All posts by myjourneyingblog


It feels surreal to be writing this last blog post.

As I sit down to write this, drinking out of my Mom coffee mug, with the baby monitor next to me, watching my daughter sleep, I cannot help but feel all the feels.

I started this journey about five years ago. Five years ago I was a pretty new teacher, freaking out about the fact that I didn’t have a summer job. I was living with two of my girlfriends at the time, one of whom was also a teacher, with a steady and pretty sweet tutoring gig in the summers. I felt like I HAD to get a job. But I also felt stuck. I was finishing up my first full year of teaching (I had started mid year the year before) and felt mentally exhausted. I had spent so much of my energy on lesson plans and worrying about my students, on top of the pressure to find a summer job, that I wasn’t focused on me. I was so focused on things I HAD to do, instead of things I WANTED to do.

I have always been a writer. I would write spells (I was obsessed with “Charmed” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”). I would write poems. I would write apology letters to my dad whenever we got into a fight. And I would journal. A lot. Every vacation we went on started out with my mom taking me and my best friend, who came on every trip with us, to the dollar store to buy new notebooks. The entire car ride, and every night before bed, Caitlyn, the friend, and I would write about our day. Sometimes I would write stories.

So five years ago when I felt mentally exhausted from teaching and adulting, I thought about what I wanted to do for myself and started looking into writing programs. While I hoped that I would learn useful things to implement in my classroom, going back to school was more for me. I love being a student and wanted someone to teach me for a change.

I will never forget bringing my boyfriend (who’s now my husband) to Kean’s open house. We met with Dr. Zamora and both left feeling so excited. Me, excited for this new opportunity, and Rob, excited for me! He took a picture of me in front of the Kean sign that day, and I remember him saying that when I graduate, we’ll probably be married! And now here we are, married two and half years, and parents to the most beautiful baby girl.

I cannot believe how much has changed since that day at orientation, and how much I have grown. Looking back, I was basically just starting my adult life. Looking back, I realize how damn proud I am that I choose to do something for myself. I think that it’s so important to always do the things that make you happy, because in order to be happy in other areas of my life, I first have to be happy with myself. This journey makes me happy.

I came in to this program in the throws of my OCD. I remember how anxious I would get walking to and from class. I remember the rituals, and the tapping, and the pacing I would do and how I tried to hide them. But I also came into this program knowing it would help me. I knew that I wanted to write a novel about OCD, and while the plot and structure of the novel has evolved, the main intent is still the same: to help people, while helping myself.

I cannot thank Dr. Zamora, and the professors I’ve had along the way, enough. Your support and encouragement and understanding made this thesis possible for me. I cannot wait to continue the story and hopefully publish it one day! I am so proud of all that I have accomplished throughout this program, and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Just Playing the Waiting Game…

Life update-still no baby yet! While she technically isn’t due until Friday, mama is just ready to meet her! Everything is cleaned, washed, organized, and ready to go for when she’s ready, but this waiting game is tough! Just trying to soak up every minute I have to relax right now!

That being said, maternity leave has been wonderful so far! I’ve been able to catch up on all the miscellaneous tasks that got pushed to the side, while also trying to catch up on some sleep!

In terms of my thesis, I truthfully feel like I’ve been in a little bit of a limbo the past few weeks. I’m chipping away at things, such as my lit review and revising a few of my chapters, but so much has occupied my mind that I haven’t been able to sit down and just produce even more. Which I think is completely okay. So this week, I continued to polish and add to my lit review, but I wasn’t able to write those two chapters like I wanted. My goal is to write today, but because I am feeling inspired not because I have to! I’m looking forward to it!


While I know that the semester isn’t over, far from it, I have definitely slowed down this week and really struggled with my thesis progress. Every time I sat down to write, I felt stuck. But I realized it was less stuck, and more distracted.

With this week being my last week of work before maternity leave, and still no replacement teacher in sight, I’ve been working like crazy to prepare potential lessons and information that whoever is in my room will need. I keep hearing that “it’s not my problem”, but in a way it is. I cannot leave my students without knowing they’ll be okay and if that means extra work on my part, then that’s what I’ll do!

But in truth, the added work and the added stress, combined with the frantic cleaning I’ve been making my husband help me with, I’m feeling very tired, and now very pregnant. I’m not complaining, just explaining, why sitting down to write has been very challenging this week.

I know that once she’s here, life will be even crazier, but as Friday is my last day of work, I plan to spend next week making up for the time I lost this week. My plan for this upcoming week is to fully finish my lit review, which just requires a final look through, and then to write one-two more chapters of my novel!

Almost There!!!

This week has been another very busy week!

Next week is my last week of work before maternity leave starts, and we still aren’t sure who will be replacing me! It could be a last minute long-term substitute or a daily sub until someone is hired. Needless to say, that is very nerve wracking-leaving my students and my classroom in the hands of not one but potentially two or three strangers!

But thank goodness for the amazing organizational skills I’ve developed because I’ve spent most of the week building lessons for my first week out (just in case! I know I don’t have to but I can’t leave things up in the air!) and putting together a very beautiful binder (if I do say so myself) of instructions!

On top of all that and working on my lit review, it’s no wonder I’ve been going to bed by 8-830-ish every night haha trying to enjoy getting to sleep for as long as I can!

As for my lit review-I think I’m pretty close to done! I have about 15 sources (I will probably add to that later on in the semester, but for right now, I’m feeling good) and I’ve organized my new sources into the categories I currently have and have even formed two new categories.

Throughout my process, both of researching and the actual writing, I realized that what I really am aiming to do is normalize mental illness. I want to show that you don’t “fix” mental health issues or find a “cure”. One of the most liberating experiences for me was when I came to accept that. I fought so hard to be “okay” that whenever I was triggered, I felt like a failure. Knowing I would always live with OCD and accepting that are two totally different things, and it took a lot of work to get there. I want my audience to know that it’s not just okay to live with mental health, that it’s reality! That it is just a part of what makes them all beautiful and unique and strong.

In researching a few weeks ago, and I mentioned this in a previous post, I came across an article that discussed the harmful effects of, or misguided intentions of, current YA novels that deal with trauma and mental health where one of the teens does not remain hopeful. I also mentioned that I originally planned on a similar ending for one of my characters. But this article was really jarring and it made me go back into my work this week and make sure that while I show that the struggle is real, I also am making damn sure these characters ultimately remain hopeful. Hopeful doesn’t mean you are positive and joyful all day every day. My characters will struggle, but it is in that struggle that they find hope. And that’s what I want to show.


This was a busy week. The realities of this hybrid model of instruction have really started to sink in, as we get more and more into the content of our classroom. So much of my energy this week was spent contacting home about student lack of effort, pulling small groups and scheduling meetings to review work with kids who ended up not even showing up for the meetings, and planning ahead for my replacement, who hasn’t even been hired yet. I’m not sure I’ll get to meet the person taking over for me, which is a daunting thought in and of itself. Pair that with this hybrid model and all that I need to share with them, I’ve started to put together a binder that will hopefully be helpful!

This week was exhausting to say the least.

Due to all of this, unfortunately, I did not get as much done for my thesis as I would have liked. My goal was to implement the new knowledge from my research into my novel, by rewriting critical scenes, but when I would sit down to do this, I found that I couldn’t focus. I felt like my brain was fried. So instead, I kept reading, researching, and recording more potential ideas. I should have organized my lit review, but right now, my new research is just a collection of links!

Hopefully this week goes smoother, and I’ve purposefully planned out all of it already to devote additional focus to my thesis!

Research! Research! Research!

Cheers to another great week!

Last week was a marathon to say the least. From child care classes two of the nights, a doctor’s appointment, preparing and giving my Thesis-in-Progress presentation, and then two hours of back to school night, it’s no wonder that come Friday night I was asleep by 6:45 #grandmastatus #noregrets

But ultimately, it was a great week and I felt so incredibly accomplished by the end of it! This week is another great one. Having had such a busy week last week, I choose to continue giving myself grace this week in terms of my thesis. I continued my work from last week: researching and collecting sources/ideas for my project and informally adding to my lit review. I have a list of questions pertaining to my thesis project that I’m working to answer, and this week I went down the rabbit hole of research to do so, but I enjoyed doing it! Turns out research isn’t so scary when the pressure’s off! I’ve collected a lot of ideas/answers to my questions, and my plan for this upcoming week is to start incorporating these ideas into my novel itself. Stay tuned!



I Am No Longer Atlas

For the past few weeks, I have felt like Atlas, like I’ve had the weight of the world on my shoulders. From the emotional and physical toll that planning for this upcoming school year and then actually starting the year has taken on me, to taking childbirth classes and prepping for all things baby, where my mind feels like it can’t possibly absorb any more information, to having little time for myself to exercise or read (both of which are crucial to my mental health), and then lastly, the additional weight of graduate school, it’s been an intense past few weeks.

But after last week, I feel like a weight has been lifted. I survived the first week of our Hybrid model of teaching and fully recharged my batteries over the weekend. So far this week has being going well, and while I wish my students could all be back in my classroom together, I think I’m getting the hang of this new normal. But even more than that, our conversation about my thesis last week really helped put things into perspective. Knowing how hard I’ve worked, and how much I have put into this project, it was reassuring to hear that it hasn’t gone unnoticed and that I can take time to breath. I was putting so much pressure on myself to finish this novel in the next five weeks, that it was making me less inclined to write it, which I never want.

So this week I was able to pause and just take my time with my work, which has been great. One of my concerns during graduate school is that I do not feel I’m that competent at researching, which affects my Lit Review. It’s always been an aspect of my education that has given me ajita. Granted it’s been a while since undergrad, but I truly just cannot remember doing real research. I’m sure I did, but I just don’t remember being taught how to! I know how I teach my students, but I also know that’s not quite the same thing!

And our meeting last week with Craig was a HUGE help. I feel so much more confident using LibCal, which I spent time this week familiarizing myself with even more. In addition to preparing for my Thesis-in-Progress presentation for tomorrow’s class (which I am still tweaking at the time of this post), I also enjoyed the luxury of time spent simply researching and reading! Without pressure! Just getting to read articles, and collect ideas/notes of things I want to include in my draft, was incredibly helpful and a huge success.

My plan for the upcoming week is to think about this new research and which notes I’ll actually be incorporating into my drafts and which research I won’t. Then, I’ll add and organize my Lit Review to reflect this work, in addition to any more research I want! Looking forward to it!



What. A. Week.

I feel like I’ve lived a whole life since our last class.

This past weekend was both my 30th birthday and our baby shower, both of which were filled with wonderful times! But this weekend was also the first before students officially started, and this year more than ever, it was filled with anxiety and uncertainty. My district is doing the hybrid model with half the students coming Mon and Tues for half days (but still being expected to work and meet with me once they get home), the other half coming for half days Thurs and Fri, and all students being virtual on Wednesdays. A friend of mine, whose district is also using this hybrid model, started a week earlier and when I asked her how it was, her response was “Hard. There’s no way to explain it. It’s just hard.”

Okay, I expected that, I thought to myself. I thought I was prepared. I really did. I thought I knew to expect the unexpected and let go of the things I can’t control.

I was wrong. I was in no way shape or form prepared for how hard this would be, and when faced with kids who are looking to you for help and guidance and strength, how can you just “let go” of the things you can’t control. When our technology doesn’t work, I can’t just say “oh well” because I have kids in my room who are lost, kids at home who are lost, and I can’t model giving up. But at the same time, what can you do? All our stuff is digital this year due to the nature of the world.

The good news is that I only cried two out of the three days we’ve been back so far! It could be worse right?

Anyway, my reason for starting off my blog post the way I did, was to explain why I did not get as much done this week as I wanted to. Going into next week I am way more hopeful, because I can better plan what to expect. Knowing how hard next week will be, hopefully I can make better use of my time or prioritize differently.

Working with my breakout group was helpful! Talking through my thesis and were I am in this process was incredibly beneficial. It allowed me to feel confident, yet also to see where I need to be doing more.

I’ve realized that at the beginning stages of this process, I was focused on my methodology. I was researching bipolar disorder and gathering notes about OCD. I was gathering sources for my Lit Review, and researching strategies for mapping out and planning the story I wanted to tell. In my sketch book, I mapped out multiple plot diagrams, character webs, and charts, before deciding to take J.K. Rowling’s advice, and use a series grid to plot my novel. I was on a ROLL! But then, once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I became solely focused on telling the story, and I have no regrets about that. However, I realize now that I have gaps. As I write, any time I have a question, such as “What medication would Trevor take for his bipolar disorder?”, I highlight that part of the story and add a comment, reminding myself to go back and do that research. I’ve done this a few times.

I’ve been so focused on finishing this story before my daughter is born, but maybe I need to take a step back. My goal was to have the novel and my Lit Review finished before she is born, which is only about six weeks away now, so needless to say, I am freaking out! About all the life things!

But I was wondering: is it okay to pause the story and work on developing it more in terms of the research? I still feel that I have more research to do, but don’t feel confident that I can manage my time between researching, revising, and then continuing to write the story. For my thesis, does the story need to be finished? Or can I focus on continuing to research and develop the aspects I’ve already written, with the goal then being to continue working on the story itself when I can?

Once we discuss these concerns, then I think I can put together a more effective or efficient working calendar!

Looking forward to class tomorrow! Hopefully my head will be spinning less!



Back At It For the Home Stretch!

As this is a new semester, and there are some new faces, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself! My name is Marykate and this is my last semester of graduate school! And what a busy one it’s going to be.

I’m wearing quite a few hats this Fall, one being a teacher during these crazy times! I teach 8th grade Language Arts and my district is participating in the Hybrid Model of Instruction, which will be interesting to say the least. Our kids start on the 14th, so I’ll keep you all posted on how chaotic that is, but it’s all going to be okay-it has to be right?

I’m also wearing the hat of a graduate student in the final stretch of her thesis!

But I really am fine! I’m nervous and I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m really proud of all the work I’ve been doing! I’ll tell you more about that later!

But my most exciting hat this Fall is that of mom-to-be! My husband and I are expecting our first child, a baby girl, at the end of October! So it’s going to be a whirlwind next couple of weeks!

So needless to say, my mind is being pulled in a million different directions and sometimes it’s hard to focus on one thing over the other! In terms of my thesis project, my goal is to be finished, or basically finished with the exception of a few finishing touches, by the time our daughter gets here. Which is a little daunting. We keep counting down the weeks (8 right now) until she’s here, which I’m hoping fly by because I can’t wait to meet her! But then on the other hand I’m like HOW DO I ONLY HAVE 8 WEEK LEFT TO WRITE MY THESIS? So I’m only slightly freaking out haha….but my motto is that everything will get done because it has to!

That being said, let me tell you a little bit about my thesis! I chose to go back to school with this thesis project in mind. This project has always been my end goal, which has definitely made it easier to hit the ground running.

I chose to write a young adult novel that deals with normalizing mental health. As someone who lives with anxiety, specifically Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve always wanted to raise awareness for mental health and work to break the stigma surrounding it. Within my novel, the two protagonists, Joy and Trevor, deal with OCD and bipolar disorder respectively. So far, I have 18 of 36 chapters written and a loose Lit Review completed. I have so much more of their story to tell and more research to complete, but I am incredibly proud of the story I’ve written and the characters themselves.

I’m looking forward to working with all of you and hoping that through your feedback and support, I can make this story even better! I would eventually love to see if I can publish it, but for now, I’m enjoying crafting the story!

For the purpose of this course, I’ve decided to write my weekly blog posts, but then I’ll also post the new chapters I’m working on in a separate post for you to read! Please feel free to go back to my earlier posts and read the story from the start! I hope you all enjoy it!