Grad school, Kids and Covid
I’ve envisioned this blog post for an entire year.
This was supposed to be the post with an incredibly happy photo of myself wearing a dark purple cap and gown, the post where I tell you I’ve graduated with a 4.0 GPA from New York University, with my Masters degree. Well…there’s no purple cap and gown. No hugs, or flowers, or physical reception where we get our last goodbyes. But hey, I still graduated (on Zoom) and even with the world partly turned upside down, I did it! I often wonder…would I have moved my family to NYC if I knew that COVID would cause the campus to unexpectedly close and classes to move online for half of the degree program? At first I would say “No, of course not!” The financial loss in that situation is more than you can possibly fathom. But then, I think about what I truly got out of the program..even in those first 6 months of in-person classes, and I start to change my mind a bit. Think of it like this–if you went through a breakup after 16 months of being in a relationship…and at least the first 6 months were awesome until you realized the other person had some serious character flaws…would you go back in time and never get involved with that person in the first place? It’s one of those tricky questions that can’t be answered so easily or obviously. But I digress…we’re not here to talk about relationships (Although if you’re interested in that topic check out my upcoming book ;0) This blog is about graduate school, kids and Covid. When I signed up for the Masters degree program in Dance Education at NYU, my school advisor as well as several other people who had been through graduate school said similar things, “Graduate school is no joke”, “It’s going to be intense” and “Graduate school is A LOT of work. Get ready.” I couldn’t really understand what they were saying. I took 19 credit hours per semester in undergrad 10 years ago to make up for starting school a semester late, and at the same time I completed a 500-hour Pilates certification and then taught Pilates classes in the wee hours of the morning before classes started at 9am. So “intense” didn’t really scare me. I know all about intense. However once classes began, I started to understand a new meaning of the word “intense” as it relates to being to a student and mother, at the same time. The level of perfectionism I strive for in my studies combined with the level of care and involvement I wanted with my babies (when I started the program they had just turned one and two years old) created a VERY full plate, to put it lightly. Let’s just say going back to school (after 10 years out of school), with very young children was not a relaxing way to spend my time. So…my advice to anyone is to really think if you have it in you to do something very challenging. You have to be fully ready to dive into that challenge. It probably goes without saying that reliable childcare, organization, and time management skills are a must when balancing children and school! Covid-19 caused all classes to abruptly stop exactly halfway through the program. This, in and of itself was jarring and upsetting–because it all came as such a shock. It’s not like I signed up for an online Masters degree and could easily get my mind wrapped around how my routine was suddenly turned upside down. But in the end, the online courses gave me back precious time with my babies, WHILE in school. I sorely missed taking ballet class in the ABT studios, with a live pianist and my 1-year old NOT hanging on my leg while doing fondus (Yes, this actually happened…more than once. I guess fondus are a fun little ride!) On the other hand, I also was glad to not have any travel-time to and from school, that I could be more involved in their daily activities, and that I’d no longer have to pump milk during the day. In the end, it’s all about how you choose to look at things. As one of my life-mentors,the late Wayne Dyer, said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. I can look at this past year as a huge mistake and disaster, or I can look at it as a wonderful year of growth, learning, and connections which will last a lifetime–especially the connections with my inspiring professors, cultivated from being person-to-person during the first half. And I can look at classes going online as a big waste because I couldn’t dance in a studio, or I can see it as a blessing because I didn’t have to be gone for such long hours from my children. Staying full of grace, dancing through life, is by far the most fulfilling way to move forward and conquer any obstacles and unforeseen circumstances that come your way.