• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

28 April 2010

how did I ever get this far?

Yesterday I had to go to a local high school and talk to juniors and seniors about my job. Part of the presentation was telling them about your background. Your education, your interests - what made you tick when you were 17?

Seventeen. That was 10 years ago. Ugh. These students really looked like kids.

Anyway, I don't have the best story when it comes to how I ended up where I did. But it got me thinking about how far I've come.

I changed majors three times and eventually got a B.S. in a field I wasn't very interested in simply because I had enough credits to apply for the degree.

I thought I liked one major, I didn't. Tried another, failed again. Finally graduated with a degree I knew I couldn't actually use, simply to get DONE so that I could qualify to get a Master's.

I got a Master's because I knew my undergraduate degree was pretty useless, career-wise, and because my dad told me he thought I'd be good in this field.

That's where things started to turn around. I really enjoyed my Master's program. It was interesting. I understood. It was easy. The realization that it wasn't easy for others is how I started to understand that maybe I was actually just pretty good at it. Hard to swallow, for someone who always wants to be good, but never actually thinks they're good enough! My dad: he knows his stuff.

I defended my Master's thesis on a hot, sticky June day in an un-air-conditioned conference room. I passed without revisions. Best feeling ever. I was so done with school. Then I went to graduation in August and saw the doctoral graduates receiving their degrees from their advisers. All they did for us master's grads was call our names. The doctoral degree ceremony was so special, so personal. You know how a lot of people get teary-eyed at weddings? I got teary-eyed watching strangers have their fancy velvet hoods pinned on by their committee chairs. I guess it hit me where I live: in a masochistic part of my brain that cried "That could be you. That could be your silly-looking and impractical hood."

Aaaaand then I presented at a conference in October. People were obviously interested in my topic and knowledge, which surprised me. (Never feel like I'm good enough, remember?) People from my audience addressed me as 'Dr'. I had to correct them.

I applied for the Ph.D. program because I didn't want to have to correct people when they call me 'Dr.'

A talk with my adviser convinced me - he wanted me in his program. So less than a year after the "I'm DONE!" There I was, no longer done. That was 2 years ago.

Today, I filled out the application to take the comprehensive exams. These are exams you take after you've finished your coursework. You apply for them a semester in advance, so that means I'll take them in the fall. After I've passed them, I'll be allowed to officially work on my dissertation. This is a crazy big essay-format test, and I will be allowed to take it home. It's a really, really big deal (from what I hear). And the funny thing is? I'm not even nervous.

i've made it this far [13/365]

What I am is blown away. Ten years ago I was seventeen, trying to choose a college. Now: over 300 college credits and 80 classes under my belt. Two diplomas in my closet. Staring a huge test right in the face and saying "bring it."

Next year, I will walk across the stage and receive my diploma and hood from my adviser just as I had watched those other people do 4 years prior.

It will be special. It will be personal. It will be mine (oh yes, it will be mine, hah).

And I will be done.

I'll have been in school (with a one-semester break in the fall of 2007) for 24 years of my life -- 10 years of them post-high school. Ten years of school, after high school? Unimaginable at seventeen. But I'll have done it. I spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about how old I'm getting, not having accomplished as much in my life as I had wanted to by now. But the fact of the matter is: holy shit. How did I ever get this far? I may be living 20 miles from where I grew up, and I may not have any children yet, and I may have 'wasted' my twenties with my nose buried in books and my spare time nonexistent, but by the end of next year, I'll be a 28-year-old with a Ph.D.

That's pretty goddamn tight.