For me, fall means more than spicy baked goods, craft fairs, or a wardrobe change. After a summer off, autumn means returning to part-time study in my graduate program. And this quarter, that comes with an extra challenge: Most of the people I started my program with have graduated.
When my classmates and I started together two years ago, I anticipated a couple years of intense full-time study. But I quickly realized I wouldn't be able to sustain the pace I originally envisioned. The stress of taking two or three classes and working full-time would compromise my health. I was also concerned that I'd start focusing totally on the short-term goals of maintaining good grades and earning a new credential at the expense of less measurable long-term goals—gaining deeper insight into my academic interests, and thinking about the most satisfying ways of pursuing them.
For me, the best choice has been to take one course at a time. As a result, I'm not quite halfway through the program, while many of my classmates have moved on.
For someone with my personality—a highly motivated, mostly Type-A, recovering perfectionist whose gifts shine in academic settings—that's been kind of difficult. It's also been a bit strange being one of the older people in my classes, having worked for a few years before returning to school. This year, for the first time, I had a professor my younger brother's age. Add to these things a first-born's sense of entitlement to do things, well, first, and you can see why I've been feeling a bit angsty.1