So, it’s official. I am finally finished with graduate school, after 6 long years! I can’t believe that I was in school for the better half of my twenties, on and off. When I started my first semester at Regent University, my husband and I had just moved to Nashville, we were buying our first home, and I was starting a new job (three jobs ago). Life has changed, and I have changed so much since then. I have discussed my relationship with higher education in a few other posts.
One of the most dreaded questions that I hear now is: “so, what are you planning on doing with your degree?”
I wish I could give a simple, easy, response. You think after all of this time and money invested, I would at least have a vague plan. But, as I mentioned, this journey has changed me. My original goal was to immediately move on to a PhD program, so that I could teach at a university. I still have a desire to teach, and write, and speak. But let’s say I am just a little burnt out on academia at this point. If I move on to a PhD program, it won’t be for a good while.
One of the most important things I have learned, ironically, is that I have a very strong desire to feel validated by a degree or title. I am not one of those people who is comfortable with just stating what I do. I feel the need to back up my thoughts, my writings, my work, with some “proof” that I can be trusted. But it is somehow difficult to translate all of this hard work and financial expense into a hard numbers return-on-investment. The value is intrinsic, but not obvious.
I also now know, that even when you reach these important milestones and achievements in life, it is just the beginning. I can’t sit back now, admire my diploma, and wait for things to happen. Now it’s time to put my education to work. I have an obligation to share what I have learned with my community, and to use the skills God has entrusted to me to enrich the lives of others. If I can’t do that, than all of the reading, writing, and thinking will have been for naught.
So, what does this piece of paper mean to me? It is a validation, but more importantly, a commissioning. A reminder that my ministry, my career, is just beginning. And that with God’s direction and strength, I can look back on all of this hard work, the long nights, the ten pound textbooks and bleary-eyed paper writing, and choose not to rest, but to go. To move. To charge on.