A few months ago, I received a great book that questioned, “Where will you be five years from today?” What an exciting thought! So much can happen of the course of five years, 1,826 fruitful days.
The author continually probed and provoked, question after question. What is my calling, my life’s aim? What inspires me? What are my core values? Which activities are they urging me to pursue? How can I help others? How can I find personal fulfillment? What’s the best means of achieving my full potential.
I revisit the book each week, contemplating questions, completing activities, and pondering the future, my future. Sometimes we get so caught up in the busyness of what we think needs to be done that we forget to tend to the things that we actually want to do. Maybe instead of waiting for opportunity to come knocking (or open the door on which you’ve been so persistently banging), it’s time to decide what’s next in your life and strategize how to get it.
I really, really want to go to graduate school. I want to obtain a PhD in Social Psychology and spend five to seven years working 16-hour days on projects that I’m intensely passionate about. I want to be engulfed in academics and surrounded by thoughtful, intelligent people. I want to make discoveries that will help improve people’s lives. I want to perform research, I want to teach, I want write, and I want to inspire. There is nothing I want more. Actually, it’s strong than a mere want. When I break down my values, strengths, and skills, I’m confident that it really would be the ideal situation for me. And upon graduation, I’ll be able to go out and continue to discover, share, and inspire.
I began the doctoral application process my senior year of college. I enrolled in a graduate school preparation course, asked my professors dozens of questions, talked to current graduate students, and contacted the professors whose programs I was most interested in. And then I got cold feet.
What if no one accepts me? What if can’t get any financial aid? Is this even worth it? What if, even after another degree, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life?
I’ve started asking myself: What’s the worse that could happen? It took me some time, but I have my answers. If I’m not accepted into a single program, at least I can say that I tried. If I can’t get financial aid, there are always student loans and on-campus work opportunities. If I were to dedicate several years and significant sums of money to educating myself and exit the program without a single job offer, I would still be happy with my decision.
This summer, I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. I’ve never had any interest in finances, but I know that money management is an important skill. It was a great course; however, I was shocked to hear education classified as a want, rather than a need. Having completed college fully scholarshiped, maybe I simply can’t fully grasp the idea of student debt. Though I disagree that education is merely a “want,” it led me to thinking… What if I could go to graduate school without going in to debt? What if I could achieve all my goals without worrying about money?
Several months ago, I bombarded everyone in my life with the idea of somehow earning a significant amount of money within the next year or two and then using that money to fund my education. Every single person shot it down. “You can’t earn $100,000 in a year, or whatever you’re aiming for.”
I have a novel under my belt. Nowhere near publishable, but it has strong points and it’s something I could work on developing.
I’ve been blogging for long enough to know what I’m doing. Several people out there blog for a living. Maybe I’m on to something and don’t even realize it yet.
I’ve done writing, editing, tutoring, and life coaching both paid and unpaid. Maybe that’s an avenue I could pursue. Is “professional experience” truly better than passion-driven experience?
I have several ideas for services, products, and online platforms. I don’t have the attention span or the skill set to follow through on any at this point, but maybe if I dabble around with them a bit more, something will click.
As of today, I have a full-time job, a part-time job, and a handful of miscellaneous writing, editing, and tutoring gigs, most of which fell into my lap over the past 48 hours. (See what happens when you pout?) My non-existent social life has just slipped even further into oblivion. I am absolutely thrilled for the regular schedule, extra income, and opportunity to learn new skills.
I’ve said before, I’m overly ambitious and often juggle more things at a time than I can manage. What if I could fit all my small goals into a larger framework? Instead of choosing between graduate school and creative endeavors, what if I relabel my aimless pursuits as stepping stones towards personal fulfillment and possible graduate school funders? And if I choose not to attend grad school, I’ll still have actually done something, and built up a hefty savings.
Instead of feeling guilty for writing, sketching, dreaming, or catching up with friends, maybe I need to reframe those activities as means of shaping my future self, a scenario in which every choice is the right one.
The first step of my plan was to sign up for the Graduate Record Examinations. Done! I’ve been in contact with a few professors whom I’m interested in working with, I have a completed GRE study guide that plan to review, and I began applying as a college senior so I understand the process. Maybe this isn’t as daunting as I’ve painted it all up to be in my head. Since applying to graduate school can be stressful, leisure activities and fun projects, exercise, getting adequate amount of sleep, and eating healthfully will help keep me sane. Awesome! Everything I do – in some way, shape, or form – will guide me towards my debt-free PhD. That is, until I change my mind and decide to travel abroad, start my own business, or pursue something else completely. Setting a goal, any goal, is a great way to promote productivity and that sense of doing something that we all inherently long for.
Anyways, as I mentioned above, my life has all of a sudden become pretty crazy. For the next two weeks, between my full-time and part-time job I’ll be juggling 16-hour work days , so I may be MIA for awhile. For good reasons, though. I’m practicing for graduate school!