Is This For Me? Questioning An Advanced Degree (While You’re in the Middle of It)
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Have you ever been on one of those log flume water rides?
Where it starts out smooth and slow and the views are pretty and you’re cruising along enjoying the ride?
And then you feel the current start to pick up and you get a little bit uneasy but you’re still excited about your decision to go on the ride in the first place.
You’re cruising right along.
But then it gets dark and you feel your chest tighten up and you want to turn around? That is the first moment that you start to question going on this ride in the first place.
As the ride pulls you uphill, you really wish you could turn around. You feel a little trapped. But you can’t turn around.
You take a look behind you and realize that you’ve come so far, there is no turning back now.
I can’t really tell you what happens next on the log flume right because I’m right at the steep uphill part of my doctorate in educational leadership.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last two years, it’s that questioning everything has become a part of the process.
Questioning why I started.
Questioning why I’m continuing.
Questioning my ability to finish.
It’s not something that we talk about enough… the crippling anxiety of wondering what you want to be when you grow up.
And the myth I’d like to bust today: that getting an advanced degree takes that anxiety away.
The amount of time and energy that you’re putting in when you are pursuing an advanced degree is a lot, and it’s exhausting.
It only makes sense that you would question what you are spending all your time doing.
You get sick of answering the question what are you up to this weekend with “homework.”
You are tired of constantly thinking about how behind you are on writing and reading.
It becomes really hard to see what’s on the other side of that huge uphill climb (and it feels like all that is on the other side is more fear).
You miss your family and friends.
Your job feels harder because you’re so overwhelmed and exhausted all of the time.
You cry about things like how to wrap the corn in tin foil before it goes on the grill (that is based on personal experience).
It’s really not all that far-fetched that you would question your reasons for doing it, for giving up all of your free time to pursue something that’s not always that fun, that’s a lot of work, and that you want to bail on at least once a week.
I think we should normalize the questioning process and consider it part of the process.
The crippling anxiety of, “why am I doing this and is it worth it?” (Asking all of those questions make me feel wrapped in more darkness when I keep them all inside.
You’re not alone.
Our lives are lived in curvy lines, not linear ones.
And maybe what’s on the other side is is smooth waters, sunshine, and a whole lot more time for Netflix.
Things that have helped me a lot during the questioning is a lot of reflection.
You’re not as alone as you might think.
That’s another thing that I’ve learned.
When you’re brave, vulnerable, and tell someone that you are questioning this big piece of your life you might be surprised how much empathy you are met with. Because questioning your own life decisions is something we can all relate to.
My dissertation chair told me that this is my year to be selfish.
As someone who does a really great job of taking care of everyone else and not as good of a job pouring into myself, these words were hard to hear and harder to implement.
But the more I reflect on being selfish this year, the more that I have come to realize that it’s something that I should’ve been doing all along.
Pursuing an advanced degree whether or not it’s in the field that you know you are going to be in for the rest of your life (because that’s a long ass time!) should be a time of self-reflection and empowerment… and sometimes that means being a little bit selfish.
Feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you want to chat more or connect with me on Instagram @sweatytearsofjoy