When I began my Master of Education program full-time in September of 2014 I could hardly think past the next day, let alone to its successful completion. While I a a voracious reader, and had taken the odd course here and there, it had been over 25 years since I had completed my undergraduate degree. But, I had always wanted to do graduate work, so when I was downsized out of my job, I felt like the Universe might be giving me a little nudge to really take my life in a new direction.
I applied, was accepted, and found myself joining the rush of university students, shiny new backpack full of text books slung over my shoulder, as I walked to my first graduate class that Fall. When I entered the room, I was struck by how young my classmates looked. In fact, most were freshly out of their undergraduate education programs, returning to school while they tried to break into teaching during a time when jobs were scarce to say the least. In one class, we were to introduce ourselves and tell each other one interesting fact about ourselves- I blurted out that I was old enough to be everyone else’s Mom. Smooth.
It is true that it took me until November to stop saying “whatever made me think this was a good idea,” but when I did, I realized I was loving my experience. When I completed my undergraduate degree, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I enjoyed psychology, perhaps because it focused on human dynamics, which I found fascinating. I took a personnel psych course and then applied to a summer program as a student in personnel (SIP). I was fortunate enough to be hired to work at the University of Toronto in their Human Reources department and spent the next 4 months thrown into the world of HR. I interviewed candidates, conducted salary surveying, and became hooked on HR as a profession. I began my first real HR job a week before my convocation, and spent the next 26 years there.
While I loved working in HR, because I worked in a university, I sometimes thought about how much I had loved researching and writing as an undergrad. But my life was full with work and family, and it wasn’t until 2009 that I started taking courses towards a Bachelor of Education in Adult Education. When life again became too busy, I shelved my courses after only completing 2 of the required 5. So when my job ended, after the initial grieving, I chose the to look for the opportunity – school was the obvious answer for me.
As I now look back over the last 15 months, I am humbled by the experiences I was able to participate in as part of my programming: research into the elimination of self-stigma surrounding mental illness; a directed study at the hospital mental health unit related to the impact of positive psychology tools in enhancing mood (which spurred my 50 Feats); an internship with a local women’s addiction recovery organization where I developed a holistic aftercare curriculum; and my final culminating project that explored the potential for a combined coaching and mentoring model to support the success of early career academics.
Throughout the experience, I was continually impressed by my young and talented classmates – they were keen, friendly, inclusive, smart, funny, and committed. I know each one will make their own unique and positive impact on the world in the years to come. I learned with them and from them and feel very privileged to have met them all.
My final poster presentation seemed almost surreal to me. Could I really have completed my M.Ed. requirements? We had a little celebration as part of our class time, and everyone looked both as tentative and relieved as I felt. As we filed out of the room at the end of the night, I confess to feeling just a little empty too.
Like all graduates, I am now back to the real world of looking for employment. But, my heart is still that of a student and I’m not yet ready to completely give up that rediscovered world: a few days ago I signed up for the 3rd of my online Adult Education courses that I abandoned in 2010. Do what you love; love what you do.
Next up: a get-away to Kauai.