It’s hard to believe that three long years of graduate study are coming to an end. My thesis defense earlier this week went really well. I passed with no revisions – whew. I’ll be working on re-formatting my work and then sending it off once again for any other formatting issues. I’d like to say that I feel excited about graduating, but honestly I think I’m too tired to feel much of anything. I’m sure some of my classmates feel very much the same way. I am extremely lucky to have had some amazing professors who supported and encouraged me over the years. First, my advisor, Dr. Cecilia Ayón, who was beyond wonderful. Had it not been for her mentoring through this project, I think I would have given up somewhere along the way. Her feedback and support were invaluable, and she is a phenomenal and respected researcher. My committee was also very encouraging and supportive, Dr. Kelly Jackson and Dr. Paz Zorita. They provided feedback during my defense that will inform and guide all of my future research endeavors. Special thanks also to Christina Peete and Laura Guild, my former policy professor, for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend my defense. There are two other professors who have provided ongoing support over the past two semesters. Dr. Melissa Del-Colle, who not only lent a listening ear when I was facing a very difficult situation at my internship, but whose words of wisdom and support I will forever be grateful for. And finally, Dr. Elizabeth Anthony, who took a special interest in my thesis project, encouraged me along the way, and from whose classes I have learned and gained so much from. I respect each of these women who set such a high standard not only for the profession of social work, but in their example of mentorship and teaching. I am truly inspired.
This was an especially difficult year personally. My daughter was diagnosed with two serious mental disorders. If I have gained nothing else from this program, I have gained knowledge about these disorders and treatment options. It has been difficult to manage at times, but she is doing much better and is amazingly resilient. We are blessed to have such an outstanding young woman as our daughter. My husband reminded me this morning as we were paying off the last bill I hope to ever pay to Arizona State University that I will most likely make less even with a master’s degree in social work than the amount of debt that I’ve accrued. Sad, but I guess that’s reality. I do not think anyone in the field pursues social work to make tons of money, rather we want to be change makers. There’s that anxiety related to how we will fund our daughter’s education looming ahead, however, and no one feels it more than the head of our household. He has been carrying the financial load for three long years now, so it’s my turn to step up to the plate. Believe me, I’d like nothing more. Completing this degree is a little anti-climatic, and I can’t help but wonder if it was worth it in lieu of all of the challenges, not to mention the debt.
I have no doubt that I’ll find work. It may not be the greatest paying work, but I think that it will be meaningful work. What I see on the horizon is getting through my current internship, Lord help me, to the end of June. And then finding a job. I will also be working towards publication, once I’ve taken a little breather. My advisor has graciously offered to help me take the work I’ve completed on my thesis to the next level. We will see what happens.
It’s taken me a very long time to figure out “what I want to be when I grow up.” I think that my own struggles with identity and adoption-related issues caused me to take many different paths, some I wish I hadn’t, but they have all led to a greater self-awareness and deeper acceptance of who I am. I wish I had known then what I do now. I may have saved myself as well as my family some grief. During the really bad days over the past semester, I’m grateful for the support of my peers at ASU and of course, the professors I mentioned previously, who helped me get by. One more week of school left, one more paper to write, and one more internship to complete, then graduate school will be behind me. I think it’s about time.