When I graduated from college in 2009 with my bachelor’s degree, I was so happy to be done with school and start my career. I began working as an event manager for a country club, where I stayed and grew to oversee many departments over my 5 years as a manager. In 2013 my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby, and although we couldn’t have been happier, I wondered about my career and what I would want as a mom. I grew up with my mom staying home with me and my three siblings. I always loved having my mom there for us all the time, but I had planned to have a career and a family, and hopefully find a good balance.
I continued working once my son was born, and leaving him each day was heartbreaking. I came to a point in my career where there was no growth opportunities within the company. I wasn’t challenged anymore and working late nights and weekends made it hard for me to stay engaged. I decided to leave my job and take some time to figure out my next step while staying home with my son in the meantime. The longer I wasn’t working, the more I felt like I was losing out on potential jobs in the future because of my gap in employment. I thought about going back to school; I always wanted to get my MBA, but it was one of those things I always said I wanted to do but for some reason knew that I probably would never actually do it.
I went through a period where I started calling myself out on making plans and not following through on them. I started writing things down, keeping a journal of ideas, goals and gratitude. Writing it down made it more real for me and I felt more accountable to myself as I could see all the things I was wanting to do, but wasn’t following through with. I decided to take the GMAT, and once I was accepted to the MBA program at the University of Nevada, Reno, it felt like a weight had been lifted from me. Actually following through on something I had been thinking about for so long felt like a relief. I wondered what else I could accomplish by holding myself accountable to my goals.
Going back to school felt strange to me. I was a non-traditional student, married with two kids and would be graduating when I was 30 years old. It was scary at first because it was new and different, but as I continued through the program I was learning so much valuable information, making many new friends, and became part of a network of resources that I never would have had access to otherwise.
Here are 5 reasons I went back to school:
- To acquire skills for a better job in the future. I value my time with my kids while they are babies and toddlers, but I want to provide a good life and financial start for them in the future as well. When I return to work, I want it to be something I am proud to be investing my time in.
- Personal fulfillment. Learning is exciting, especially when you are making the choice to be there for yourself. Challenging myself to develop new skills and perspectives has opened so many doors for me, and is the reason why I am so focused on personal development. It is an endless endeavor that builds confidence, character and gives a feeling of accomplishment that can’t be beat.
- Setting an example. Although my kids are very young now, it is important for them to see me studying and excited to learn and go to class each week. I want them to see from a young age that education is important, and as they grow older I hope they are encouraged to continue learning and engaging in personal development.
- Self-reliance and security. I have no doubts about the future of my marriage, but at a young age my grandfather encouraged me as a woman to be self-reliant and to create my own safety net so that I would not have to rely on anyone to take care of my family and myself. If something were to happen to my husband and he was unable to work, I know that I could provide for our family, and that is very valuable to me. I am in charge of my own future and my own happiness, and continuing to develop myself gives me the ability to ensure that I am creating the life that I want.
- Keeping the balance. I love kids. I love the chaos and the funny things they say, their sweet innocence and unconditional love. I have to admit though, being with them all day every day makes me crave intellectual conversations, adult interactions, and challenges that don’t involve toddler tantrums. It is important to have your own time doing something you are passionate about, and school gives me that. It is the bridge between me as a mom and as a professional, which creates a balance that gives me the satisfaction of both worlds.
Being a graduate student has changed my life in many positive ways, I can’t even imagine where I would be if I hadn’t chose this path. As we get older and have more responsibilities it gets harder to find the time to go back to school or to start anything new for that matter, but it is never too late! The American Council on Education report, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows more older adults are starting to return to college, pursue new career directions, start new businesses, and realize lifelong dreams. Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between the high school graduate and those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher exceeds $1 million, according to the College Board.
If anything, I encourage people to start a journal and begin writing down their goals, ideas and gratitude. What are you grateful for? How can you build on that to create and realize your own goals? Start small or go big, you don’t have to get a master’s degree, but hold yourself accountable to your ideas and plans, I promise that great things can happen!