You just graduated college. It is hard to find a job with just an undergraduate degree these days. You love school. You spent six years and a summer school session at four different colleges figuring it all out. Maybe you changed your major senior year. Maybe you have debt, but you wouldn’t trade it for the experience you had. And now what? Are you feeling the call of grad school? Is now the time?
I don’t know what it is about college stairwells — the worn wooden handrails, pull-tab information flyers taped on the walls for writing groups, nanny positions, computer help, flu shot clinics, self-help groups. It could be my quickened heartbeat, racing up to the third floor, or the echoing ghosts of past academic conversations that awaken my curiosity and potential.
I felt a pressure to go get my master’s. Most of the pressure was coming from within me. I wantedthat MFA in creative writing. I wanted to spend my days on campus. I wanted to keep living that academic life, but I needed to get a job.
I know that today’s generation is holding out longer than mine to settle down. As a kid of Gen X, I felt the pressure to get married, have a career, pop out some babies, and be financially secure by age 25.
25? Didn’t my brain just finish developing somewhere around then?
I lived my life first.
I was the last of my group of friends to get married and have a baby. Unfortunately, many of those friends in our twenties who had amazing weddings in Asheville, Sarasota, Vail Ski Resort, Long Island, Costa Rica… they are divorced now.
I started my teaching career right after I graduated. I love being an English teacher. Being a teacher, although at the beginning barely paid the bills, gave me time to write and create art, learn to play guitar, travel and meet people, see the world, work extra jobs, make a ton of mistakes, learn from my life, and grow up. Some day, maybe, I would go back to school.
“You don’t have to get the MFA. Fine if you want to, but you don’t need it to be a writer.” -Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina Poet Laureate
After teaching for 18 years, with a supportive husband of 6 years and a child in kindergarten, I finally decided to get a Master’s in Education.
And it was the best decision at the right time.
I finally totally knew what I wanted. Being a teacher is what the universe called me to do, but I wanted to deeply understand my chosen career. I couldn’t have studied and researched and written about education and learning without the depth of my experience first.
It wasn’t just the teaching experience that helped me in grad school. Life experience showed me things like resilience, commitment to personal growth, commitment to success, willingness to grow and stretch in my teaching practice.
Because I waited, I had confidence to speak in class, give presentations, research, and write long about my learning. I knew what I was doing, and I knew what I did not yet know. I was very open to ideas, and I felt life was showing me yes, I chose the right path.
The biggest lesson- it is never too late to do [fill in the blank].
Who says 45 is too late to write (finish) my first novel?
I will echo what my poetry mentor, Jaki Shelton Green reassured me:
If you are ready for grad school, or if it is the next step in your career aspirations, go for it. The time is now. If not, don’t worry, schools will be lined up to take your money when you are ready.
Courage looks deep into that canyon and says--I see you and I am coming down to feel the pain and what blossoms in such rich soil and surprises of shadow. I am coming down to find a scorpion in my boot and bluebells popping up through summer snow. I am coming in with a backpack full of things to shed while I am here. I am coming down there to look up and see how far I've come. I will look for the place where I lost my way and my senses could only be soothed by the stars. I will sleep in your cradle if it means I can actually sleep uninterrupted by your oasis. I will risk sunburn and dehydration to pick the scabs of my truth and I will climb deeper in to see the valley is home.