I found myself at Haviland Hall yesterday, the second of three planned information sessions for graduate school work related to further my professional life. It stood, hidden in the trees, solid of stone, with large open doors and halls that were misleading to all who wanted to walk through - because only the selected could call them familiar. As this next season of my life unfolds, it has been inviting me into the moment. This means the current moment. Not the moment I used to live. Not the moment I expected. Not the moment I wish for. So I find myself leaning purposefully in to listen. What are these moments calling for and asking from in me? These steps and the building set the scene.
Even to get to the bottom of these stairs, the effort had been solid - confirming my husband could finish his work early so to be with our daughters, driving from South Bay to East Bay at the edge of rush hour traffic, finding a parking spot that didn't require more than a mile walk to the door, and cutting through Berkeley busy - students, and streets, and spectacles that I as a 40something stay-at-home-mom am less used to seeing. But as I reached the bottom of the steps, I felt a jolt of excitement and curiosity. I was attending to find out about a degree, a credential. In my previous years, I had accumulated not one, but three "letters" from higher education. As I turn toward 2020 I look to it and ask, are they enough for what this moment requires?
I walked through the halls, up one and down another, befuddled a bit by the building design and classroom number assignment. Thankfully, this time, I had padded in adequate time to the schedule to fuddle and not be late. I walked in the classroom where the information session was held and I waited. The glossy brochure was thick and nice. It laid out much of the necessary information for prospective applicants to consider. I initially noticed that most in the room were younger and more hip than me, but I didn't care because I was truly excited about taking steps forward towards my seasoned vision and dreams for my life and the world. I knew that with the appropriately sharpened skills and new doors open to me, there was much good to come.
The classroom filled, just under capacity and the presenter began to speak. She was concise and simple in her words, as she strove to inform us all. As I sat there, even though the desk chairs were designed to be ergonomically improved, I became squirrelly and uncomfortable. The information the presenter promoted had all been plainly laid out in the glossy brochure on my desk and it was apparent that the information session could have been condensed to a read of the hand outs. But I was sitting one row from the front, five rows from the door, and there was little but air between me and the presenter, so I was not to be unnoticed if I left.
I resigned to the space between my ears and the thoughts came. But their current had significantly changed from the time I was at the bottom of the Haviland Hall steps. I began to think about what I was truly looking for and what I was genuinely seeking. It gradually began to appear in my awareness that I was not going to find it in the ways and places I was formerly expected and trained. As appealing as the glossy brochure and hip prospective applicants made it appear, the realization that I would no longer chose for the expectations and social ladders of other became very clear. Don't get me wrong, the excitement of diverse, free thought and innovation in the middle of one of the country's most recognized institutions of learning was definitely tempting to get drunk on. But as I sat, hypothetically constrained in a chair and room that was not meant for me, it became much more clear that I have to continue to and deepen my ability to listen to and practice being me, and only me.
As much as some, including the former me, would like for this awareness to entail a more defined plan forward, it does not. The comfort of convention which I had formerly assumed was my partner, was not. In seeking to live the expected life, I had not been most fully listening to and honoring me. This awareness does not mean that I rule out additional graduate degree training, but it does mean that what ever training I pursue, it will be in strong alignment with my current priorities, responsibilities and dreams. Am I willing to work hard and sacrifice towards this? You bet. But choosing to know and say that I am enough and what I have to offer is adequate, with out doing backflips and summersaults on a tight rope to climb the ladder of my pride's expectation is the most complete "plan" I could hope to gather. I'm sure forty something wisdom has a lot to do with this. But owning my own personal capacity and power grounded my feet as I got up to leave before the session was complete.
So an MSW at UC Berkeley is not a current fit for me. Okay. Now, on to learning what is.
Melinda is a recovering "normal" seeker, who is often distracted by unexpected moments of nature's beauty or questioning children