Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back to School

I just finished my first year of graduate school. I have 12 hours, which means I'm 1/3 of the way there. So what was this year like for someone like me, who never felt all that academic and vowed to never go to school again after I got my bachelor's in 1994? Allow me to reflect:

Things I have loved about graduate school:

- I have loved being in the classroom again. For me, being in a learning environment and having parts of my mind opened that I didn't know were there has been a phenomenal experience. Here's something weird: As each semester has come to a close, I've actually been sad that my classes were ending. I never experienced this as an undergrad. Not that my classes weren't great then, but I was operating in survival mode most of the time.

- I've had amazing professors. Some of the best I've ever had. The faculty in the Dept. of Rhetoric and Writing at UALR is nothing less than outstanding.

- I've met the coolest people in the world. When I started the year last August, I was scared to death. I was sure I would be surrounded by people who were tons smarter than me. But instead, I've made some great friends. We are in different stages of life, but all on the same page by trying to reach a common goal. I've had the chance to get to know people of all ages and backgrounds. Here I am with Lauren when she came to hear me read at Tales from the South a couple of months ago. My other school friends Susan and Linda also came that night. And my church friend Tracy and Julia and my dad.

Lauren got an awesome publishing internship in Denver this summer. Go, Lauren!

- I've had a wonderful support system in Chad, Julia, Jenna and my parents. I could not even consider taking this on without their help. It's so easy for a wife and mom to feel guilty for doing something like going back to school. It feels selfish, in a way. I was feeling this way about a year ago when I told Chad, "I think I should just take a few classes." He said, "No, I think you need to do the whole thing." I'm so thankful for his and everyone else's support.

- I love the example I'm setting for my girls. Years ago, when my mom got her master's, I made an almost subconscious mental note: "I guess I could do that, too, someday." And now I am. I like to think that my girls are making the same mental notes.

- School has been good for me on a deeply personal level. My attempt to find a place to fit here in AR has been pretty rough at times. School and I have been a natural fit.

Things I don't like about graduate school:

- There's just one. How much it costs. UGH. I can't even talk about it.

Going back to school with the goal of finishing is a massive undertaking. Over the past year, Bono's voice has been running through my mind: "It's not a hill, it's a mountain, as you start out the climb..." It's true. You can't kid yourself into thinking it's easier than it really is. But I'm a third of the way there now, and I think I'll keep climbing.