still, this engagement is a milestone they (and everyone around them) have been waiting for. This time last month, my friends’ lives were business as usual, but now they have been whisked away by a whirlwind of elation and wedding planning.

The excitement and happiness I feel for the two of them makes me daydream about my own potential engagement someday. After all, that’s what I’m expected to do. It seems that once an adult relationship reaches a certain point, the countdown to engagement automatically begins, whether the couple acknowledges this or not. Once a relationship crosses this threshold, it ceases to be a relationship for the mere sake of being a relationship. Instead, it becomes a countdown to the engagement milestone. Eventually, those around us will start expecting it, just like I expected my friends’ engagement. At this point, there’s really only two options for how this thing can go: either he’ll “put a ring on it” or the relationship will come crashing down in fiery chaos.

So is this what adulthood really is? Just a series of milestones we live to check off of our lists?

We spend our high school years preparing to get into college. We go to college to enter into a job and begin our careers upon graduation. We land an interview and then land the job. We move out on our own and begin to establish ourselves. We find a partner, move in with them, get engaged to them, and marry them. Shortly after, we have children. This is what society expects out of us before the age of thirty. Our young adult years are a ripe time for important milestones, and our success is measured by which ones we reach, how quickly we reach them, and in what order they occur.

While I certainly want all of these things for myself, I don’t want to sit around just waiting for the next milestone to occur. I want to live my life fully in the in-between. I want to keep pushing myself to do better and be better and enjoy every moment. That way, the milestones won’t be my only crowning achievements but extra-sweet moments in an already sweet life.