Two words keep coming at me: Graduate. School.
There have been a few professors who have mentioned it to me several times because they think I could do well. A provost even suggested that as the next step after the research competition award reception. So many people I started the program with are graduating, and I know some of them are going to attend graduate school.
It seems like a commonsense thought, so why is it the focus of the fourth installment in my Why My Brain Sucks series?
In high school, I didn’t think—no, I knew that I wouldn’t have the resources to go to college. This conclusion was so ingrained in me that when my grandfather was encouraging me, saying I could go to college, I left to cry in the bathroom of the Wendy’s we were at. I was so convinced that I wouldn’t be able to financially afford college, he even offered to help me out.
After I dropped out of the first university and found myself unable to get a job, I felt like an utter failure. I looked at friends and family, including the people I knew from the university, and saw them continuing with college just fine. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for the college experience, and that I would have to settle for constantly applying for jobs and never being hired.
When I had to change my major from something I was passionate about to something I had no clue about, I felt like I was watching my dreams die. After four years of nursing and cultivating a vision for my future, money and time and all sorts of factors stood in the way. I was so uncertain about what I was going to do that I actually considered dropping out.
Now that I’m in my senior year of university, just one semester from closing the proverbial book on my undergraduate education journey, I’m finding that I am one step behind. I can’t tell you how many people have been surprised when I’ve told them I’m not graduating or walking in this year’s commencement. These have mostly been people I started the program with, so it could logically follow that we would finish at the same time. However, now I’m watching them all go, some of them off to graduate school and some off to find their dream career. Even though it’s comforting to know I’m just one step behind and not several, the mentions of continuing my education at the graduate level bother me.
Why? Because seven years ago, I thought I would graduate from the first university with a bachelor’s degree in music performance. Three schools and two majors later, I’m just about to get a bachelor’s degree in an entirely different field. I’ve said that no one aside from the Chair of my department truly knows how much I want to be done with my undergraduate education.
While going on to graduate school would certainly give me so much experience in so many rewarding ways, I feel like I’m sitting across from my grandfather at that Wendy’s again. It’s something I know I definitely cannot do financially, since it would mean living in a dorm far from home, as well as paying a higher tuition rate in addition to the room and board charges. I’ve heard how graduate programs can be competitive and tough, virtually unforgiving save for the fellowship with fellow students who feel your pain. But I don’t even know what I want to do with a Bachelor’s degree, let alone a Master’s degree. Every idea I have is shot down, and as a result I don’t know what I’m capable of. I crafted a vision for my future that is no longer applicable, and it doesn’t help that list of options is so long.
I wouldn’t be able to handle it mentally or financially, while several of my peers have been able to do it (or at least, they have taken the necessary steps to begin the journey, knowing what they’re in for).
I feel like I would be wasting the professors’ time by trying to earn a higher degree when I have no clue what I want to do with my life.
And thus, the praise that says I would do well in graduate school becomes another way to measure my self-worth, and it yields consistently negative results. Without knowing it, these well-meaning people have reminded me of my limits and my faults, and despite being taught how to navigate them, I’m lost as can be.