5 Years of Hard Work and All I Got Was This (Not So) Lousy Piece of Paper

I was so excited to see this in the mail yesterday when I arrived home from work:

My diploma!

I officially graduated on August 8, 2011, but there was no ceremony since it was the summer session.  The weird thing was that I received no notification, no “congrats” email or anything.  It felt anticlimactic, and all I was told was that my diploma would arrive sometime in October.

I spent 5 years in graduate school.  I decided to apply to graduate school at UNC in September 2005.  The deadline was coming up quickly, so I had to rush to take the GRE, obtain recommendations, and fill out paperwork, but I received my acceptance letter in November.

I took my first class in January 2006.  I decided to pursue the MS in Library Science degree in the School of Information & Library Science.  The school has an Information Science curriculum and a Library Science curriculum, and I decided on the Library Science side because I worked as a web developer and was looking to change careers and the IS side seemed like it would pigeonhole me.

I liked the Library Science curriculum because it was more than just Cataloging 101.  It was very broad – more about information and how to organize it – and I could take courses on the IS side too.   More importantly, the courses seemed interesting.  I had always wanted to obtain a Master’s degree, and I had looked at MBA and other programs.  The problem with them was that they didn’t really interest me, and I didn’t want to spend time and energy on a program that I had a half-hearted interest in.

I work full-time and the program does not have a part-time (or online) option, but thankfully my employer is flexible, and I was able to take the courses I needed.  I took one but no more than two courses each semester. Most semesters I had to drive to Chapel Hill weekly although there were a few semesters in which some courses were online. I took summer school courses that always seemed to have me sitting in RTP traffic at rush hour.  I liked the classes that met weekly for 2.5 hours, especially the evening ones, but it was an hour each way, and even though my class ended at 8:30, I usually got home at 10. I met  my thesis advisor (also my advisor) in person twice.

School was a good distraction from our infertility. We discovered our infertility and pursued treatments during this same time period, and I remember sitting in class when we started to consider surrogacy, crunching numbers to see if such a crazy idea could work.  When F was pregnant with Daniel, my Online Social Networks professor and his wife had a baby a few weeks into our class, and I wanted to say “hey, me too!” but it felt a little weird. I took off a year when Daniel was born.

I didn’t make any friends.  I participated in no clubs or activities.  Piles of paper accumulated everywhere in the house the closer the end of each semester came (I am a champion pile maker). Most students in my program take around 2 years to complete the 48 hours required, so I saw a lot of turnover.  I often felt like the invisible student, plugging away.

But now I’m done, and I feel so free! It’s like a major constraint has been removed.  No more drives to Chapel Hill (confession: I don’t really like Chapel Hill).  No more assignments.  I threw away my thesis research over the weekend in the Great Fall Purge.

So what happens now?  Am I planning to quit my job to become the public librarian or academic librarian I had thought I might become when I started the program?  Not likely.  What I learned can be applied at my job.  Was graduate school worth it?  Yes.  I learned a lot and perhaps more importantly, I achieved a goal I had set for myself.

A huge thanks to J, our families and friends and Daniel for their support and understanding over the last 5 years.  This diploma belongs to you too because I couldn’t have done it without you.

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