Thursday, August 19, 2010

on graduate school.

I’ve been rather absent on the blog lately. The reason is simple: my life is about to undergo another transformation — one of my own choosing — and I’m starting to doubt myself.

When Jordan graduated from law school, we both knew it would finally be “my turn.” My turn to go back to school, to buy school supplies, to do homework, to study and read and research. I was ready. I had waited a long time for this moment, and now that it’s come, I’m unsure.

My graduate school orientation this week was long, full of information about meal plans and health insurance and campus activities. All things I don’t need. Because I’m married. Because I have a job. Because for me, school isn’t number one. It’s number two. Or is it three? Or maybe, just maybe, number five?

I am nervous, because I am not 22. I am not right out of undergrad, and this time, I’m not looking for an all-around school experience. Well, I thought I was. But I’m not. Because, yes, marriage changes things. And I’ve chosen to keep my 40-hour a week job. Because I like it. And the real world that I struggled so hard to belong to now suits me. And I can’t give that up. Not yet.

For all these reasons, I’m hesitant. I didn’t expect to feel so much like the lone ranger. I thought grad school would be filled with people like me: jugglers, job-holders, spouses, even parents. But so far, it’s not. It’s full of people who have never had a job. Who still hang out in bars looking for love. Who have roommates and assistantships and all the time in the world. There’s nothing really wrong with these things; I’m just not there anymore.

All this makes me hesitate. Like maybe I should turn around and take a different route to wherever it is I wanted this plan to take me.

But then I read the class descriptions, and I get giddy thinking about rhetoric and Plato and afternoons spent in the library. I like writing and projects and research. School has always been a place where I could belong, and I don’t think that’s changed.

I know, deep down, that this is right. That I should be here. I applied and got accepted just like anybody else. And as my father so wisely told me, when it’s all said and done, I’ll still have an M.S. after my name. Whether I went to school part-time or full-time or for one year or two years won’t matter. I’ll have my degree just like anybody else.

My school experience will be different. I have a husband and a job and family responsibilities and a home to maintain. But these aren’t burdens. They are blessings.

Throughout orientation, one thing was clear: It’s important to find a balance in grad school, to not be consumed by the stresses of the course load.

God has given me, the overachiever that I am, a built-in balance system. I can’t be consumed by school when Jordan needs to be fed or when our marriage needs to be a priority (and it always needs to be a priority).

And despite what FSU thinks (with 70% full-time students and 30% part-time), people do this all the time. There are people just like me everywhere (including some pretty dear friends of mine) who balance school with work. It can be — and has been — done.

I think it will take time to figure out a balanced schedule. It will take real effort on my part to not be consumed with my overachiever tendencies.

But I am ready. I can do this, because I am not just me. I have a God who is watching over me each step of the way. I have a spouse who is ready to support and care for me. I have a family who wants to see this dream of mine fulfilled.

I read somewhere (I wish I knew where) that you know you’ve made the right decision if something is both scary and exciting. If it’s just scary, you’ve probably made a mistake, taken a risk you weren’t meant to take. If it’s just exciting, you’ve taken the easy way out. But if it’s both? You’ve taken a leap of faith into something that will both challenge you and bring you joy.

This week, as I purchased parking permits and registered for classes and glanced at the 5,800 new graduate students at FSU, I thought to myself: Am I scared and excited? Or am I just scared?

I am happy to tell you that I was both.


(Aside from my parents’ always wise advice, I’ve received encouragement from so many: from Jordan, from friends already in grad school, from loved ones. But I think Betsy’s words are what I needed to hear most: “Think about the ministry opportunity that you've been given! You'll be on a secular campus with students (and professors) that desperately need to see the light of Christ lived out in actuality. Let that be your goal in grad school...that instead of working for the degree, you're working to demonstrate the love and life of Christ in all that you do.”)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so exciting!! What will you be studying? I've been toying with the idea of returning to school myself... until my plans are made clear, I'll just live vicariously through you, ok? ;)