Thursday, November 15, 2018

Not that you asked, but here's an update on graduate school

I am to the point in my master's degree program that I marvel at those who have made it through this. Here's what I'm finding, as I enter the final two weeks of class #2 (of 11 classes in a program that will take me two more full years to complete at a minimum):

  • There are certain problems raised by opting into a master's program that you simply cannot solve. For example, I am chronically sleep deprived, and I see no way whatsoever of getting around this. I work, I come home, I briefly see my family, I do homework. Then I go to bed and do it again. And again. And again. There is no wiggle room there simply to go to bed earlier. There IS no "earlier."

  • Related to that, I am not running nearly as much as I used to nor nearly as much as I should. Again, I see no way around this. It just is.

  • I am eating terribly, and my weight is creeping up. I could improve this with some self-discipline, but I'll be honest: I am tapped out when it comes to self-discipline. What self-discipline I have serves merely to get me out of bed in the morning and doing everything I have to do.

  • Weekends are spent either studying/writing or worrying whether I'm studying/writing enough. There is probably a better mental approach to this, but I haven't yet found my groove there.

I hate how whiny this all sounds. It's my decision to do this, no one else's. And it is a first-world problem of the absolute highest order.

But it's the dominant reality in my life these days, and I now have even greater respect for those who have earned graduate (or post-graduate) degrees, or who are currently in the midst of doing so. You amaze and inspire me.

Every day I think about hanging it up after I get through this particular class. I did that once before, about two years ago when I started a master's program in public relations through Kent State University (this current program is in integrated marketing communications through West Virginia University...go Mountaineers!) I learned a lot at Kent, but I came to a realization that, given my life circumstances, it was insane to try and push through, so I quit.

I think about doing that now, too. I have good reasons for pursuing a master's degree, but it would be SO much easier to just chalk this up to bad judgment and move on. There are two reasons why I don't:

(1) I hate the example it sets for my kids and for anyone else in my life. I feel like I used to do/accomplish big things in my life ("big" by my standards, anyway), and now all I do is shy away from them. I enjoy this material and many things about the academic experience, and I want to keep going, so I do.

(2) My support system. And by "support system," I mean my wife.

Terry has stepped up to the plate with this far better than I have. She does an amazing job trying to arrange things at home so that I can study and do what I have to do every day. And more importantly, she will hear no suggestion of quitting. There is no "let's talk about it" or "oh, honey, I understand." There is simply, "no, that's not happening."

Which frankly is what I need to hear.

She is, as always, the most impressive person I know and the saving grace in my life.

Of course, the decision to walk away yet again from master's-level work (I actually did it in 1997, as well, when I VERY briefly tried an English program at Cleveland State University and realized I was too busy...and that was with only two kids!) is ultimately all mine. She can push and goad all she wants, but in the end, it's my call. She just helps keep me on track.

Here's the thing: I'm pretty certain I'm going to see this through to the end..."The End" being December 2020. I just don't know how, exactly. When you're not taking care of yourself properly, and you're sitting at your computer struggling to understand Chi-squared tests and non-probability samples and statistical significance formulas, you see no clear path to the end.

Do you know what I mean? With most things in life, you can pretty well chart out how it's going to go. God, of course, throws things at you that force you to change course, but for the most part, you can actually see the ultimate goal of whatever it is you're doing. You can envision how you're going to get there.

I cannot do that. I'm about to have the luxury of a six-week break from class that I desperately need and that will easily be one of the top five greatest things that has happened in the history of the universe. So in the short term I'll be fine. And I'm even taking the late spring term off so that Terry and I can indulge ourselves with a once-in-a-lifetime Australian cruise in late March/early April. That means, after Nov. 28, only one class to worry about in the space of 5 1/2 months. Easy enough.

But what happens when I dive back in this coming May? From there the breaks will be fewer and further between. It will mostly be go, go, go, go through the nine remaining classes and 18 months, the last of which is a capstone experience that, I'm finding online, regularly makes people cry and curse their decision to build on their bachelor's degrees.

How do you get through the day-to-day of THAT? I have no idea. There will likely be coffee and an ever-pressing Terry involved. I just can't envision what that daily reality looks like.

Yet I'm going to keep on keeping on. Not sure I have a choice. And occasionally I'll write a melodramatic blog post like this one to make myself feel better.

I appreciate you reading. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go write a discussion board post on a topic I vaguely remember reading about. It could have been last night. Or was it last week? I have no clue...

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