You’d be well advised not to plan my funeral before the body dies

30 Nov

I know I’ve expressed my love of Alice in Chains until I’m blue in the face. But after this harrowing week, I believe the band and one of its songs is especially relevant for me. It’s called “Grind”, off the self-titled album commonly called “Tripod” because of the three-legged dog on the cover. It’s a song about being stomped on and fighting back like a hellcat, basically. That’s what has happened to me in just this past week. I practically had people dancing on my grave Monday all to make TWO comebacks, one of them major. I’m still dumbfounded, but majorly thankful, for it all.

The first few lines always stuck with me, even when I was first listening to it as a teenager. They are:

In the darkest hole

You’d be well-advised

Not to plan my funeral

Before the body dies

That has been me so many times in my life. I’d rather not go into too much detail about them because I do have to watch what I say online when it comes to future employers. I do want a full-time job with a regular salary and benefits someday, you know? I will tell you the story of the first few months of graduate school…

When I entered grad school, I came in as a provisional admit. I BOMBED the GRE and my undergraduate grades, while OK, weren’t spectacular. However, the Political Science department decided to give me a chance. I was to make all As and Bs during my first semester before I could be fully admitted. If I made just one C during that time, I was OUT. I had given up the journalism career I had loved so much to do what I did. There was no way in hell I was going to shrink down when faced with tough odds and not fight for what I wanted. I wanted that master’s degree in my hand so badly I could taste it.

There were moments of really serious doubt. Graduate school in Political Science means hardcore scholarly research and academic writing. Journalistic research is (when done the proper, old-school way) deep, but Political Science at the graduate level is six feet under. Furthermore, my writing style had to radically change. My graduate advisor looked me in the eye before I began the program and said, “A sentence is NOT a paragraph!” I got my first few quizzes back in one class, and I thought I was done for. It was either fight or flight.

I chose to fight.

I was very fortunate to have totally awesome professors who made sure to tell students to come and see them if they were struggling with anything. I took full advantage of that. I joked that I should have kept a toothbrush in one of their offices. Another professor I would have the following semester helped me out considerably with another class’ project even when I was not yet her student. My graduate advisor pulled me through both my academic and my personal troubles that struck. They all went over outlines with me, combed over drafts and marked the living hell out of them, wrote full-page commentaries about what was good and what needed to be improved… Their help is not to be confused with hand-outs. They made it clear I was to bust a move if I wanted to survive their classes! But they were more than willing to give me a hand-UP.

I not only survived that provisional semester. I made a 4.0 GPA. Guess what I did thereafter? I kept and graduated with that 4.0 GPA. The provisionally admitted ex-journalist with a terrible GRE graduated with a 4.0.

I’ll never forget what our department chairwoman told me when I came to her literally with tears of joy after I found out the news I graduated with that GPA and after coming in provisional. She said, “You know? Sometimes it’s good to be underestimated.” I agree. The harder the fight, the sweeter the victory 🙂

There are lessons to be learned from my experiences. (I hope.) If you want something badly enough, don’t sit at home just thinking about how much you want it. Get it, for crying out loud! No matter who you are, you will always find people ready to dance on your grave just like I have encountered. Rise from the ashes — and above them. You often have to be creative and fight even harder than you would normally have to just to survive. But survive, you will. And thrive, you will. You’ll be all the better person because of it.

Here’s the killer video for “Grind”. If you haven’t watched it or heard the song, you need to. I hope you can find it as empowering as I have.

Current music: Alice in Chains, “Grind” (Of course!)




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