Life Happens

Last year, I wrote a blog post discussing the importance of maintaining balance and practicing self-care during what could be considered busy and stressful semesters. I talked about continuing to do things you enjoy, trying new and exciting activities, and maintaining relationships with friends and loved ones despite hectic class and field schedules. Well, with my wedding now less than three weeks away, let’s just say, work-life balance has taken on a whole new meaning.

marriage certificate

As this past summer drew to a close, it finally hit me: this semester will mark the beginning of two new points in my life–the point when I become an ‘official’ PhD student and the point when I become a wife. What was I thinking?! Was it really the smartest decision to set my wedding date for smack-dab in the middle of the semester?! Entering a program and entering a marriage can both be stressful individually, so thinking about these life events happening at the same time, as you can imagine, was, at times, quite overwhelming. Picking advisors while picking vendors. Thinking of dissertation topics while thinking of wedding themes. Searching for articles in the online library catalog while searching for bridal inspiration on Pinterest online (maybe more of the latter than the former). How could I balance it all? So far, three sayings have guided me:

“Take One Day at a Time”

Seeing big events and tasks as small, incremental steps towards change makes things a lot easier to digest. I can handle making a phone call to the florist and setting up an appointment to talk to my advisor a lot better than ‘make all wedding décor decisions’ and ‘figure out what I want to be doing in five years’. Also, becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of wedding planning and career planning just makes things worse.

“Just Breathe”

Through stressful situations like this, it is so important to take the time to step away from the table and just breathe. Close my eyes, relax my muscles, and just breathe. Using this time to calm my thoughts and slow my breathing oftentimes is just what I need in order to reduce anxiety.

“Life Happens”

I interpret this saying in two ways. First, things are not always going to happen as planned, so I must prepare myself to accept and deal with whatever bumps, trip-ups, or setbacks that may come my way. I can’t control everything but I can control how I react. Second, despite the amount of time and effort we put towards excelling in school, this is just one aspect of our lives. Along with students, we are also sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, best friends, roommates, husbands, and (soon-to-be) wives.  Life happens…and we should enjoy it as much as we can. I know I will!

bride hanger


About Charity S. Watkins

After earning my MSW in May 2013 and completing the MSW/PhD Continuum Program, I am now a third-year PhD student. I am originally from Rochester, New York but I have lived in the Durham/Chapel Hill area since graduating from UNC with my bachelor's degree in sociology. My areas of interest include family dynamics, educational resilience, racial and socioeconomic disparities, and school-based interventions. Aside from studying, I enjoy exercising, listening to music, going to Chicago Line Dancing classes, and spending time with my husband and two dogs.
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