I can’t say that I actually remember any of my first days of school. Kindergarten is a hazy fog. I remember my fifth birthday because I thought I would be able to go to school the next day because obviously I was old enough. But they wouldn’t let me in. How disappointing. I can’t even remember with any clarity where we actually lived or what school I did time at for my kindergarten year. I guess I huffed too much paste in the boys’ room and killed off those weak brain cells.
I have no recollection of my first day of junior high, high school or even college. Nothing in particular really stands out about any of those days, except for the first few days of third grade that I spent disease ridden in a hospital bed.
But tomorrow … Tomorrow is the first day of graduate school. I hear stories all the time about people with a family working a full-time job and attending grad school in the evenings. I never really thought I would end up doing that myself. Had I really intended to pursue a graduate degree, I should have started immediately after finishing my baccalaureate degree. That would have been the smart thing, and that's what I tell students now if they are anticipating future education. But let’s face it, when planning a career in journalism, a graduate degree is definitely not required. Heck, a college education isn’t even a prerequisite to get a job as a reporter. (Please feel free to insert your own jokes about pinheaded journalists.)
(Dramatic music builds in the background ) But, alas, as the winds of change blow wistfully across my career paths, I sway toward the lure of higher education, reshaping my will in order to fulfill a higher calling that has been thrust upon me by fate. I must, at long last, return to the classroom where I will face the demons that lie before me in an attempt to climb the next rung on the corporate ladder. (music builds to a crescendo) After all, to advance in the field of higher education one must advance academically as well. (music fades)
OK, so my reaction might be somewhat dramatic, but how would you like to be going back to school when you're 33? It’s easy for me to sit around with college kids and rehash stories of the good old days and offer them advice about which professors to take (I work at my alma mater), and which ones to stay away from. But it’s not so easy to sit here thinking about returning to the classroom and having to take another 37 hours -- 40 if you count the leveling course.
Can I do the work? Sure. That is not the question. The questions surround the time commitment that I will have to make for the next three years. I hope to finish in two, but that may not be an option. I have to work classes around my schedule. The university will foot the bill for four classes (12 hours) a year, but if I want to finish in two years I will have to take an additional two courses, paying for the tuition out of my own pocket. Finding the classes will be easy enough. I work at our main campus and we have three other campuses within an 80 mile radius where courses are offered, as well as our virtual campus that houses all our online courses.
Yet, the fact remains that I am a moderately impatient person. Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. I will start my first class tomorrow and want to complete the whole degree within a year. After all, as a full-time student I regularly took between 30 and 35 hours a year, not counting summer terms. It’s at this point that I have to tell myself, ‘Idiot! Those weren’t graduate level courses.’
Oh well, since this first course is a leveling course (junior/senior level) I can use it to get back into the swing of things. I assume I’ll have to spend some time in the library – yuck! I never liked spending time in the library. They are always so depressingly quiet, and librarians have a tendency to be strange. But I will be better able to judge how things will work once I am back in the classroom. Then perhaps I can double up during some terms and try to finish in two years, culminating in a magnificent graduation ceremony where I will be decked out in colors.
And the most important thing about earning a graduate degree? Once you have a decorative robe, you no longer have to feel like a piece of trash wearing a Hefty bag while marching in the convocation line with all the Ph.Ds during the year’s first chapel service.
After all, we must have our goals.