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‘Cat in the Stacks: Embrace the Chaos


I’m Michelle Callaghan, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is our column, “‘Cat in the Stacks.” I’m the ‘cat. Falvey Memorial Library is the stacks. I’ll be posting about living that scholarly life, from research to study habits to embracing your inner-geek, and how the library community might aid you in all of it.

Hello! What a lovely August Thursday it is. You know what that means? It means I’m back!

It’s the beginning of a brand new school year. The trees are full, the air is hot, and Wildkittens are wandering about, looking for classrooms in the depths of Falvey Hall. It’s an excellent atmosphere for writing one of those inspirational, go-get-em posts that I was oh, so fond of last year–but wait! I’m not going to do that! Well, I was, but not any longer.

I’m kidding. Grad school rules. But why the change of tone, you ask? A recent interaction with a first year undergraduate student reminded me that sometimes feel good pep talks just don’t cut it. Realistic advice and commiseration with a heaping dose of optimism is the name of the game today.

College does take work. Much like weight training, it breaks down precious brain fibers with the intention of making your brain stronger and more resilient (fake science permitted for metaphor). Especially at first, this academic adventure on which we’ve embarked feels nothing short of chaotic. And you know what? It should. Because it is. It is chaos. Your brain is like a dizzy foal learning to walk on its wobbly toothpick legs–but soon, with hard work, you’ll be the magnificent, galloping, mane-flowing-in-the-wind horse you’re destined to be. Yes, you’re smart, but show up and do work and you’re going to get smarter.

Being a scholar is chaotic, but that doesn’t mean a little foresight and organization doesn’t go a long way. Still, while you can and should choose order when you can, I promise you won’t always get it–not entirely. No matter how color coordinated and laminated you are, no matter how sharp your daily routine, nothing can prevent the sea legs feeling when your worldviews are challenged, your identity shifts, and your horizons expand.

Also, sometimes deadlines sneak up while you’ve been Netflix n’ chilling — we’ve all been there.

So if I’m going to give you a battlecry for the year, it’s embrace the chaos. Chaos is growth. Sometimes you’ll just be happy your backside remembered to come along for the ride–but before you know it, you’ll have a list of accomplishments and credentials to be proud of.

Embrace the chaos.

(Caveat: There is one type of chaos I am not going to let you embrace, and that’s the stress of researching. If you feel unsteady, contact the library and get help. Yeah, you could figure it out eventually, but that’s like walking twenty miles when you have a car in the garage — and Falvey will teach you how to be most efficient in your research!)

Article by Michelle Callaghan, graduate assistant on the Communication and Service Promotion team. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at Villanova University.



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Last Modified: August 27, 2015

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