11 years ago, I put aside the opportunity to continue my studies to start a new phase of life, with the Man by my side. It was a choice I never regretted. Other commitments soon came rushing my way as a young adult – starting on my first job while getting used to coming back to my new home, to my other half the Man. After a few years, the kids came along and a whole lifetime of learning to be a parent started. But I have never forgotten my unfinished business – furthering my studies.
Then, 1 day last year, the thought crystallised somewhere in my mind. 2014 might be the year I continue my journey as a student, the official way. If not now, then when?
The Man and I discussed at length over my decision; we strategized and planned (or rather, he strategized and planned). There were many adjustments to be made; I am after all of a certain mature age (ahem!), a wife, and most crucially, a full-time working mother of 2 young kids.
In May 2014, I got accepted as a part-time graduate student. On 11 August 2014, I officially hold the dual identify of student and responsible contributor to the workforce in Singapore.
It is now mid-November 2014. In a span of 3 months, I have learnt and am still learning so much.
8 lessons I have learnt:
1. Have Faith
A lump of apprehension grew in my throat as I sat through the Special Seminars. What are the lecturers talking about?! This was only the first day. Of ORIENTATION. Why are my classmates nodding their heads as if they understand? OMG. What have I gotten myself into?
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase – Martin Luther King, Jnr
2. Answers may not Satisfy
Everyone who knows I am enrolled in the course ends up asking questions. Depending on the rationale behind the questions, my answers may disappoint:
“Why this course?” – Because interest turns out to be the most important predictor in the relationship between my exposure to the course, and the outcome of obtaining the degree, after adjusting for financial capability, distance from work and to home, and other independent variables.
“How are you advancing your career after taking this course?” – Seriously, why won’t people believe me when I said it is really interest? And that I haven’t thought that far ahead (see #3)
3. Know the Race You’re In
I am enrolled in a 3-year part-time graduate course. I’m running a full marathon. And being cognizant of my brain capacity and other responsibilities, I opted for only 2 evening modules, leaving 1 module to December holidays . Even with this move, I’ve been struggling with work, family and studies for the past 3 months. 2.5 years to go, and many things can happen along the way.
4. You Cannot Hide Forever
The very subject I have avoided since I was 17 years old is back – bigger and meaner – a graduate module I must now pass, or die trying. Biostatistics, that’s his name.
You can run, but you can never hide. Eventually it catches up to bite you in the a**.
5. Being a Small Fish in a Big Pond
My classmates are big fish; intelligent individuals of whom 9 in 10 are professionals in the healthcare industry. I am the odd little fish, trying not to drown in the big waves they are creating. They understand the concepts with a snap of the fingers – I stay bright-eyed and clueless, my mental mouth hanging open while I figure out if the lecturer is speaking English.
Will this little fish with nothing but determination survive?
6. Taking The First Step towards Knowledge
The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant – Richard Cecil
Very ignorant, that I am, in a course that is out of my depths and comfort zone.
But I hope that one day, I can proudly say “A mind (mine!), once stretched by a new experience, never returns to its original dimensions.”
7. Summoning Mysterious Energy Reserves
I quit staying up at night to revise my work, switching to waking up earlier each morning to cram while guzzling extra strong coffee. Except for suffering the most serious stiff neck and shoulders, I’m still chugging along with energy coming from goodness-knows-where in the day. Just don’t talk to me at night. Oh, how I miss my sleep and television!
8. Cherishing my Band of Brothers
To shoulder more responsibility that was originally mine amongst other considerations, the Man quit his high-paying job to become a stay-at-home-dad. Read about how he’s enjoying his freedom (win some, lose some) here.
The kids have lost quality time with me. Our long-talks are down to once a week, and I’m usually too tired to read to them at night. On nights when I’m in class, they go to bed without their mummy tucking them in. But my wonderful darlings understand MaMa is studying and curb their requests on my time and energy.
Because I’m often absent at my mum’s place after work now, my dearest sister has taken over as the crowd control officer – trying to get 3 kids (2 of the toughest to handle are mine) to behave in the evenings is no mean feat. It also means showing up earlier at our mum’s.
My dearest, supportive mum is also busy cooking nutritious food for me, and letting the kids stay overnight when I just could not manage some nights. All these are done to support my dream.
This is my band of brothers, my family. They are the ones who raise me up. Without their support and encouragement and acts of love, I don’t think I would have survived the past 3 months, let alone have the courage to continue on this difficult journey I have chosen to take.
Unconditional love. I’m enveloped, blessed and buoyed by it. And I am eternally grateful. Thank you.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be.