So many times over the past six years of my college education, I’ve had periods of great doubt. What am I doing? How can I justify the time I’m investing in this? How can I rationalize the cost? What is my goal? Am I doing the right thing?
Six years is a long time, so waves of this kind of uncertainty would come and lay me low. Sometimes it would be when I had to do a challenging project for an assignment (like a presentation-not fond of standing in front of people trying to both sound knowledgeable and look at ease). Or it might be during one of those times when big papers for three different classes were all due the same week. Or maybe when the week was so jam-packed with other stuff – work, garden, mainland appointments, family outing – that I couldn’t shoehorn in a single additional obligation.
Sometimes I’d feel done in with self-doubt when people would ask me about my classes and about what I planned to do when I graduated. It’s a reasonable question, after all.
Except I really don’t have a specific goal. And having to stand there and admit that made me feel like my decision to go to college was positively indulgent. Not a good feeling.
I know two people who wanted to be nurses. Instead, both got married, had children, and pursued other things. In their 30s and 40s, they went (or returned) to nursing school. They had a calling and they made it happen. That’s not my story.
I know people in their 50s who have gone back to school for their master’s degree in order to excel in the career they’d been working at for years. That’s not my story, either.
What I wanted was an education. What I was most interested in was literature and writing, so I quickly decided on a degree in English. Not the most marketable choice, I’ll admit. Many English majors go on to teach. Let me tell you, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if that was my plan, I’d have half my college education paid for. And if I had a dollar for every time someone smilingly told me about the Professional Organization of English Majors, that would pay for the other half.
But I don’t think that teaching is my path. I just don’t know what is.
My current version of self-doubt is of the graduation-is-in-less-than-four-months variety. I will have a bachelor’s degree in English. I’ll be 48 years old. My résumé is “eclectic,” filled with things like herb nursery owner and bookkeeper and wine shop clerk and gardener.
Oh, and I live on an island. You can see my predicament.
But what I have besides doubt is great faith. I’ve wanted this degree for a very long time, and I’ve always trusted that if I did my part – kept taking classes, kept giving each class my best effort, kept challenging myself to do the things I least like to do (like those presentations I mentioned), pursued an internship to gain some marketable skills – then opportunities would be there for me on the other side of graduation.
So that’s been my pattern: let those scary thoughts come in and take over, talk myself back down off the ledge, and then dig in and keep to the task at hand. Go to class. Read the book. Write the paper. And trust that it’s all worth it.