As many of you know, I started grad school in January.
But not really. I’m simply applying to grad school and currently taking classes (which will apply to my degree) in order to boost my application a bit. Since I’ve spent the last 27 years as a homeschooler, I didn’t exactly have any teachers to brag about my academic prowess.
Yep, 27 years since I earned my bachelor’s. It surprises everyone in my classes and sounds like an exaggeration even to me. Currently I’m taking French 1010 and a graduate colloquium in Medieval European History. Eventually I’ll pursue an MA in Modern European History.
Although I graduated from BYU all those years ago, I’m currently enrolled at the University of Utah. And I loooooooove it. I love the tidy, well-organized campus with sidewalks criss-crossing in every direction,* I love the red and white sweaters, I love parking on 1200 East and walking through the canopy of trees on President’s Circle towards the humanities buildings on the other side of campus. I love hunkering in the library between classes on Monday afternoons, chatting with the pink-haired kids in my classes, complaining about homework, ordering used books online, getting stressed about my French test, speed-reading thick tomes of history, flashing my student ID when I buy a snack in the bookstore, lacing my snowboots and zipping my coat on bitter cold mornings.
My decade-old, occasionally used laptop bag now gets used every day. Packed with books, pencils, snacks, six lip balms, Kleenex and highlighting pens, it’s much better organized– I’M much better organized– than in my undergraduate days. I’m older. I have stuff (and it’s all pink and red). I never forget my mittens or my sunglasses; my purse is tidy and lovely; I always display my parking permit and keep my water bottle filled. It’s very satisfying. I can’t possibly organize the rest of my complex life, so I love keeping one segment under control.
I’m constantly aware of the sheer privilege of learning. It’s rarefied air on a college campus. Everywhere, everything, everyone is dedicated to doing better, building bridges, excelling in every way. Signs dot the campus reading, “No room for hate.” “You have a home here.” “Need help? Just ask.” Technology has revolutionized learning in wonderful ways– obscure articles are available online, if you need to print something just scan your ID card, my French textbook features audio and video files (I could have used that with German back in the day).
What? When? Where? How? Why?
Did I answer the what, when, where adequately? I should graduate in 2020. French is Monday-Thursday, my colloquium 2-4:30 on Mondays.
Initially, I wanted to attend school invisibly. I didn’t want Erik or my kids or my friends to notice my absence or to add any stress to our daily routines. Like a duck frantically paddling underwater, I wanted to keep everything serene on the surface. I quickly found that impossible. Yes, I’m only gone on Monday afternoons but I have French homework every night and about 20 hours of reading for the colloquium every week. So I can’t hide it.I’m determined not to let my family down and they’ve helped me in return. Erik always seems to be doing dishes or changing a load of laundry. We’ve had some fabulous weekend study sessions when the college kids come home and nine of us are doing homework together on a Saturday night. And between my kids and my friends I have TEN French tutors.
I’m trying to be efficient and make up for the time in other ways. ie. working out in the basement rather than the gym, shopping online, simplifying our dinners menus and trying to say no. I’m still taking the photos for the Barbershop Concert at the high school but not attending the planning meetings (though I’ve somehow become the super volunteer for the jr. high play). For the past several years, I’ve spent a LOT of my time doing favors for people. I derive a lot of satisfaction from acting as the problem solver extraordinaire. I hope my self-esteem and my relationships can survive a drop in ‘tasks completed.’
I’ve saved the ‘why’ for last because it’s most complicated. The simple reason– I want to find a place to serve and use my talents. I plan to teach high school or college students because I adore teenagers and I feel like they need more teachers who love and appreciate that age group. I also feel like schools are the perfect place for refugee work. There’s a teacher shortage in Utah right now, so getting a job is easy and I could teach right away even without a teaching certificate. But I know if I start teaching now I won’t take the time to get my MA and I’ve learned from experience that those two letters really matter.
I’ve had so many ‘almost’ opportunities in the past several years and none of them worked out. One look at my children and I feel good about the way I’ve spent my time– maybe I was meant to fail at other things so I could succeed at home? I have a whole slew of awesome but largely unemployable skills like web design, photography, videography, writing, graphic design, etc. and I hope to combine those skills into my greatest love– teaching.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping other people shine, than connecting ideas and connecting people. For me, it would be a privilege to spend my days helping others fulfill their dreams. At church, I love to substitute in any sort of teaching position. I’ve often felt sad when I didn’t have a teaching calling. But it’s silly to expect the church to help me use my talents; I’m realizing I can serve God in other ways.
My family will always, always come first. And that’s a lot of why teaching holds appeal for me (I was debating between teaching and filmmaking– no joke). Both the daily and annual schedules are conducive to family life. I’m not neglecting Gabe and Mary– in fact they’re kind of spoiled– I’m not neglecting my older kids and I will absolutely make time for those grandbabies when they come along.
I’m still writing my book. I’ll get it done this summer. Pinky promise. All the writing experts say you should enjoy the process of writing a book. But it’s hard to enjoy it when you’re constantly wondering what the critics will say. In contrast, I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of grad school. I’m not in a hurry, I know it will work out and I’m just enjoying the privilege of memorizing irregular verbs and reading 1,000 page books about Charlemagne (though I find it kind of funny that my essay on head reliquaries is part of my path to mentoring teenagers).
Do I know exactly where I’m headed? No. I hear a lot of women speak about clear answers to prayer. It hasn’t been like that for me. I pray every day, “Please let me serve thee. Please help me know how.” For now, this feels right, but I’m stepping out into the dark, simply hoping I’ll see a light up ahead.
*years ago, several administrators at the U met to discuss all the ‘deer trails’ across the lawns. Instead of installing thousands of ‘stay off the grass’ signs they poured sidewalks on all those ‘deer trails.’ I love that story. It speaks to me in so many ways.