My 10-year high school reunion is fast-approaching. It seems like just the day before yesterday that I was sitting around in Mrs. Ellerbrock’s homeroom before Channel One, talking with Kristin or one of the twins, who, now that I think about it, probably hated being referred to as one of the twins. We’d talk about how our kite construction was coming along, how hard the calculus exam during fourth period would be, the basketball game that night, if we really had any chance of outscoring our opponent and how we hoped the junior class wasn’t screwing up its prom planning. After all, this was our senior year. It HAD to be good.
Ten years and a lifetime ago. That’s what those high school days are. Those days may be far behind me, but as it turns out, I’ve yet to stray far from learning.
I went to college like most every other high school kid. I studied and played. More study, less play. And, I came away with friendships, intact knees (considering four years of college volleyball), a healthy dose of heartache, a seemingly rock-solid relationship and, oh yeah, a bachelor’s degree.
Unfortunately, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started grad school and quickly realized my interests were pointing me in another direction. I jumped schools and moved three and a half hours away from everyone I loved. (Three and a half hours really isn’t all that far away, but considering I lived next door to my boyfriend and 40 minutes from home, three and a half hours was a lifetime.)
Sadly—very sadly—the graduate program failed to meet my expectations. Miserably. I spent many hours in a very non-fun graduate assistantship and the rest of my hours buried under mounds of research when all I really wanted to do was write about something—anything—that mattered. To people other than my odd-bird professors and the friendly library archivist.
There were bright spots, of course, including the people in the program with me. We befriended one another. Commiserated with one another. Laughed with one another.
For all the ills of the program, grad school brought me much clarity. I found the courage to make a most painful decision regarding the seemingly rock-solid relationship. A decision that would allow me to be the person I wanted to be. I re-established my relationship with Christ and planted myself in a church. And, I re-discovered me. Painful? Yes. A learning experience? Undoubtedly.
Nowadays, when people ask me about my time in grad school, I always say that I learned more about myself than I ever did about the profession I’m now in. Funny how life works. And, how I’ll be paying on that opportunity to figure myself out for years to come.
My experiences in grad school hardly turned me off to education. In fact, I opted to work in public relations for a small, liberal-arts college where I remain today. Soured relationships didn’t keep me from saying “No way!” to future possibilities. And, good thing, because I’ve met someone whom I absolutely adore.
It’s been 10 years since those high school days of Mr. Boertje and Mr. Harper, basketball dinners, Trapper Keepers, freezing-cold track and field events and daily awaiting 2:53 p.m. It’s been six years since those college days of all-nighters, weekends filled with volleyball, deejaying for 88.3 WLFC and Media Law with Dr. Greenwood. It’s been two years since my committee signed off on my professional project and agreed to confer upon me a master’s degree. And, it’s been, oh, maybe an hour since I learned packaged hot chocolate that is more than two years past its expiration date likely shouldn’t be consumed.
That’s the thing about learning. You can’t really put a value on it. And, you can’t really ever stop it. Just like you can’t stop high school reunions from coming around.