Holy Moly…I’m done with grad school! I joke when I say this, but I think I am more excited for my graduation than I was for my wedding day. Robert and I got married six months after we were engaged, so we had less than a year to anticipate our big day. But I have been waiting 4 YEARS for this, 8 YEARS really, including undergrad!
To shed a little light on my education journey…I changed my major from Physical Therapy to Psychology in my junior year of college. This left me just enough time to cram in all of my core classes before I graduated. Throughout college, I spent more hours than I can count sitting in dorm rooms or coffee shops listening to girls share their stories, most including some type of abuse, shame, neglect, depression, anxiety, you name it. Sitting in a position to hear the hearts of women seeking freedom was incredibly humbling for me. I really would say it was in those conversations that God called me to be a counselor. I want to be an advocate for mental health, for hope and healing.
In order to become a licensed counselor, there was no way to avoid the inevitable, GRAD SCHOOL… Today, I’m going to share my truth about my grad school experience. If you are considering getting an education of any kind, I think this information will be relevant to you. But, take it or leave it. I know not everyone has the same experience, but I think that there is some truth that can be gained here.
It’s a Time Sucker
There is no way to avoid how much TIME it takes. Going to class, reading the material, doing the research, writing the essays, studying for the exams, taking the exams, preparing the projects, presenting the information, going to your internship, you name it. And you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. When you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else. When you say “yes” to grad school, you have to make sacrifices, and saying “no" sucks. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in coffee shops on the weekends for hours on end saying “yes” to homework and saying “no” to friends and family. I can’t count how many nights I sacrificed sleep to complete discussion questions and essays. It’s no joke.
Relationships are Affected
Designating your time to school, inevitably means you are taking it away from people. This was probably the toughest part for me. God bless my husband for being supportive of my education because I spent much less time with him than I wished. Especially as newlyweds! We both started grad school almost immediately after we got married. And to be honest, I don’t recommend it. Transitioning into married life requires adjustment enough, adding grad school on top is tough! And not just my relationship with my husband was affected, my friendships too. I worked full time and my weekends were spent doing homework, there wasn’t much time for happy hour or outings with friends. And some people get that, others don’t. It’s not personal, but it is the reality of the season of life I was in. So, thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me even when I had to say “no” and when our coffee dates were so spread out that it became “catching up” and not just “doing life.” Thank you for understanding where I’m at and for extending your grace. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
Physical Well-Being, What?
This section is difficult for me to write because if I’m being honest, it’s not attractive at all. I have experienced the most stress and anxiety I have ever encountered throughout graduate school. And I’m pretty good at pulling my bootstraps up and getting sh*t done, but even if I wasn’t verbally saying, “I’m stressed,” my body was saying it for me. I have experienced major jaw pain from unconsciously clenching my jaw, I have had so many canker sores (sorry, I know it’s not pretty!), I have cried from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, I’m now addicted to caffeine, I have lost clumps of hair, I now have gray hair…all for the joys of a graduate degree. Trust me when I say, my body is over it!
Besides the sacrifice of time, relationships, and physical well-being, we can’t talk about grad school without acknowledging the actual financial burden. Education is not cheap! Our budget for the past four years has been pretty hefty in the education section of our Dave Ramsey pie chart! However, Robert and I made a commitment to being strategic when it came to getting our graduate degrees. And we are here to say it is possible to go to school without getting buried in debt. There are so many job opportunities in higher education that come with tuition benefits! That being said, Robert’s job at Grand Canyon University has made this financial investment possible. And it’s possible for you too! Now, I’m not saying that we are graduating with lots of money, but I am saying we are not graduating with lots of debt-Praise Jesus!
Stepping Stone of your Dream becoming a Reality
If you are still reading this, you might be thinking, “Why on earth would anyone want to go to grad school, NONE of that sounds glamorous!” And it’s the truth. I like to think of myself as an optimistic realist. (Is that a thing?) Before I started graduate school, I remember sitting with a friend and saying, “Four years is going to pass by regardless, so after four years I can have a masters degree or not have one.” I will never tell you that grad school was easy, but I will tell you that for me, it was totally worth it! Now I can spend my time and make money doing something that I absolutely love and believe in.
For me, I needed a graduate degree to do that, but maybe you don’t! What lights your fire? What makes you feel alive? What do you find comes naturally to you and not to others? For me, I feel alive providing a place for people to share their secrets and shame and feel normal. For me, it comes naturally to sit in a room and talk about heavy stuff because it’s real and we all need a person to do that with. I want to be that person. I am that person! And grad school helped me get there.
If you are struggling through grad school, know that you are not alone. No, it’s not easy. But you can do it! And if you need someone to talk to about it, I’ll buy your coffee with a couple extra shots of espresso and we can do it together. Yes, you will pay a price (financially, relationally, physically, you name it), but it’s worth the investment. You’re stronger than you think.
Photographer | Emily B. Saunders
Coffee Shop | Lux Central