I was either going to title my last post “Achievement Unlocked” or “Successful Completion.” I went with the latter because I had the sneaking suspicion I had already used the former title, but was too lazy to verify. (I had not used already used it.)
In any event, about an hour after I hit publish, the doorbell rang because I had a fancy signature-required piece of mail: my MA diploma.
Finality is strange. Right now, I am definitively “not a student.” It took a lot longer than it should have, but it’s done. In addition to throwing pointless extra money out the window in extension fees, the hyper delayed completion of my thesis also had the consequence of extending my student status. I wasn’t necessarily doing student-things for much of the extension time, but I was enrolled a little longer. I was officially a graduate student for three years.
After I finished undergrad, there was a period of about five months between graduation and my decision to go take the GRE and start applying for graduate schools. I enrolled in Media Bistro’s copy editing certificate program even before I made that decision. I’d estimate that my time off amounted to “the summer” before I found my way back to school.
I have been an officially recognized, enrolled student my entire life and it is surreal to realize that I am not one now. Something that has always been part of my identity suddenly isn’t.
Somewhere in the confused haze of the year between finishing undergrad and starting graduate school, I spent some time as a substitute teacher. (I also started this blog.) I was so awkward and uncomfortable as I walked through the halls of my high school with my teacher badge. On more than one occasion, I was chastised by faculty for being in the halls during my off period because they mistook me for a student. I had a hard time not carrying myself like one.
But now I’m not. I have always wanted to go all the way through and get my PhD, but everything about last year has me questioning that resolve. I was a student on paper for all of 2013, but I accomplished nothing. I think about the desperate crawl to the finish line and I’m not sure I’m capable of continuing.
That thought kills me. If I could say that after all of this I just changed my mind and realized it’s not what I wanted, it would be different. I’m a firm believer in giving yourself the freedom to change your mind. I’m sometimes reticent to share big plans because it feels too much like firm commitment to something that I can’t be sure my future self is still going to want. You don’t always know what future!you is going to want and that’s OK. Stuff changes – that’s life.
But to find myself unable to continue not because I’ve changed my mind, but because I no longer feel capable? That cuts deep. That invites some big, “Who the fuck am I, then?” questions.
Right now I don’t really have answers. Not yet, at least.
What I do know, right now, is that there are a lot of other good things happening. I know that right now I am confused and uncertain about my future. I know that not having answers to big questions about what I want to “do” with my life is a source of genuine anxiety for me. I also know, though, that what I’m doing right now is just fine right now. I’m happy right now.
And for right now I have to learn to let that be enough.