I can hardly believe that I only have three more months, or 68 days to be exact, before I finish this masters program. During Joys and Sorrows last Sunday, I shared with my congregation that it was a joy to be finishing up this part of my life and a joy that my family has been so supportive through this process. After the sermon I had several people approach me to congratulate and inquire about how I felt about the process.
My response is always a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. I sort of fell into the MSW program. When change was happening at BAH and the opportunity to take a voluntary lay-off presented itself, I wasn't sure what was to be next. I knew that BAH was changing into something I was no longer going to be able to stand with. So being able to leave without (too much) drama was a good thing. As I began searching for other jobs, it quickly became apparent that an MSW was important in this town. It was frustrating that even with a Masters in Public Administration and 10 years experience in the field that those three letters were so important to many organizations that were hiring.
After multiple conversations with Alan about what going back to school might mean for our family, we decided that I should apply. On Monday, with applications due on Thursday, I began the process of applying to the PSU MSW program as a part-time student. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to get in. I had done everything so last minute and was sure that I had forgotten something.
In late spring I got my "you were almost good enough, but we'll leave you on the waitlist" letter. I was a little heartbroken, and mostly frustrated that my direction hadn't been cleared up. If I got into grad school life would look one way. If I didn't it was going to look completely the opposite. Yet, here I was in the in between place. So, we decided that I would spend the summer finishing up all the last details of our wedding and enjoying unemployment. Once the wedding was over, we would hopefully know one way or another if I was going to get in to school or get a job.
Literally the day we were driving to Eugene four days before our wedding, I got an email that said something like, "we have a spot in the fulltime program, do you want it? let me know asap." Nothing other explanation, just yes or no. I was so excited I could hardly control myself. We spent the hour and half ling drive sussing out the pros and cons of what fulltime would look like. Alan was hesitant, and incredibly supportive. Of course, I was going to do it. We jumped in as a family with both feet and never looked back.
It has been a challenging journey. For every sense of fulfillment I have experienced, there are equal amounts of disappointment. I had really hoped to find more than just a program that espoused commitment to social justice and social change including a much more in depth exploration of interpersonal violence. Instead, I found a program that seems hurt. I have felt the divisiveness amongst faculty and staff members permeating the classrooms. It has often felt like there is a wound that needs attention, cleaning and protection as it heals. There is a desire to have students engage in this intensely personal struggle with who we are when we enter the program and what we hope to become, but it feels like the institution that is supposed to be challenging and supporting this process has screeched to a halt itself.
Yet, I have hope. I have hope that with the changing of the administration, there will be a new surge of lifeforce in the school. There are too many amazing people working in the same space to not be able to find some common ground from which to start the process of healing wounds. I am holding space within me for the hope that the healing can happen.
As for the relationships I have created and friendships formed, I am going to miss the weekly face to face interactions. I am going to miss access to knowledge in a way that you can only have in a formal educational setting. I am going to miss moments by myself wandering my way to campus. I am going to miss the energy that flows through the halls. I am going to miss the ebb and flow of each term and each school year beginning and ending. I think I am an education junkie that thrives on it all.
I am excited to move on to the next adventure. I am excited to see what married life will be like when I am not in school. I am excited to use all of my new knowledge and experiences to help others. I am excited to find ways to continue to stay engaged with the School of Social Work, beyond donations to the alumni association. So now I hunker down, try to keep my nose to the grindstone and finish this one last wave in this part of my education.