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Sara McManamy-Johnson's Column: Time to hit the books
Jan 18, 2013 4:00 pm
School is the word of the week at my house.
My husband began his spring semester at Middle Tennessee State University Thursday, so the preceding days were whirlwinds of last-minute class-schedule adjustments, parking passes, books and just general anticipation.
I also happen to be working on a Master’s degree in mass communication at MTSU. I’m done with all my classes, but I still have to finish my thesis and take a comprehensive exit exam.
The flurry of school-related activity reminded me that my thesis had gotten lonely these past few months, with all the chaos of starting a new job and the holiday season.
As a journalist, I work with deadlines every day. And those deadlines do a pretty decent job of curbing my unfailing propensity toward procrastination.
There are very few deadlines on a thesis.
While there are very few deadlines on a thesis, there is a deadline to graduate from the program.
When I realized the days were creeping toward that deadline, I got back to work on that thesis really quickly.
But as I sat before work one morning – missing the sleep I had to cut out to make time – I stared at the 50-plus journal articles that I had to wade through for just part of my thesis. The magnitude of the project hit me again, and I wondered for the billionth time, What was I thinking?
Every time I think about my thesis and the task ahead – and my student-loan tally – phrases and snippets from an otherwise long-forgotten personal finance class bounce through my mind. The one that pops up most frequently is cost-benefit analysis.
Will the benefits of this degree surpass the costs?
Truthfully, I don’t know. But I think so.
When I got my Bachelor’s degree, I did so for one main reason – to improve the odds that I would find a job in which I could actually look forward to going to work each day. I chose journalism because I thought that was the field in which I would be happiest. Earning potential was always secondary to me.
When I decided to go for my Master’s degree, I did so to deepen my understanding of a field I had grown to love and to possibly even teach others about the field.
Earning potential remained secondary to me.
I can’t say at this stage what the tangible benefits of this degree will be, although I’m sure there will be some.
But I can say that I have already seen numerous intangible benefits.
The work I’ve done so far has, in fact, deepened my understanding of not just journalism, but of the multitude of ways that we interact as a society.
To borrow from an old cliché, I’ve learned to see the forest and the trees.
When I first started the program, one of my professors offered what turned out to be the best advice possible for surviving graduate school.
She said, “No one really knows what they’re doing when they start, and there’s really no way to describe it…You just have to fake it until you make it. One day it’ll click.”
When I look back at the classes I’ve taken and the work I’ve done, I realize that somewhere along the way, it clicked. And strange as it may sound, that in itself makes it all worthwhile to me. Because when I walk across that stage and that diploma is in my hand, I’ll know that I accomplished something that at one point seemed impossible.
And while that may or may not make me a millionaire – hey, I can at least be optimistic – the accomplishment alone is priceless to me.