What to Do When Everything Goes Wrong: Grad School

You will have some pretty bad days in grad school. Experiments will go wrong, you failed an exam, you forgot to pack a lunch, you get the point. I have had my fair share of extremely bad days, where everything seemed to just go wrong, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Lately, I have experienced quite a few failed experiments (I blame the ghost), pretty bad anxiety, and having my cat go in for an emergency vet visit. There’s a long list of things that go bad in my life but I am not here to rant. I am here to help you overcome these hurdles and thrive!!! I will not lie, this post is quite a difficult one but I will try my best. Just know that everyone deals with things a little bit differently, so what works for me, may not work for you. This is the beauty of trial and error. Also, this is why I love to know how people deal with these problems so I can add to the list of coping methods. Anyway, let us get started.

  1. Acknowledge that you are having moments of hardship and tell yourself “This too shall pass.”

I love the phrase “This too shall pass” because it not only tells you that the hardship will end but that good times will end as well. I know that sounds bad but you can turn it into something good. In the tough times, it will give you hope. You have survived every hardship in your life and you will get through this. When you have good times, let yourself know that it will pass as well. You will learn to cherish the good times way more and prepare yourself for bad times. Soon you will notice that the good times last a whole lot longer and the bad moments tend to subside much quicker.

2. Remind yourself that this is part of life and you can learn something from it.

“Smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors”. You will have tough moments but look for the learning experience, look for the good in every situation. Every moment is a learning experience and will help you grow. You are a student, remember. Learning is practically your job and this is no different. Find something that you can learn about in your situation and grow from it. This lesson has helped me to reduce my mistakes significantly.

3. “Look for the Honey”

There is a Buddhist story about a man being chased by a tiger and falls off a cliff. https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/the-tiger-and-the-strawberry-b73de1dccf19. I have a different version that was shared with me and I will share with you now. A man was walking through the forest, when all of a sudden, a tiger jumps out and starts chasing the man. The man (obviously and Olympic runner lol) starts running as fast as he can through the forest until he gets to a cliff. The man sees a vine of the side of the cliff and grabs hold of it, hanging off. He looks down and sees a huge King Cobra below him, and above him, he sees the very hungry tiger. The man, knowing he’s going to die, starts looking for a possible way out, but can’t seem to find one. All of a sudden, he sees two mice come out from a hole in the side of the cliff and start to eat away at the vine. OH NO!!!!!! The man is in a really bad situation. He looks up at the tiger and then notices that the tiger is scraping a tree, which the vine is connected to. In that tree, there was a beehive right above the man with honey flowing out every time the tiger scraped the tree. The man, not knowing what else to do, put out his tongue and caught a bit of honey that fell and it was the best tasting honey that he ever had. The end.

“But Ben, what happens next? Did the man survive? I have so many questions!!!!” I will answer all of those questions in a bit but I want to share something first. The man was in such a tough spot but he looked for something good, even when he was close to death. In situations where you are (figuratively) the man, look for the honey. Find good in everything. You are in grad school and things will get tough but know that there is always something good in every situation.

Ok, so the tiger was reaching over really far and lost his grip, falling down right on the king cobra, killing them both. On the way down, the tiger hit the vine, causing the mice to fall as well but they survived because I want some happy ending for the little woodland creatures. The man climbed up and went home to his family. He survived.

This brings up my last point I want to make in this blog. The future is uncertain. Sometimes we get caught up thinking that the bad times will continue, when really, we have no clue what will happen next. Bad situations can lead to surprising outcomes that you would not have thought were possible. When things go wrong, especially in grad school, reassure yourself that this may lead to something you weren’t expecting, something possibly life changing, and man that’s exciting. To quote the greatest character, from the greatest movie ever “You will have bad time, but these will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to”-Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting

Have a great day.

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.