Finishing Goals: What Completing Ten Years of Work Feels Like

I have a lot of feels about completing graduate school. Lots and lots of feels. There are several posts I should write:

  1. Was your grad degree worth it? (Yes, absolutely. I use it everyday.)
  2. How’s your debt? (Way less than a house, more than a Civic… almost manageable.)
  3. Would you choose the same path? (No, if I did it again, I would pursue Economics as an undergrad, but that is also a misnomer… I carry enough privilege to use my simply gorgeous liberal arts education, and it wouldn’t be my story if I did anything differently.)
  4. Why and how…. AHHHHH (I have no idea…)

I can’t actually answer any of those questions fully, yet… because I am still sort of free falling in the feels of completion. I set out on a journey in higher education because I knew I was smart. I knew I could accomplish the things. I also knew that I knew nothing… Never in a million years did I think I would land here, with actual real life credentials. Grownup credentials. The experts suggest that a Master of Public Administration is a terminal degree, because it is both enormous (48 credits), and there is no additional degree to pursue in public administration. I learned so much.

However, all that isn’t really my point yet. Ten years ago I returned to school with a nursing baby, and absolutely zero dollars. I aced my first few classes, and remembered that I love to read. It turned out that with the right teachers I was really, really good at school. It also was a surprise to learn I really enjoyed every minute of it…

Earning my associates at Three Rivers remains a blip of warmth on a fast moving timeline…  I just put my head down and did the work. I loved it. At home I was this super struggling mama, and at school I was good at things. My work earning my bachelors at Trinity College continues to remain catalogued as my most privileged years. The ability to sit at the smart kids table was pretty freaking amazing. (I can say that I never missed a reading during my entire AA and BA. I read every assigned sentence…) I never felt that I belonged…

Pursing graduate school was waaay more messy. I started and left one grad school. I took the LSAT, twice. I wanted to make meaningful impact in marginalized communities, and I didn’t know how to do that. I assumed working within the law would do that. I still might go to law school someday. Every lawyer I know tells me not to…. and this is the part of the of the explanation of completing ten years of work I think is most important.

At every damn moment of opportunity someone told me it was a bad idea. (Why do we do this, and consider it good advice..?) Even today, lawyers tell me not to go law school. Teachers with terminal degrees suggest grad school is a waste. Colleagues do not understand why anyone would pursue a liberal arts education. But I think they all got the rhetoric wrong…

We (spouse, parents, and village) funded, supported, and ate every financial and opportunity cost along the way…. Why? This was my goal, and they all believed in me.  Earning credentials was my goal. So, what if we undid the “anti” rhetoric, and supported the dreamers?

I have things to do. I also have a mortgage, and a family to support. I needed credentials. I also needed more than a “good” job. I needed to own an investment that is priceless and never at risk. I needed to learn to raise a family. I needed to learn to make meaningful impact. I needed to learn. I also needed to undo a challenging past. I needed to rise above… I needed to feel validated.

So what does that feel like? I wish I was spraying champagne from rooftops, and flying high… but the work never stops. The day after I finished grad school I had two conference proposals due. I have a training to give this week, and a conference to present at… I am only getting started… again.. so I might as well pursue more credentials… (kind of kidding….)

I also maybe believed that someone would release balloons, higher a clown, host a magical event, and sit and relish in the journey… But like all of the nonsense I have heard along the way, it doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

Ten years ago I set out on a foreign journey. I had no idea where it would take me. How much it would cost. If I would survive. If it would be worth it… Let me tell you, it feels powerful to learn all of the things. I survived. We did it. The stats tell me I had less than 2% of chance of completing college… In this case the naysayers and the stats were wrong.

I add MPA to my email signature today.

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