|An accurate description of graduate school.|
I just got a text message from a classmate that says “I can see the finish line!!! Have a great day!”
I rarely get texts (I don’t have them included in my phone plan because I’m a poor graduate student) but this one made me smile. It was sweet for my classmate to send out a message to us all, reminding us how far we’ve come and how close we are to the end.
I’m not super close to anyone in my cohort, but I still see them as comrades, as sisters and brothers in arms, so this was a nice reminder that we’ve all been in it together, that we’re thinking of one another, and that soon, we’ll all be parting paths, following our own destinies.
This journey has been simultaneously long, fast, quick, hard, difficult, crazy, and amazing, and while I’ve enjoyed being a student, I’m incredibly excited for my future life that waits beyond that finish line.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in journalism, I thought about graduate school off and on. When I first moved to North Carolina I was torn between studying folklore at UNC or finding some place to study sex therapy or sexology online (yes, these are real degrees.) I even went as far as buying at GRE study book, but decided that graduate school was too expensive.
It wasn’t until many years later after I suffered from some health problems and some pretty serious depression that I thought about graduate school again. I went through an obligatory mid-life existential crisis and my bishop gave me some great advice. He said “you know, if you really want to help people and integrate these different areas of your life, you should study counseling or therapy.”
What? Me? A therapist? But I’m crazy!
And I thought about it and then he and I talked about it some more, and I did some research into area programs and degree plans and decided that social work was the way to go.
So of course when I told people I wanted to be a social worker their minds went immediately to working for the Department of Social Services or working in child welfare or Child Protective Services. “Are you sure that’s the job for you?” someone asked skeptically. And he was right to be skeptical. Those aren’t jobs for me. But the great thing about social work is that there are lots of options, so many options.
I found programs, I let my boss know I was applying, I told my husband I was applying, I studied for the GRE, I took the GRE, I filled out applications, I waited, I waited, I waited, and finally I was rejected from one school (which wasn’t a good fit for me, anyway) and then I was accepted into two others. Two! Grad schools! Who wanted me!
So I had a great summer and bought some new clothes and a new laptop, and then went to orientation and freaked out.
There’s this thing that happens to some people where they don’t feel like they belong, that they are imposters, and I felt that big time my first semester. I was going to fail! I was a journalist, not a social worker! Why did they take me? Were they gonna kick me out? Why did I ever think I could do this?
That first semester was hard. And the second semester overall was a bit easier, aside from HELL WEEKS in April. But I soon came to realize that graduate school, and especially social work, were the perfect places for me. Social work is this great mix between social justice and care and helping. You look at the individual, their families, their communities, their societies, their world. It’s policy and analysis and attending behaviors and non-verbal communication and theory and psychology and women’s studies and racial justice and all of these wonderful, important things.
And while I’m not done yet, I’m almost there! We can see the finish line! There it is!
I just finished my third semester of graduate school, which isn’t bad for someone with my background. I’ve changed so much as a person, and I know I’ll keep on changing. I’m happy and I’m excited and I have a healthy dose of stress and anxiety, and I think I’m a better person than when I started, too. It’s been a wild, crazy, wonderful ride, and just after a few more months it will be over, and I’ll be starting another new great, wild, crazy, and wonderful adventure.