“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Today I am writing to share with you that I am officially done with grad school. Yay! Woohoo! Cue the cheering.
My story goes as such; I woke up one day and decided I wanted to obtain my master’s degree in English. I felt incomplete. Something was missing. I attribute this feeling to hearing my dad tell me–since age 5–that I’d one day be the first in our family to attend college and that I’d not only obtain a bachelor’s degree, but also a master’s degree. You can call this being brainwashed or simply me wanting to please my dad, but while working full time and–unknowingly–pregnant, I decided to apply to the MA program at CSUSB. Of course, pregnancy was a lot more difficult this third time around and working full time in a very stressful environment didn’t help, thus causing a very rough transition into grad school. Soon, after the second quarter, I realized that I wanted to stay home to raise my son and–with fingers crossed and the grace of God–remain in grad school. So, I convinced my husband that I’d cut back on ALL spending and would budget his salary to the best of my ability. He, reluctantly, agreed. He was terrified. Imagine, one income to suffice a family of 5. The mortgage, food, clothes, health insurance, car maintenance, etc. It was worrisome. Nonetheless, we managed. Fast forward 4 years–3 of coursework and 1 of continuous enrollment–we’ve had one heck of a journey, to say the least.
It has been extremely difficult for me and my family. We’ve sacrificed a lot. Not only did we have to cancel all unnecessary expenses like cable, top tier high speed internet, unlimited cell phone data–as so forth–but we had to cut back on the way we were eating. We’ve never really been the type of family that ate out a lot, but we realized we had to cut it completely. We had to truly rethink going places due to gas expenses. To make a long story short, we had to live off the bare minimum. That meant not using the Air Conditioner when it became hot outside or the heater when the climate dropped. Necessities had to be stripped to the basics like toothpaste, floss, less expensive shampoo and conditioner–you catch my drift. Anyway, budgeting is hard. Especially when you have kids that want to go places, want to do things and want everything. Or a wife like me that loves books, decor, hosting, cooking, fashion, and beauty.
My struggles were not simply expense related. I decided to take the comprehensive exam and opted out of writing a thesis for two reasons. One, my first quarter in grad school, I did horrible, and I don’t mean getting an “F” horrible, but close enough. At least for grad studies, I received “B’s” on both my classes and since you need a GPA of 3.78–or was it 3.75?–in order to write a thesis it wasn’t even an option. Two, a lot of my colleagues were complaining that thesis writing and approvals were taking forever. I knew I couldn’t have my husband waiting for me to complete a thesis while still paying tuition. Therefore, the exam was the only option. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass my exam the first time. The exam consists of 3 parts and I passed two, but my essay on Feminism was far too ambitious for the exam time restrictions. Therefore, I failed! Yes, I passed 2 out of 3. That was devastating for me. IT, once again, made me question my own ability to write, think and function as a grad student. It was hard enough to do homework, to study, to read and write while being a stay at home mom and wife who, let’s not forget, still needed to conduct the daily rituals of what is expected of a house wife and mom. It was difficult, to say the least. It tested my marriage. It tested my kids and it tested my own self confidence. I cried a lot because I felt inadequate. I felt like I struggled more than the average student. I felt tired all the time, but, to be honest, I enjoyed being in class. It felt amazing that I was on the path towards achieving something I’ve wanted to achieve for such a long time. It felt good to be in a class with students that all had a passion for learning–just like me.
What is my point, you ask? My point is, if I can do it–ME–then you can. Even if only one person reads this post, but if I can inspire just one person to pursue their dream, it doesn’t have to be grad school, just anything, then it is all worth it. No, I don’t have a social life. What grad student with 3 kids and a husband does? None that I know. I rarely went to family events. I rarely went out at all on weekends. My life was focused primarily on school and it was definitely tough on the kids. I knew I needed to increase my studying time compared to my colleagues because it came natural to many of them, but it didn’t to me. Most didn’t have kids or if they did they were grown.
Finally, a lot of my struggles may have been self induced–or so I thought–because if I would’ve pursued my MA right after my BA, waited to have kids, marriage, life, then maybe things would’ve been different, but the truth is life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. Most of the time, we place ourselves in certain situation because of our choices, but, unfortunately, that is the way life works. We make choices and we simply have to live with it and get through it. Furthermore, we can’t stop life from progressing. You will fall in love. You will have kids and not always in that order. I would not want to change a single thing because I do believe it has made me the person I am. Certainly, in no way was I alone in this shaping and molding process.
First and foremost, God gave me strength and guidance to move forward through some very dark places in my life. Second, my husband’s support has been invaluable. I really could not have done this if he would not have agreed with my decisions or helped me get through the tough times. I can’t even imagine how detrimental it can be for a man’s health and mental stability to have the financial support of another person then suddenly have to support the whole family. Also, my kids. When I felt like I couldn’t make it through a class, I would look at my kids and they fueled me. Third, my parents moral, physical and emotional support was off the richter scale. They sacrificed their lives to help me in so many ways. Last, my colleagues at school–Alea, Derek, Marcia, Melissa–helped me when times were tough by adding more onto their already busy lives, to read my essays and to push me. Furthermore, my friends–Evelyn and Sarah–and family who spoke words of encouragement. They pushed me. Believed in me. Thank you!
School without encouraging professors and staff really becomes a sterile way to pursue higher education. My professors who encouraged me–Professor Doane, Professor Boland, Professor Rhodes, Professor Paegle, Professor Jean Delgado, Professor Moffett, and so many more, were absolutely invaluable. Interestingly, a person graduating is rarely a lone wolf in the process, there are so many people shaping, encouraging, helping, and pushing that person to reach their goal. Even if the words are in a negative manner, some gain power from the disbelief of others. Once again, if I can do this, YOU CAN DO SO MUCH MORE! Take that leap.