I Miss Her {10 Years}
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Changing Course (Or: Why I Quit Graduate School)


Here's the thing. You make the best decision you can given the information you have. When I realized last summer I wanted to work at a library, I thought the only way to do so was to get my MLIS degree. I hoped the end justified the means. Only I realized it didn't.

Last Thursday I submitted paperwork to withdraw from the MLIS program.



On June 1 I went to orientation for school. I was quite overwhelmed by the expectations by the end of the night. I chalked it up to not having been in grad school for 13 years. I missed the first class because I was in Dublin. I missed the second class because my flight home was canceled and the rebooked flight got me back too late.

That weekend I downloaded the syllabus, got my textbook, and started in on homework. I added the assignment due dates to my planner. I knew it would be tough- the long days of work and class, fitting in homework, figuring out how to write papers again. It'll be worth it, I'd mutter.

But as I read articles and mapped out what would be required of me, it all felt wrong. Like "I'm making a mistake" kind of wrong. I was freaking out, to say the least.

I could only think about what I was giving up. Almost all of my 5 pillars of singleness would be put on hold for the next four years until I was done. FOUR YEARS. My soul shriveled at the thought of not being able to experience community here to its fullest and the way I was already having to plan travel around school breaks and saying no to fun invitations.

Plus, the debt! Plus, there was no guarantee I'd find a position at a public library once I was done, as one of my librarian friends repeatedly warned me. 

It could have been jet lag or the transition of going back to school itself or that I'm a Four or that it was also the ten year anniversary of my Grandma's death. I girded my loins and decided to persevere. I just needed to adjust.

But that feeling of wrongness only grew.



I started reading Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive In Work and Life before I left the country and picked it back up upon my return. It's about how we can best navigate life's ups and downs. Emotionally agile people are able to adapt to whatever life throws at them and stay true to their values, as well as grow stronger and healthier.

David really gets into our motivations and the habits that trip us up and how small changes can change everything. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  

I read passages like this:

"There is loss inherent in choice. You give up the path not taken, and with any loss comes a certain amount of pain, sorrow, and even regret. You can know why you're doing something- remember the question 'What did I do that was actually worth my time?'- and still feel anxious or sad about it. The difference is that you will have a real investment in it that will help you navigate with agility through those difficult emotions. Even if your choice turns out to be wrong, you can at least take comfort in knowing you made the decision for the right reasons. You can show up to yourself with courage, curiosity, and self-compassion." p. 132

And this:

"These are tough, often scary decisions to make, and it's easy to feel like a quitter if you're hooked on the idea that grit is a quality to be valued above all others. But there's no shame- in fact there's actually a lot of virtue- in making a logical, heartfelt choice. Instead of looking at these transitions as giving up, look at them as moving on. You're letting yourself evolve and grow along with your circumstances, choosing a new path that's full of possibility." p. 185

Just as my dream was shifting, these words appeared and clarified everything. 

Decisions can happen in stages. I thought perhaps I'd finish out the summer course and withdraw from the program after that. That was last Monday.

When I woke up the next day, I realized even that felt wrong. But I thought I should at least go to class that night and see how I felt after.

I asked for a sign. I wanted to know one way or the other if I should continue on. I got to campus about a minute before class started, only to find the classroom dark and empty. Class was canceled. 



I never wanted to go back to school. All I wanted to do was work at a library and I thought this was how I was supposed to do it. 

I've learned since then there are non-degreed positions that pay decently. In fact, I had a phone interview last month for what would be a perfect position for me (basically what I did as an assistant bookstore manager.) I didn't move forward in the interview process but it gave me hope. 

Grad school is not the only means for working at the library. In fact, my subconscious told me this for the past several months. Every time I applied for a library job, I'd say, "if I got this, I probably wouldn't even go to school!" I wish I'd paid better attention and figured it out before class started but it's like I needed the reality check to help coalesce the swirling thoughts in my head.

I'm glad I realized it now, instead of later.

Why go to school if I don't have to? I don't need to sacrifice all this time, money, and energy. (My student loan is down to $4000 and I'm so happy I won't be incurring more debt.)

I'm changing course. The ultimate goal is still to work at a library someday. I applied to volunteer at the local branch. It'll give me experience and help me become a familiar face. But who knows? Maybe I'll find an awesome admin job and volunteering will be enough. 

I don't regret applying for school. It was the next right step, just as moving to San Francisco was the next right step and moving to the Twin Cities was the next right step. This is the adventure, eh?

I'm not going to lie. Sadness is mixed in with the relief. I loved knowing where I was headed after a few years of not knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and now that path has changed. I won't get to call myself a librarian. Limbo has become my state of being. But I'm being true to my values, as Emotional Agility reminded me. This unexpected decision feels right

Like a weight has been lifted off. June feels hopeful again.

For now, I'm paying attention to the signs. I'm waiting for the jar lid click. This is the next leap of faith, to trust the right job will emerge at the right time. All I have to do is hang in there. All I have to do is embrace uncertainty and be ready for the next right step.

I'm ready.



"Uncertainty leaves space for a future to grow, for time to bloom and unfold. When there’s hesitation, when there’s doubt, there’s room for hope." -Madame Clairevoyant 


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