Sunday, April 17, 2011

Senioritis?

Absolutely. I find myself wavering between the feeling of extremely uncertainty about the future, post-grad school, and the feeling of complete exuberance that my every waking moment will no longer be a balance between internship, class, work, family and friends. I am having a hard time imagining what life will look like on the "outside."

I have taken to describing my life as a delicate balance. Everything is stacked into place and much like the game of Jenga, move one block too many and it will all come crashing down. That being said, I've almost finished the game! In a matter of weeks, two years of amazing support of my hubs and kiddo, my parents and friends will culminate in yet another masters degree. Life feels different this time around. I really do feel like we all worked hard to get this degree and I really want to celebrate everyone who helped me.

Alan carried a significant load of the emotional work on this one. He was there for me when I was exhausted and feeling like the end of the term was never going to come, with gentle enthusiasm. He slept on the couch when I was up late writing papers in my office/our bedroom. Alan made me tea, made me laugh and listened to me bitch about theory/class/the cost of books. He actually did some of the readings with me and challenged me through debate which helped me strengthen my beliefs. Sometimes he just left me alone to do what I needed to do with out making me feel guilty and sometimes he threw in a little guilt to even it out! :) I can't say enough how much I appreciate him and his support.

Gage has been a super kid. He has joined me for many hours of "library time" in the livingroom as I read thousands of pages of course readings. He has been patient when I wasn't always able to join in him and his dad on outings/games/activities. Gage asks me how my test/paper/presentations went with actual interest. Most importantly, he has been a firm reminder of the resiliency of people. We have both worked really hard the last two years to get ourselves to where we want to be.

My parents and friends, as usual, are amazing. They have been there to support me when I was feeling down and defeated. They checked in on me at the perfect times when I was feeling lost in my "school life." They took me to the beach, to game nights, bbq's and dinner. Most importantly, they never took it personally when I was checked out of "life" and into "school."

I also deep gratitude for the new friends I have made in the SSW. What an amazing bunch of smart, funny, passionate, intuitive, experienced, loving people. I have learned so much from you all. When I think back to all that we have encountered together - the loss of our colleague Katie in our first term together, the moving of the program, the pains of personal growth in such a public setting, the tragic loss of two professors in such a devastating manner and the impact that it had on the faculty/staff/students, the continuing challenge of remaining hopeful while we grapple with the oppression present in our institution. You have all been so gracious and open with who you are and who you want to be as we have moved through this experience together, and for that I am so very grateful.

It's been an amazing two years and I feel so much hope as I prepare to leave the proverbial nest of the SSW. I am not sure what is next, which for those of you who know me well, know that this a really tough place for me to sit in and I am doing it anyway. I am trying to stay present in this moment and appreciate what you all have shared with me, knowing that this particular adventure is ending and excitedly waiting to see what adventure is next.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Six down and only one more to go!

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.