Secret project revealed: Returning to college! Grad school or bust!

7 Aug

The cat is out of the bag at my workplace. I’ll finally reveal my secret project.

I’m returning to college for a master’s degree after a seven-year absence from being a student. I’m leaving behind my job, career and for that matter — EMPLOYMENT. I’m going for a master’s in political science, public administration concentration. Public administration, in a nutshell, is making sure stuff in government works and that the wheels don’t fall off. You become the bitch or bastard who REALLY gets stuff done and makes the politician boss look good. You’re the Rahm Emanuel, per se. My primary interest is in homeland security/emergency management/disaster mitigation. What turned me on to that? I was in Louisiana, post-Katrina and post-Rita, in 2005 as an embedded reporter with the military. I didn’t have to stare at the place a looking glass to tell what happens when the governmental wheels fall off. I want to prevent THAT.

I put in my two weeks’ notice last week. My more-than-five-year tenure at the paper will end this week. I already have a new apartment and just have to move out of this one.

I’ve decided desperate times call for desperate measures. I tried finding a job in my field or even something related to my field/experience/etc. It wasn’t happening. It literally wasn’t happening for a few years’ time. So the months, years, etc. went on, and things got MUCH worse. We got hit by the furloughs starting last year, and we continue to be hit with them. I’ve been having to bum off my parents CONSTANTLY. Our tw0-percent-per-year pay raises were frozen a few years ago, and my rent kept skyrocketing. My rent reached the point to where my old place by a Florida beach was cheaper. It was ridiculous!

I kept falling deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit. With the schedule/days/demand/physical and mental exhaustion I have at work, there was no doing both work and school or even a second job at the same time. But I was so scared of losing an income, health insurance, etc. I was torn all to hell. But more time kept passing. The three-oh now approaches. Even before I turned 29, I thought, “I can’t be here in this same spot when I turn 30. No way. I can’t.” That would take every ounce of self-esteem I’ve had, have now and will ever have and butcher it.

So, I started looking around a bit. I first tried for law school, but — to keep a very long story very short — it was just pure hell for me to navigate it on my own. One of the lawyers I know well through my job told me numerous lawyers are out of work now. Yes, lawyers. The economy must bite that much ass. On to other stuff…

I kept searching, and public administration caught my eye for the above-mentioned reasons. I met with one of my former and most-beloved professors, who I found out was the poli sci grad program director. (I’m not just saying that because she’s teaching a 600-level class I’ll be taking this semester, either.) I liked what she had to say. It sounded like it was totally up my alley AND it can lead to a federal government job. Federal benefits are AWESOME. Government salaries aren’t traditionally as high as those in the private sector, but the master’s level salaries are hitting the lottery compared to what I make in journalism!

There was just the matter of giving up EVERYTHING…

(I know I blogged about this experience before. I just didn’t reveal everything then.)

I was in the same town where I’ll now be attending school to see the Alice in Chains concert in April. Being in that town made me mull over the whole, “Do I? Don’t I?” deal in my head repeatedly. I did it constantly anyway, but it was kicked up to a fever pitch the afternoon and evening before the concert. But I saw Jerry Cantrell’s blonde hair from behind the curtain up at the beginning and watched my hero since I was a kid playing on my side of the stage most of the show. During that concert, it was all about the most incredible band to ever walk on this planet. It was all about watching the Jerry play a Les Paul (my favorite guitar) like a hellcat, do that wicked slow hair whip thing he does — and wishing I hadn’t given up my guitar playing so long ago so I could do the same thing myself.

With one exception…

The band started playing “Your Decision”. I’ve loved that song since the moment I heard it, but that night, it took on an ENTIRELY new personal meaning for me. Some of the lyrics like, “Time to change has come and gone/Watched your fears become your god” or “No one plans to take the patch that brings you lower/And here you stand before us all and say it’s over” hit me like a ton of damn bricks. I realized, at that point, I was waffling and even close to accepting what I thought was my position in life — even though it was fucking horrible.

And toward the song’s end, you have these two lines: “It may seem an afterthought. Yes, it hurts to know you’re bought.”


I knew I was bought. The overall situation here basically had me locked in a cell the size of a restroom stall. But prisoners who want out will undertake the most extreme, insane and mind-boggling ways to get out if they want out badly enough. I had to get that cake with a file baked inside smuggled. I also had to work my ass off to make sure the cake got there in the first place. Afterward, the sawing commenced.

My paper tenure will be over this week. At the beginning of next week, I’ll be following the U-Haul to my new home. I’ll come back here just to clean up one last time — and be DONE with this place for good.

I will be out from behind bars. The shackles will be removed. I will finally be FREE!!!

Grad school will be no picnic. I’m also a provisional admit, so I’ll practically have a gun to my head this coming semester. It’s going to be a long few months. Hell, it’s going to be a long year-and-a-half to two years! There’s no guarantee I’ll have a job when this is done. But there was a definitely serious guarantee: I would definitely rot if I stayed here. I’m going to go at this at full speed. I’ll basically have no life. I’ll be living off loans because I want to devote myself 110 percent to surviving this coming semester.

So I’m back. The reason for my absence was my trying to hold down a job and work on my “exit strategy”. You’re going to see some new content soon: The story of a gal who gave up everything to get out of poverty. I write about surviving poverty and getting out of shitty situations. Well, I was going to be a hypocrite if I didn’t do the same! I hope I can give you all a real glimpse into the experiences of at least one person who is taking desperate measures to better herself.

An ENTIRELY new life is beginning. *Takes a deep breath* Here goes…

Current music: “Your Decision” — Alice in Chains

I thought I’d include some footnotes at the end because I’ve been gone for SO long:

1. I have now lost 54 pounds and counting.

2. I AM seriously playing guitar again. I play every damn day/night. Even if I’m dead to the world, I’ll get it out for a few to run through a song I know. The world goes away when I have that guitar in hand. I’ve been needing — and will continue to need — as many escapes from the world as possible! I watched a You Tube video called “Jerry Cantrell: The Ultimate Alice in Chains Guitar Lesson” when I was on the post-concert high. My mental gears started turning, and the rest is history. The first song I learned was “Your Decision”.Β Thanks, Jerry πŸ™‚

3. My dad has made a deal with me on this weight loss gig because he wants to see me lose this weight as much as I do. If I hit the 60 mark, I get a new guitar πŸ™‚


10 Responses to “Secret project revealed: Returning to college! Grad school or bust!”

  1. injaynesworld August 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Wow! That’s amazing. I so admire you. I know how hard it is to go back to school. At 54, after years writing for television, I saw the writing on that wall and went back to school for a paralegal degree. It’s very exciting to be filling your head with all that new stuff and I wish you the very best on all your endeavors.

    • flatbrokegirl August 9, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

      I’m scared to death about the whole provisional admit deal, but you’re definitely right about how filling your head with new knowledge is exciting! I have classes in research, public administration and gender politics. The latter sounds like it’s REALLY up my alley πŸ™‚ I just know that something had to give πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I need all I can get!

  2. sandyb August 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    above all else, feel proud of your decisions…and your mistakes. it takes heart and courage to make leaps of faith. trust that you’ll land though, just trust. my best piece of advice, if i may, is to take along a net with you, so you’re ready to catch all opportunities to come your way. become a “yes” woman (and say “no” when it doesn’t feel right..) and just let the reinvention of your life begin. have high expectations, moderate your hopes and never hold back on good ideas. all the best, my friend!

    • flatbrokegirl August 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

      Gracias mi amiga! I’m keeping my expectations and trust that I’ll land high. Keeping the mindset of “This IS what I’ll accomplish. This IS what I’ll do with this degree. This place IS where I’ll be able to move to afterward,” is what’s helping me combat all of the doubt and fear right now. I’ve been telling friends I want to work in homeland security/disaster mitigation/crisis management when all is said and done. I’ve been telling them all I want to do with that, where I’d like to do it, etc. There’s no guarantee I’ll even have a job, much less a public admin job in that field. But I talk about it as a definite because I’m sick of all the “maybeing” I’ve done for so long.

      My family, as a whole anyway, believes I’m insane for what I’m doing. They really, really believe I’m off my rocker when I tell them I’m considering a move to Seattle after this is over. But if there’s an opportunity that comes my way, I’m going to take it. I’m also going to move to a state/city in which I fit instead of a place where I feel like I’m looked at as a Satan worshipper or flat-out freak show. I spent way too much time staying in the position I just escaped because I was scared. I’m not letting anything hold me back anymore.

    • flatbrokegirl August 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

      This reinvention has really kicked into high gear, and I’m REALLY seeing how hard it is to move from the status quo. I find myself saying, “Dammit, where’s my toll money to go home?” when my new home is not along or even near a toll road. I’m still constantly correcting myself when it comes to tenses… “Yeah, it’s like that where I work. Wait. Where I USED TO work.” “Yeah, I had that class when I was an undergrad. Holy shit. That means I’m a grad student!” “My apartment is on the third, no, second floor.”

  3. Alexandra August 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Congratulations on taking this step. Yes, it’s going to be different and maybe a little bit difficult but so liberating. there’s nothing like spreading your wings and doing what you know is right for you.
    Congratulations on learning to play that song on the guitar (Alice in Chains rule! Thanks for posting a comment about that on my blog. I had never listened to them before but I really like them), on losing all that weight and on taking charge of your life!

    • flatbrokegirl August 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

      Thank you! I’m already feeling the difference between this and undergrad, that’s for sure. I just spent a little less than my car payment amount to buy books for only three classes. One of the classes has FIVE books. As far as I can recall, I never had to buy that many books for a single class except for two lit classes I had. Most were just novels, and I was able to get them on the cheap. Push the money part aside, and then you realize one class, alone, has FIVE DAMN BOOKS!

      But you’re definitely right about it being liberating. I actually shot video of myself walking out the door of the newspaper office for the last time, then my drive home. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for so many years, so why not document it? I felt like I was on my way to another planet with every step I took. I’m totally ready to explore that new planet!

      Be careful. I’ve already converted two people into diehard Alice Heads. One is MY MOM. πŸ™‚ There’s another track on “Black Gives Way to Blue” called “All Secrets Known.” It really fits my situation right now and that of so many others. I highly, highly recommend it.

  4. Brahm (alfred lives here) August 26, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Congrats to you, I think going back to school is brave and wise and all good stuff!

  5. Brookeamanda August 28, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    Good for you!!! It takes real balls to make a decision like that and I always admire the people that can just go for what they want.

    • flatbrokegirl September 3, 2010 at 1:07 am #

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s going to take even more balls to get through it. I have to finish up TWO research proposals this weekend alone! Labor Day weekend? Ha. It just gives me a reprieve from one of my other classes!

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