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Well, I’ve decided that I definitely do want to go to grad school full time this autumn.  A lot of you are probably saying “I knew it!” but it really hadn’t been clear to me until recently.  Getting accepted at both places where I applied lifted me up in a way that the thought of going directly into a job in the field didn’t.   I’m a big believer in the gut reaction these days.  Getting ridiculously excited about hearing that I got in (I mean, I actually did a little jump up and down thing) was a huge clue.

Even though it means selling my house and moving, it feels very right to me.  I really like my house and where I live, but Ive been in this area for almost 22 years and that’s long enough.  My house is too big for one person, anyway and I’ve been feeling the weight of it and too much stuff lately.  Time to reduce the old carbon footprint.

Another factor is that I’ve never really gotten to have much of a full time university experience.  I got my Associate’s degree full time, but my B.S. and first M.S. were done while working full time.  It’s a very different thing, to split your brain into work and school segments.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I’ve always felt a little like I missed out on something.  No, I don’t mean sororities and football games.  Although I did miss out on those first time around, I didn’t miss them, if you know what I mean.   I mean the total immersion in academic thought.  The opportunity to Think Deep Thoughts.  I don’t know if I really have Deep Thoughts, but I want the chance to find out.

Now, on to deciding where…

I am not known for my patience.  I’m sure I have other good qualities, but patience is really not among them.  I’ve gotten much better at it in my middle age, but still, it’s not the first thing that springs to mind when people think of me.

So, waiting to hear from grad schools is not something I enjoy or at which I excel.  I hear that some people enjoy the anticipation.  Those people are odd.  For me, the longer I wait, the more convinced I get that this whole idea is the stupidest thing I’ve ever conceived.  Hearing from one school was excellent – it went a long way toward curbing the doubts.  But there’s still that other school.

This morning, I was in my Pilates class.  Instead of that zen-like state one is supposed to achieve whilst contorting one’s body into punishing positions, I was stewing.  My internal dialogue went something like this:

“Why haven’t I heard from Univ R yet?”

“Ouch, that muscle hurts”

“Sheesh, those people.”

“Ooo, that stretch felt good”

“They found out that I’m really clueless.”

“Ouch”

“I know why it’s taking so long – they sent all the acceptances out to the others and they’re waiting to see if someone turns them down and they need me to fill the seat”

You get the idea.  Then I got home and checked my email.  There it was, a message from Univ R.  I got in there, too!!  I don’t yet have the financial details from them, but I’m in!

See?  Stewing works!

One down, one to go!

I got official notice this morning from University D that I was accepted!!

Just waiting now to hear from University R, so I can decide what to do and potentially where to go.  I will say, I was surprised how excited I was that I got into D’s program.  I’m sure that’s, in large part, due to the validation factor (they don’t think I’m an idiot!  Woohoo!).  But, I’m sure there’s a part that’s excited just about the idea of going back to school, too.  That’s a clue, isn’t it?

I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights in the last couple of years.  That changed a few weeks ago.  Once I had the grad school applications in, things got a lot better.   Last night was an exception, though.  I woke up at an ungodly hour and couldn’t get back to sleep.  By about 4:30 this morning, I had myself thoroughly convinced that neither of the schools I applied to would accept me, I wouldn’t be able to land a position in the field and that I’d end up doing contract work as a business analyst for pharma companies for the rest of my life.  Worry and insecurity can get pretty intense in the middle of the night and your mind tends to go to extremes.  Well, mine does anyway.   In the light of day, I don’t really think I’ll get rejected at every turn.  I just wish I had a crystal ball to see how this was all going to turn out.

It was kind of enlightening, though.  My visceral reaction to the possibility of doing that kind of work tells me that my happiness definitely lies elsewhere.  One of the first things I did when I got up was go to my list of “Things I might want to be when I grow up” and cross that off the list.  There might be variations of it that I could get into, but that particular thing is my past, not my future, if I can help it.  I’m learning to listen to my gut.

It’s funny I had this happen this week, when other things went pretty well.  I had a delightful conversation with a bigwig in the division of the National Park Service that handles wildlife management.  He was very encouraging and gave me some good suggestions for how to break into the field, even without further schooling.  He brought up the possibility of working with the NPS on a project on a volunteer basis, to get to know some people better and let them get to know what I can do.  He even sent a message to a couple of his colleagues here in my area asking them to get in touch with me about it.  I’ll follow up with them if I don’t hear back.   Fingers crossed.

Also, I had my first rabies vaccination in preparation for starting to work with critters in rehab.  Didn’t hurt a bit.  If only this whole process were as easy.  I might sleep better.

Such a cool day!

So, today, I met with a woman who runs one of the local wildlife rehab clinics.  I’m going to volunteer there, after I get my rabies pre-exposure vaccinations.  She has a really cool operation.  She takes in, rehabs and releases about 200 injured, sick or orphaned animals a year, about half of which are orphaned babies.  She specializes in raccoons, but also works with skunks, foxes, squirrels, groundhogs, opossums, bats, coyotes and once even a litter of baby deermice.

I learned a lot just in this one visit – for example, did you know that skunks and foxes imprint on humans in rehab, so in order for them to be successfully reintroduced into the wild, you can’t handle them much?  And that raccoons thrive on human interaction while in rehab, but don’t seem to seek it out after release, so you need to interact with them a lot?  I didn’t either!   Also, deermouse babies are really, really small.

I can’t wait to start there.

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with a colleague-of-a-friend-of-a-friend (got that?) at a federal agency that does the kind of work I’m interested in doing.  It was a very good conversation, really, but I must admit I was a little disappointed.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but I must have had some kind of fantasy going that he would tell me not to bother with going to school and that he thought I was perfect for a role in his agency right now!  Yeah, not so much.

His background is as a field wildlife biologist, so, not unreasonably, he has something of a bias for people with field experience (which I, of course, lack).  He wasn’t in least bit discouraging, mind you, but the conversation did bum me out until I figured out what I had been thinking way back in the recesses of my mind.  Once I did that, I had a good chuckle at myself and focused on the advice he gave me.  He had some suggestions for what I should do with the master’s curriculum and gave me good information about some of the programs the feds have for students and recent graduates.  And he did send me some other names of people to contact in other agencies.   It was a very productive half hour and an excellent reality check.

But there’s still nothing wrong with a little dreaming…

Pants with a zipper

When I was preparing to be unemployed, a woman I know gave me some advice.  She said to make sure to put on pants* with a zipper once in a while instead of hanging out in sweats all the time.  I think she really meant – don’t get out of the habit of being presentable.  You feel differently dressed for work than you do hanging around in sweats.   You act differently.  Well, I do, anyway.

So today I put an pants with a zipper and spent the day at the outplacement center, among actual live humans.  It was an interesting day, really.  There was a Career Assessment workshop this morning and the afternoon was taken up with a Resume Development workshop.  The Career Assessment thingie was designed to review the self-assessments I mentioned previously.  It appears I have more in common with psychologists and ministers than I do with IT professionals.  That was a little surprising, but not that much when I thought about it more.  My brother’s a minister and I have a fair amount in common with him.  The IT professionals they’re talking about are the Skittles-chomping, Mountain Dew-guzzling hard-core programmer types, with whom I really do not have all that much in common.   And the kinds of things I think people in environmental policy roles do are things that are some of my strengths.  So, maybe the assessment info and my current thinking are not totally out there.

And in the “hmm, that’s an interesting development” department – a former colleague of mine emailed me last night to find out if I was interested in a consulting gig.  It would be an hour+ commute each way, it’s for 9 months and I’d have to bail on them if I did decide to go to school and it isn’t really the kind of work I enjoy, but it’s nice to be considered.  I’m going to talk to him, though, in case he knows of anything shorter-term and closer.  Doesn’t hurt to think about it, anyway.

* for the gentle readers across the Atlantic, pants in this context equals trousers, not undergarments.  I’m thinking that the UK kind of pants with a zipper might be a little, um,  painful.