I have been in post secondary education for ten years. Rather, I had been and now am finally finished. I can’t claim to have taken the long route, or even a circuitous one, and in general my progress has been marked with success which made it smoother and quicker, and yet, a decade is a long time. It was a bittersweet moment to finally pass in the last bound copy, check off that last box, but really, it has been a long time coming.
I don’t think that I would recognise the person who started this trip back in Nova Scotia. I am sure she would not recognise all of me. We have grown a lot, everyone does on the journey from 17 to 27, but no one ever thinks they will change that much. I have changed for the better and grown into my potential. I hope I will do so even more as I take the next step out of Academia and into the ‘real world’.
I have a lot of friends who studied as long (or hell longer, I did get through this thing quickly), and friends who are still studying and by and large there is one thing we can agree on: we do not feel like real adults.
I think there are a few contributing reasons, one of which is that we went through graduate school in ‘steps’. I am ten years and ‘three steps’ away from high school. For people who went straight into a job you may have had several more steps; that job, buying a house, a promotion. Those things seem to qualify on the same level as each degree and psychologically I feel much closer to high school than I really am.
Another is likely that my achievements are not measured against the standard ‘maturity’ scale for growing up. A childhood friend had a baby and I blithely sent off to my mother about ‘how old I felt’. Her response was that by my age she was married with three children. Snap. It is hard to equate successfully taught seminars or brilliantly given lectures with preschool and escrow.
I think ultimately one of the main reasons is that we essentially stay trainees, students, apprentices in the world of the arcane, even as we are initiating the next generation. We teach ourselves judgement and insight, how to stand up for our positions and data, and yet ultimately we swing on the end of our professors pleasure. To an extent I can honestly say does not exist in the business world. We are hostage to our degrees, to our need to base our independence on the reviews of our past supervisors, and I think, an inherent reason we struggle to recognise our growth.
I am eager to move onto new challenges, to grow more, and to stand on my own two feet. I should start telling myself I really am a grown up, because well, I am an independent 27 year old woman, PhD included, living abroad in Switzerland and soon to start work as a Senior something something in a Robotics company. If this isn’t grown up, what the hell is?