Today I was reminded that exactly 6 years ago today I received my masters degree in social work. I was so excited to finally be done with the intensive yearlong program and the multiple papers and assignments. It was a bittersweet moment because I still had a year to go in my post-graduate program. I remember waiting in line to march and getting a phone call from a potential job telling me that they were going with another candidate. While I had small part time job, I was worried about how I would support myself. I was excited about being able to make a difference in the world and I was determined to be an excellent social worker. I didn’t know what was going to happen next and it was scary. In the years since I heard my name and walked across the stage I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish some other goals. I’m clinically licensed in 4 states, I have a post-graduate certificate, and I finished my PhD. I’ve also traveled to over 13 countries and moved multiple times to three different states. It’s funny how fast time flies and how much can happen. I had no idea what was ahead when I walked across the state. It was such a good feelings but I was also nervous about getting a job. As I prepare to attend my next graduation–once again without the support of a significant other, I recognize the fact that I’ve had some growth as a person. I am looking forward to the next six years……who knows what life will be like then?
It’s funny how fast time really flies despite the fact that it often seems that it is just creeping by. With all the graduations that go on in the month of May, I must admit that I felt a bit nostalgic as I thought about the few times that I’ve graduated from some program. However, today is semi-different as it marks four years since I graduated from college. The funny thing is that May 28th wasn’t the original date that was supposed to happen. Living in Alabama, severe weather usually occurred during tornado season. That year, there was a tornado that came through parts of North Alabama with some disastrous results. I remember my last class in undergrad (didn’t know it at the time) and how somehow it just felt so final. Around the time of finals a huge storm came through and left thousands (including me) without power. I must admit that living without electricity isn’t something that I particularly enjoy doing. A phone call made with my rapidly dying cell phone to my parents confirmed that they were enjoying 21st century living with hot water and electricity as the storm had missed them. Gas pumps weren’t working but thankfully I had a full tank of gas and slowly made my way to my parents house around downed power lines and hundreds of non-working stoplights. But I digress. Needless to say graduation was canceled (postponed) for two weeks. I remember the anticipation that led up to the day. It was the culmination of a LOT of hours of hard work, sweat, and tears. One thing that was reassuring was that I had a plan of what I was doing afterwards. I remember how hot the robe was and trying to concentrate as I marched so that I didn’t trip and fall. It was a very very long day that started around 6 in the morning and ended at 3am the next morning, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I saw so many family members and celebrated with them. I had my name announced all over the arena and got the diploma holder that represented almost $100,000 in money spent for education and the hope that this degree would ensure that I didn’t live in poverty for the next 5 decades. Reminiscing is great, but the real question is what has been accomplished since then? That’s a sobering thought.
Earlier this year I posted about the dilemma of finding a topic for my dissertation. I can honestly say that at the beginning of this thing I had no idea the time and energy that it would entail. Any advanced degree in the social sciences typically involves a lot of writing and this particular one has been no different. Two LOOOOOONG years of classwork have recently ended with the last class being a doctoral level statistics class that I thought I was going to epically fail. However, I passed by the literal skin of my own teeth with a “B.” While I like distance learning, I also like the interactions that come along with being physically present in a traditional classroom. While I’ve been consistent with keeping up with the expectations of my program and turning in my assignments on time, I haven’t taken it seriously. It’s been a time consuming hobby. Not because I don’t take my life and professional goals seriously, but because I picked a fairly broad concentration that combines work I’ve completed in other disciplines. The next hurdle is that of starting, working on, and completing my dissertation. Thankfully I’ve finally arrived at a topic and after 3 months of emails and subsequent rejections have finally finalized a dissertation committee. So now I can categorize myself as ABD (all but dissertation) in the scholarly world. I can add “PhD. Candidate” to my email signature and even apply for jobs in higher ed. An added bonus was the fact that I could take a three month break and still be on track to graduate on time. All that being said, one of the interesting facts I learned this summer was that only 1.9% of people who start a doctorate complete it. That means that 98.1% of people who start one do not finish. That fact is motivation for me to finish what I started and to add another set of initials behind my name. The school thing isn’t finished and won’t be for a bit but with some dedication and consistency combined by my decision to take school seriously at this point in the game I’ll conquer this last mountain.
Tis the season of graduations. They mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another. I recently attended a college graduation and it brought back so many memories of my own graduation. Education can be such a funny thing. In college you take classes that you will most likely never use again. You take notes and then basically regurgitate the information back to the teacher to prove that you’ve learned it. Then at the end of this several year ordeal, you graduate–hopefully. Graduation can be a very important milestone but at the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful because you’ve finished your degree. When you graduate, you have finished your course of study. You have fulfilled all the necessary requirements and you are ready (hopefully) to transition into the next part of your life. However, the act of graduation does not change your mindset. While you may have graduated, your perspective may be unchanged. Sometimes we can’t keep certain people in our lives because in a sense we’ve “graduated” from them. They’ve served their purpose but they continue to be a representation of the “pre-graduation” mindset. I heard someone say today that your life with resemble with those whom you assemble and I think that that is very true. Everybody can’t be your best friend. The road to success is not always paved. Take some time to honestly think about the people in your life who you’ve outgrown. Maybe some changes are in order.