It’s happening again. That secret desire to go to grad school is breaking into my thoughts and working its way through my fingertips, interrupting my online work to guide me (against my will) to grad school review sites and scholarship lists. This annoying little meme creeps up in my brain every few months but I’m always able to drop kick him out of my mind with the stress of being a single parent and the struggle of making enough money to buy organic kibbles and bits and designer sweaters for my 3, four legged children. Unfortunately, the act of stifling the grad school meme is getting harder and harder lately, and last night I took the step of beginning the application process. But at 51, I can’t help but wonder, is enrolling in grad school the right thing to do?
I often think of the incredibly stylish woman I met the day I picked up my graduation package from the University of San Francisco. Her name escapes me, but I vividly recall her stylish personal presentation and how her appearance completely defied her 62 years of life. This woman had just completed her PhD, something she’d dreamed of doing for many years. I couldn’t help but ask her why she would bother undertaking such a huge endeavor at this stage of her life; not to mention, she was retired so the degree wouldn’t serve to further her career. Her response was this – one should never pursue higher education solely for a raise or a promotion. Higher education should be pursued for the sake of knowledge and the expansion of one’s mind. Her excitement and wisdom was inspiring, but it didn’t completely satisfy my question.
So as I worked on my application last night, I pondered the following questions: Do I have the right to pursue a graduate degree when I have a son who is just 2 years away from college? I’m a single mom with a child who has a dead beat dad – meaning I was married to a man for many years who was able to erase from his memory the fact that he has a child. We haven’t seen or heard from my ex-husband in more than10 years – in other words, there is no child support and my son’s college expense will be all mine. Next, how wise is it to incur more debt when I’m still paying off undergrad loans? True the outstanding balance isn’t huge (especially by today’s standards), but I’m still trying to recover from the great recession and it’s furloughs, wage reductions and of course we can’t forget, the foreclosure and bankruptcy that it left me with.
Putting my grad school concerns on paper illustrates the fact that my concerns are all based on money. I’m fortunate to possess the confidence to know I can be successful in grad school, I don’t care if I’m the oldest person in class, and my job is laid back enough that I don’t have to worry about having the time to devote to the rigorous demands of the program. So here I am with a little meme who won’t shut up and leave me alone – or should I say, I just really, really want to go to grad school. I want to learn more, I want to know what else there is. I want that thrill of challenging myself to do things I never thought I could do. I want to meet new and diverse people – some I may not like so much and others I’ll love. Who knows maybe there will be a promotion in my future, especially since I’ll probably be 90 and still working the 9-5 grind. So If you know of any scholarships for middle age, single moms let me know. I’ll be right here, writing my application essay.