Why the Straight-A Student Is Excited to Graduate (Finally)

Andrew and IFour years ago, I packed up my meager belongings and moved down to D.C. to pursue a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies at the John Paul II Institute.  I had just graduated from college several months before, and like so many other 20-something year olds, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I was ready to start this new chapter in my life- I was starting at a new school, living in a new place, had a new job.  I was excited to begin fresh.  I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with my life, but I did know one thing: I loved school.  I began at the Institute with the simple desire to learn as much as I could.  I had no thoughts for what I was going to do after I graduated.  I had no idea what kind of career I would excel at.  I was newly single, and had already decided that I would dedicate my time to school and my friends.  My break-up had been rough, and I was nowhere near ready to get invested in another relationship.  I moved down to D.C. planning to focus on my education, and that was exactly what I did…until everything changed.

By the end of the spring semester, I had chosen to leave the Institute to enter as an aspirant with the Salesian Sisters.  A year later, I decided to leave the order and took a job as an Assistant Parish Catechetical Leader at a nearby parish.  I applied for the job because I was desperate.  I never thought that I would discover my life’s vocation in Religious Education.  It did not take long to fall in love with my job, and soon enough I was absolutely convinced that this was how I was going to spend my life.  Several months after accepting the job, I took another step forward in my life and began dating my future-husband Andrew.  As things got serious, we began talking about the future, about marriage, moving in together, and starting a family.  When I returned to my job after Christmas break, I informed my boss that I would not be renewing my contract with the parish in July.  A few months later, I once again found myself packing up my meager belongings to move down to D.C. to continue my education at the Institute, but that was where the similarities ended.

Graduation PosedA great deal had changed between my first year at the Institute and my second.  My intentions were not as pure as they had been when I began.  During my first year, I’d had no idea what I was going to do with my life, and I was able to dedicate myself entirely to my studies.  This time around, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and my focus was split between school, work, and wedding planning.  I found life incredibly more difficult, and not simply because I had less time and more to do.  From Part 1 to Part 2, my entire perspective had changed, and this was the principle source of my difficulties.

To be completely honest, my intentions during my first year in the program were a lot more in keeping with the philosophy of the Institute.  I had one purpose: to learn.  My education was an end in and of itself, and I was able to take pleasure in every one of my classes, enjoying everything that was taught.  I gave no thought to what I would do after I graduated, and I was able to soak in everything I was learning.  There was no need to apply it to daily life; I did not need to figure out how my lessons could be beneficial for my career.  I learned for the sake of learning, and I was incredibly happy.

During my first year, I was at the perfect point in life to focus on my studies.  I was working part-time at a bookstore, a job that I knew would terminate once I had graduated.  I enjoyed the work, but there was never any push to apply my courses to my work at the bookstore.  I was able to dedicate most of my time to reading and studying, and I excelled easily.  I was driven and motivated, and I even contemplated the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D. after graduating.  I was a natural student, and I was quite at home in the academic environment.

LockersIt is amazing how much can change in just two years.  As I was preparing to return to D.C., I hoped that I would easily settle into the life of a student again.  I hoped that my classes would come easily.  I hoped that I would be just as motivated to succeed as I had been the first time around.  I was wrong.

My circumstances had changed dramatically since the last time I had been in school.  I am working part-time again, but my job is much more demanding than the few hours that I had once put in at the bookstore.  I am living further away, which means that I spend more time on the roads than ever before.  And most notably, as I struggle to balance school and work, I am also planning a wedding.  Yes, I have a lot more on my plate this time around, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The true cause of my struggles is not a lack of time, but a lack of motivation.  My intentions are not as pure as they once were.  I am not in school simply for the sake of learning.  My purpose is much more directed now.  Two years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I was largely lacking direction.  Now, I have found a career that I love, and I am less than four months away from marriage.  I can no longer truthfully claim that I am studying purely for the sake of knowledge.  I am studying so that I can have a Master’s degree.  I am studying because the courses will presumably make me a better Director of Religious Education.  I am studying because I know that this is a way to increase my salary somewhat.  I am studying because DREs with Master’s degrees are preferred over those without them.  There are a lot of reasons why I am back at the Institute, but my desire to learn is not first among them.

GraduationMy struggles are largely the result of a shift in focus.  There is a clear direction that my life is taking, and all my actions are chosen in light of that direction.  Two years ago, I fell in love with my studies, and I took a part-time job to pay for my education.  Now, I have fallen in love with my job, and I am taking classes to prepare me for my future.  I’ve seen a complete change in motivation, and it has not always been easy.  Life was much simpler when I had no direction; now that I know where I am going, things are more difficult, but it feels good to be walking with a destination in mind.  It feels good to know that in less than four months, I will graduate, get married, and God willing, be employed as a full-time DRE, doing what I love.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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