One Year Down, More to Go

Hello everyone, I just finished my first year of grad school.

Computer Networks: I don’t really feel like I learned much in this class, to be honest. I was going to say that I felt like I didn’t learn anything, but something we briefly talked about in class came to my head during my second exam. I was told that the exams were similar to the review sheets. WRONG! Those exams were hard and I was feeling quite discouraged for both exams. We had a group project and the group paper. I am quite happy to be done with this class.

Final Grade: A-

Database Management Systems 1: This was my favorite class of the two. I have a lot of experience with database-related stuff compared to many of my classmates due to undergrad and work experience. The first semester dealt with totally new things to me (entity-relationship diagrams, database schemas, and relational algebra) since my undergraduate degree was Computer Information Systems (which teaches application vs. theory which is taught in Computer Science), but it wasn’t that hard for me. The second half of the semester only had two topics since my professor was out a lot due to family emergencies. We had a group project and I think I was in the metaphorical unicorn of project groups since everyone pulled their weight. I enjoyed the class and will miss it.

Final Grade: A

Current Overall GPA (coming from all the classes I took in grad school): 3.918

I also have the additional challenge of being a “conditionally accepted” student. Because I had under a 3.0 GPA in undergrad (but over 2.75 GPA. I was closer to the 3.0, though), I need at least a 3.0 GPA in my first year of grad school to stay in the computer science program. It’s why I had to learn study habits that I was never taught for undergrad. The school’s website says I need to meet that requirement in the first 9 graduate credits, which I met that requirement that last semester. My acceptance letter said first year, probably because the department chair of the grad program didn’t expect anyone to do a summer math class and the computer science grad prerequisites during the first semester. I feel like it’s a good sign that I was able to see my academic plan on the website during the spring semester when I couldn’t see it before. Regardless of whether the GPA requirement is for the first year or the first 9-credits, I met the requirements and will be able to continue with my education in the Computer Science program.

This school year, I have completed my prerequisite classes and two of my core classes. These are my graduation requirements:

  • Two specific lower-level computer science classes and discrete math
    • This is for people whose Bachelor degrees was not Computer Science. People with engineering degrees do not need to take discrete math. I have talked to someone with a Computer Science minor who did not need to take the prerequisites, so I guess people with a CompSci minor are exempt too. My Bachelor’s degree is Computer Information Systems (which deals with application vs. CompSci’s dealings with theory), so I had to take the prerequisites
  • Four core classes: Advanced Data Structures, Database Management Systems 1, Computer Networks, and Operating Systems Principles
    • I will be taking Advanced Data Structures and Operating Systems Principles next semester, and then I will be finished with the core requirements
  • Track-specific requirements
    • My school has four tracks and I am in the software engineering track. I need to take three classes from a small list of accepted classes in the track. I am taking careful note of when the classes are offered because the classes are not offered every semester.
  • Electives
    • These classes are not the core or track requirements, and you can take any class within the major. Because two of the required track classes have the prerequisite that I honestly think should be listed as a track requirement, I will need to take the prerequisite as my first elective. My other two electives of interest, Advanced Web Development and Human Factors and Human-Computer Interaction, are classes that will help me with my graduate project.
  • A graduate project, a thesis, or an internship
    • I will be doing a graduate project, and I want to do my project based on Web Accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities. I wanted to do a general “Let’s make things accessible for varying disabilities”, but I am focusing on cognitive disabilities because there’s already plenty of accessibility “tools” for people with visual or hearing impairments. I wish to network with professors who have their research focusing on web accessibility and human-computer interaction ahead of time so when it’s time to ask to work with a professor, they won’t think I’m some random stranger.
Mental Health

Managing My Anxiety

Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified medical professional, so don’t take my word as gospel!

So some of you may know that seeing a therapist ultimately was ineffective for me. I don’t know if it’s just bad therapists in my area or the fact that people of color don’t get the same quality of mental health treatment as white people (Source), but either way, dad told me that since therapy didn’t work, I need to try medication as my next step. However, I could lose my job and risk my security clearance for seeing a psychiatrist (the ones in my area suck anyways…)

So I gave up.

However, I’m trying again, but not with therapy. I will NEVER go back to therapy unless I was court-ordered to do so, and none of you can change my mind. Now this won’t work for everyone. Some people NEED to stay in therapy or NEED medications to be able to function better. (I know that the previous sentence may attract spammers who try to push “cures”. I will delete any spam that WordPress doesn’t catch)

So what do I use?

  • The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook series. I have two workbooks. The general workbook and a workbook specifically for anxiety. I have started looking through and working through The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety, but had to put it on hold due to my school workload
  • L-theanine. Because therapy failed to work for me, I was told by some people that medication would be the next step. Since seeing a psychiatrist is out of the question due to my job, I was looking for something without taking anti-anxiety medications or SSRIs. I first came across St. John’s Wort as an anti-anxiety supplement via a book, but there were two problems. 1. It only came in pill form and I have a hard time swallowing pills. 2. Some websites reported increased anxiety from St. John’s Wort. I later came across L-theanine and found a brand that was in chewable form.  I have read that it has the same effect on the brain as typical anti-anxiety medications, but I will not suggest for people on medication to treat anxiety to stop their medication to take L-theanine. So far, it has worked. Mostly. It failed on me one time when something didn’t go according to plan (my consistent anxiety trigger), but I still take it because it seems like for people who take a medication daily for anxiety, they still have spikes of anxiety.
  • Mathematical proofs. Uh, what? Is DiaryOfSelf a nerd? No. I have a tendency to give up and shut down when things aren’t easy or don’t go according to plan. It still happens. Doing mathematical proofs in my discrete math summer class last year helped me to stop and think before giving up. I was never good at proofs in math class, but I needed to do my very best in order to get at least a B in the class (B or better is the graduation requirement in my Master’s program). Doing proofs helped me not give up so easily, which is surprising.

How I DO NOT manage my anxiety. I feel like it’s important to share what other things I don’t do besides what was mentioned earlier and why I don’t use a specific method to manage my anxiety.

  • Cannabis or CBD Oil. Due to my job (geez, how many times have you heard that on this post already? Don’t roll your eyes at me), I am not allowed to use cannabis. Yes, the state I live in has legalized medicinal uses of cannabis, but my job doesn’t allow it because cannabis isn’t legal on a nationwide level*. I have strongly considered using cannabis before I discovered L-theanine. The L-theanine is working for me so far, as I mentioned above.
  • Mindfulness. Besides my skepticism of the effectiveness of mindfulness and my hate that it’s being pedaled as the “End all, be all” best treatment/cure for mental illness, I have negative feelings connected to it based on my ex who couldn’t think for himself and was one of the people who thought it works every time. He tried to make me practice it (it’s why I hate the word “practice” now) and seemed to have trouble with my worsening anxiety, despite him having ADD (he was diagnosed before ADD became absorbed into ADHD and became ADHD-Inattentive) and I’m very sure he has undiagnosed autism. I’m not a qualified medical professional as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, so my suspicions may or may not be true. Another problem I have with mindfulness is that it sounds like the “Oh, just think positive and you wouldn’t be mentally ill” victim-blaming bullshit that comes from r/wowthanksimcured/ (I will be posting a blog about how some mental health treatment suggestions sound victim-blamey eventually).

*People who want to work for the federal government as a contractor or as a direct employee, or people who want to join the military, take note of what I just said. I have heard many people ask if they’re allowed to smoke cannabis. The answer is a hard NO.


Guest/Bridesmaid’s Perspective: Cousin’s Wedding

I hesitate to call these people high school sweethearts since they may have started dating after high school ended. They weren’t prom dates. I won’t reveal how they met since the story is a bit awkward and they probably won’t want that information shared. But these two people I will be talking about are my cousin and his now-wife.

Unlike my other guest perspective wedding review of my childhood friend “Maxine” and her husband “Josh” (not their real names…) and unlike many other wedding reviews, I looked at this wedding with a more critical eye. This is because I was a bridesmaid thus giving me a more behind-the-scenes look, but I will also be using the same franchise (but different venue location) for my own wedding next year so I can see how things will be run on my wedding day.

Before the ceremony (at the venue): The earliest we could even get to the bridal suite was two hours before the ceremony (12:30 PM ceremony). We were introduced to the bridal hostess and hung our dresses up before putting on our robes and sipping some moscato (I love love love moscato). We got dressed an hour before the ceremony and the bride got dressed 30 minutes beforehand. My aunt was supposed to help me with my dress since I wasn’t wearing the convertible dress as a strapless dress, but someone else helped me instead since my aunt was probably still with the groom (my aunt is the groom’s mom). At this point, I’ve been observing how the venue workers handle things and start getting ideas of my own for my wedding. About 15 minutes beforehand, we did a short prayer (I’m having my grandmother do this). About 5 minutes beforehand, we left the bridal suite to start getting lined up. And this is the part where my L-theanine failed me and I almost had an anxiety attack. I’m supposed to be in the first bridesmaid-groomsman pair to walk down the aisle after family walks in. The groomsman I was paired with wasn’t there. I didn’t want to walk by myself (bad experiences with me and only me being looked at by many people) and I knew I wasn’t supposed to walk by myself. He showed up right before we walked into the little walkway behind the curtain and I made the venue coordinator (who was pulling open the curtains for everyone) wait for the groomsman to get lined up since he was getting his boutonniere pinned. One of the bridesmaids was trying to keep me calm, which did not help. However, what helped is that she didn’t tell me to calm down. She probably knew not to say that because she also struggles with anxiety, but is currently off her anti-anxiety medication due to her pregnancy. I can’t wait until my school semester is over so I can resume working on my distress tolerance skills because I will need it for my own wedding.

The ceremony: Short and sweet! The family had one song, the bridesmaids and groomsmen had another song, the flower girls had a different song, then the bride had a different song as well! So many songs! It would have been easier to do less songs. I read about how an aisle runner can be a bit slippery on certain floors and while I was wearing shoes that had grips, I still felt like I was going to slide. I might not do an aisle runner because of that. I noticed that there weren’t many people sitting on the groom’s side. I feel like my mom’s side of the family is against the idea of marriage since there aren’t many married people in the family and this isn’t the first time where there was a super obvious difference in sides (at an uncle’s second wedding, we were seated at round tables for the ceremony and reception. His side didn’t even fill an entire round table). Good thing I’m inviting people from the project where Franklin and I met as well as people from kickboxing. They’ll be able to fill in any gaps. Also, half the people ignored the unplugged ceremony sign. The officiant (the bride’s uncle who is a pastor) should have announced it before the ceremony instead of after the bride walked down. The thing that interested me was that the “I do” part was done before the bride was “given away” (I know many of us don’t want to be given away due to women as property origins). I also liked how we only had one prayer (I complained about being an atheist at a wedding where they prayed so much at the wedding).

Between ceremony and reception: Of course, it was picture time. To be honest, I was bored after the bridesmaids did their pictures. The wedding party pictures were before the family pictures. I also changed into a pair of flats the bride gave to us before the reception. They were definitely made for flat-footed people since I felt like I was walking with diving flippers on my feet. The shoes were at our table and we were supposed to change after walking in, but some of my bridesmaids’ feet were hurting. I changed shoes just in case, but I would have liked my very comfortable shoes better. The groomsman mentioned in the before the ceremony part blamed his girlfriend for him arriving too close to comfort. I don’t know how. The groom and his groomsmen got dressed at the hotel. Then again, everyone had to drive themselves to the venue.

The reception: The bridesmaids and groomsmen (not including the honor attendees) walked in opposite of the ceremony processional. Then it was the honor attendees, the flower girls (different song), and the newlyweds (different song again. Why are we changing songs so much?!). They did their first dance and the wedding party found their seats. Our caesar salad was already on the table. While I was finishing up with my caesar salad, one of the workers came to the head table with a covered container. It was our food! Unlike at my childhood friend’s wedding (who also was at the same franchise, but different venue), the wedding party was brought their meal. I’m a picky eater, but the food looked and tasted good: chicken piccata, mixed vegetables, some type of penne or ziti, rice, some beef with onions. I ate everything except the green beans in the mixed veggies (I never like green beans) and the onions. I was starting to get full. I watched my cousins go to each table to thank everyone for coming, which my childhood friend did not do at her wedding almost 3 years ago (there was no thanking). I liked how the cake was brought front and center for the cake cutting because at my friend’s wedding, they went to the cake and no one was paying attention to them. After dinner were the tosses. I later realized there were no parent-child dances (probably because both of the bride’s parents have passed). Not many people went out on the dance floor to dance except for one line dance. The flower girls were the ones who were on the dance floor a lot. A lot of people also left early. We did the group picture of everyone who remained between 20 and 30 minutes before the end of the wedding, and then did a send-off for them where they rode off back to the hotel.

All in all, I had a lot of fun at the wedding and it was the first wedding I enjoyed. I even told my cousins that and they said that was their goal. I now have things to think about for my own wedding.