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Putting Grad School on Pause

August 29, 2019 No Comments

I decided not to take classes this Fall.

And, honestly, I may not return to my grad program at all.

It tugs at my heartstrings a little, but I feel like the more I say it, the better it feels.

You guys, I’ve had a weird summer.

To be honest, it started out amazing. I finished my first year of my Masters with a 4.0 at the end of April and was ready for four glorious months of not doing anything but work and family.

That’s exactly what I did. And I was right, it was glorious.

But towards the middle of June, I started to feel anxiety in a couple different areas of my life.

I'm not continuing in my graduate program.

anxiety trifecta

First, I felt like I was having a career quarter-life crisis. I’m not sure exactly what the catalyst was for this, but I had a big cry fest the day I couldn’t find any evening swimming lessons for my girls. As an Arizona girl who grew up in the pool all summer, this hurt.

I couldn’t even give my kids swimming lessons because I wasn’t home during the day. They’re going to drown because I work. I suck.

I know it’s irrational and realized later that day that we can do private swim lessons, which will probably help them swim better sooner. But that morning, I felt like garbage.

And then I was listening to the first episode of the Livlyhood Podcast where Britt asks if you’re fitting your life around your career or if you’re fitting your career around your life. It hit me that I never expected to work during the summer. As a kid I thought I’d be a teacher, then planned on being a school counselor, and then with so much moving around, I ended up in higher ed.

Which has been great! I’ve loved my career. I’m so grateful for all it has taught me and the amazing people I’ve met. It’s a big part of my life.

But as my kids get older, there are things I want to do with and for them. I realized that my 8-5 schedule doesn’t allow for what I want my life to look like. The only thing really stopping me from that now is me. It’s totally attainable if I choose. School counseling has always been where my heart is at, but it requires a different graduate degree than the one I’m in, and the program I’m interested in doesn’t start a new cohort until Fall 2021.

So that’s been on my mind for the last two months.

Second, I was getting anxious about my husband starting grad school. He’s in a hybrid program that requires traveling out of state for weekend classes several times a semester and the rest is done at home. We’re really excited about this opportunity because it allows us to stay put, have family support, and stable jobs/insurance here.

But the thought of Ryun and I both being in graduate programs with two little kids, two full-time jobs, and him traveling was starting to make me nervous. So I decided that I was only going to take one 3-credit class for Fall to give us a little break.

Third–this is where it gets a little heavier than I typically share on here. I’ve shared before how I went to a therapist during college to work through some childhood trauma. There’s not much to say other than I had an abusive father and stressful home. It still affects me and, at some level, it will my whole life.

Even though I decided to just take one class, the anxiety didn’t let up.

I had anxiety over my kids safety. I’m normally worried about them, but it was worse. My older daughter is almost the age of when some of the abuse in my family started, and there were so many news stories this summer about kids being abused and killed. There were multiple times I’d sit at my desk and have to talk myself down.

My grandpa died in May and after learning my dad wouldn’t be there, I went to the funeral. Found out later that he wasn’t there because apparently he’s on his own deathbed with ALS and/or Parkinson’s, and a bad heart. Go figure. Also, karma.

There were just a lot more reminders of that part of my life all at once.

Slowing down is good

I always figured that once I had kids, I’d need therapy again because I would process it in new ways. Though I’d been thinking about it for a few months, for some reason, I just couldn’t get myself to go.

About six weeks ago at work, we were practicing motivational interviewing techniques and during a “real play” with my coworkers, I started crying. It was definitely something not worth crying over. I even told my coworker (who is a therapist) that I think I might be developing anxiety as I get older, but it didn’t seem the same as others I know with anxiety..

After I left that meeting, I thought, “You need to see a therapist,” and was able to set up an appointment for the next day.

The intake sucked. I hate having to re-hash everything. Towards the end she said that she needed to review the results more, but it appeared that my anxiety was largely a symptom of PTSD and probably postpartum anxiety (later, the results confirmed both).

Which made perfect sense to me. Of course I have PTSD. Of course. How could I not? And I was already pretty sure I had postpartum anxiety, but once I acknowledged it, the intrusive thoughts stopped and I thought that was that. Apparently, you really do need to see a therapist with postpartum stuff, it doesn’t necessarily go away with time.

When I left that appointment, I thought, “You shouldn’t do school this semester. Just focus on therapy.”

That made me mad. Why? Why does this always get to wedge its way into my life? Why does this still get to affect me and my decisions?

But then I thought more about this summer and how all of this anxiety is here now, when I’ve been the most relaxed in years. And it makes sense. This summer has really been the first time that I’ve been consistently relaxed since I became a mom. I miscarried my first pregnancy, we’ve moved several times, started new jobs, had two kids, been super broke during school, began working full time, and started a Masters degree.

There’s a lot of uncertainty when life is so chaotic, and I think combining that with a lot of the fears that come from an abusive childhood, made me keep pushing forward to achieve and have a sense of security I didn’t grow up with. School and work are a big part of that security to me, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. My desire for security was causing some of the very problems I feared.

I think my body and mind have tried to talk to me, but I just kept pushing. Once they realized that I didn’t have plans for the next few months, they let me know it was time to take care of me and didn’t let me ignore it anymore.

And I’m grateful. It’s annoying, but good. I’m ready to do the emotional work that will help me be more of the type of person I want to be. The type of mom and wife I want to be. Not fearful of every decision, but at peace.

I’ve said it many times, although I write about women, education, and careers, I don’t aspire to have some big shot job. Above all, I want a healthy, stable life for my family. Right now, I feel like the best way for me to do that is to step away from school and do some deep healing. To invest more in myself and my family than a degree I don’t need at this moment.

That was a lot

So why am I sharing SO MUCH personal stuff for the internets to see? Trust me, I KNOW it’s a lot. Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to become a big overshare of my life drama. I’m forever passionate about helping women and will still focus on that here. But last week one of my friends texted and asked me if I ever thought about quitting my Masters, because she’s burned out and wants to enjoy time with her family. I called and we had a nice long talk about what we were both experiencing.

I realized that it would be a jerk move to downplay why I stop posting about my classes. I could’ve easily said, “I decided to take a semester off while we got used to my husband’s school schedule” and that would’ve been understandable. But it wouldn’t have helped anyone, and would’ve been a disservice to any woman wondering, “Why can’t I do it when so many others can?” And I don’t want to contribute to a superwoman myth.

Really, it’s the same as how I feel about talking about women’s education and career stuff. If we don’t talk about it, then we leave out every woman who needs to know she’s not alone in her struggles. That people get it.

Guys, life is weird. There’s some crappy stuff, but more good stuff. I’m just working on taking it all in, respecting who I am and why, not letting fear of the past or future make my decisions anymore, and letting myself enjoy where I’m at for a bit.

And it feels good.

take time to slow down in life

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