My Biggest Mistake

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I am quickly realizing, as people have been laughing at me the past few weeks that going to grad school is one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I would not recommend it. In fact, given what I have lived through the past five years to try to obtain a graduate education, I am honestly not sure why I even went to grad school.

The only reason I can pinpoint is fear. When I completed the bachelor degree after a 15-year struggle, I did not know what to do with myself. When most little kids respond that they want to be firefighters or ballerinas when they grow up, I was saying I wanted to be a college student. I never planned for or envisioned anything beyond college, so grad school was this mad scramble to try to delay the inevitable push into the real world for which, at 36, I am still not ready to face.

In the past few weeks, I have learned how vastly different grad school is from undergrad. If I had to do it over again, I would have stopped at the bachelor degree.

I have learned in grad school that A’s are handed out whether they are deserved or not. Apparently, when you reach this level of education, you are expected to be good, so they only hand out A’s. While I am sure most people are probably saying, “Take the A and shut up,” I am the type of person who likes to think that my grades are a direct reflection of my effort and mastery of a particular subject matter. It is not possible for everyone to be good at everything. In all of my prior degrees, I have had at least one class in which I had a B+. I am not a perfect person. Why does graduate education give the illusion of perfection? Masters degrees are awarded to people who have not necessarily mastered the subject matter and thus become meaningless.

Second, I worked a lot harder for my master’s degree than I worked in undergrad. To qualify: I overcame many more obstacles in my pursuit of graduate education than I did in the 15 years I spend in undergrad. Some recognition of my effort would be appreciated. Instead, I have found that graduate degrees do not even list your field of study, as you are forced to order transcripts that no employer requests or wants to see, you are not awarded any honors for academic achievements, and you are not given any sort of ceremony or rite of passage to acknowledge the fact that you have sacrificed more in the past 5 years than the entirety of 36 years on this planet to get the degree.

For being the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, grad school has been one huge let down. I would rather run all 14 marathons again back to back than live through grad school again.

Yes, I said it. Running a marathon is easier than grad school.

It’s possible that all of this is simply due to poor choice of academic institution and program, but I have inklings that this situation is pervasive across academia.

I honestly have no idea why I ever went to grad school.

As I stare down a finish line that I now may or may not cross (I seriously do not feel like Defending a thesis I would much rather forget), I realize that the best thing to do at this point is to cut my losses and move forward.

There is no point in analyzing the why or the “what if.” We cannot go back and change the past. There comes a time when you must declare something as a learning experience and move forward because there is nothing you can do other than try to survive the moment in which you now find yourself.

So yes, I do find grad school to be the biggest mistake of my life. If I had to go back and do it again, I never would have went to grad school. However, there is no point in ruminating on the biggest mistake I have ever made and feeling regret. Negative feelings will do nothing to ameliorate the situation I am now facing. Sometimes the best course of action is to cut your losses and move forward.

What I am most looking forward to is reclaiming my life. I am looking forward to rewinding real slow from 5 years of mindless, unnecessary stress that I have just lived through. I am hoping that there will again come a point in my life sometime in the future where I enjoy learning again. I enjoyed school for the first 25 years of my life. These last 5 years, I have seriously been questioning the purpose of formal education.

Life is not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes we need to make mistakes to realize what is truly important in life. Grad school has been one huge, expensive colossal waste of my time, but I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and to have the ability to always move forward.

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