Things I’ve Learned from the First Semester of Grad School

1). Make popcorn with hot sauce. When I say popcorn, I mean like corn kernels that you pop in a pot on the stove, not a bag you stick in the microwave. Philistine. No, seriously, bulk corn is better in every way, more cost effective than the boxed stuff, and also not nearly as hard as you think it will be to make. Just put a pot over medium high heat (this is number 4 on my sketchy little stovetop, but pretty much everything is 4 on that thing) and put, like, 2 Tbs of oil in the bottom. Then add anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup corn kernels if you’re just popping it for yourself and intend to eat the whole damn thing because life is hard. Wait around until you start to hear popping (2-5 minutes? I don’t know.). Once the popping starts in earnest hold the lid down and shake the pot around vigorously every so often so stuff doesn’t burn. Once things slow down to, say, 1 pop in 5 seconds, take it off the heat to cool down some, and mix in a separate bowl somewhere around 2 Tbs melted butter and some Sriracha. Use…whatever amount of Sriracha seems best to you. This is also the time to add a dash or two of paprika or chipotle powder if you’re a FancyPants like me. Pour it over the popcorn and then use a spatula to fold the popcorn over until it seems reasonably well mixed. You can do this in a separate bowl and then have another thing to clean, or you can do it right in the pot and burn yourself half a dozen times like I do.

2) If you are gluten free or know people who are gluten free or just like chocolate, you should make this flour less chocolate cake. Even if you don’t like spicy things, you should still try it; I can vouch from personal experience that this isn’t spicy, there’s just a sort of unidentifiable smolder after you process the amazing chocolate taste. That being said, the cake is still going to be amazing if you leave the spices out. Also, I don’t have a 9″ springform pan. I used a 2 quart ceramic casserole dish lined with foil and baked it longer, probably about 15 minutes longer, but I really just went in 5 minute increments and took it out when a knife poked in the center came out mostly clean.

3) When you get stuck on papers, remind yourself why you’re writing them, and what made you excited about the topic in the first place.

4) Doing all the reading will actually make you understand something more (unless it’s Hegel).

5) If you feel like a miserable stupid failure, remind yourself that everyone feels the exact same way, but also that it’s not good to feel like that all the time. Your value as a human being is intrinsic and does not depend on how well you write or what grades your papers get.

6) If you get good grades or do well on a project, don’t tell yourself that you could have done better or that the instructor graded you too leniently. Holding yourself to higher standards and challenging yourself to do bigger and better work is good, but if you get an A, acknowledge that you did a good job and celebrate a little.

7) If you feel happy, it doesn’t mean that you’re not working hard enough, it means that you made a good life decision with the whole grad school thing.

8) If you have the support of your family and friends, don’t ever take it for granted.

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