As much as I enjoyed certain aspects of graduate school, I really did not like the experience of being a graduate student. After so long wishing I could go back and finish school, I finally found myself achieving my dream... and disliking it more and more as each semester went by. At the end, before I quit, I figured out why. My major did a lot of examining of issues and problems. Dissecting them and theorizing about the "why's." But people in my field of study didn't do anything about the problems they uncovered, beyond study, theorize, and teach. I can see the value in that process. However as time went on, I found myself feeling more and more helpless about what I perceive as problems in our society that I want to effect a change upon. I researched and studied, but by my last semester I was so frustrated that I couldn't even complete any of my papers. I was unable to answer the "so what?" question of my research. "So it sucks and it will keep sucking if we don't do more than sit around as academics telling each other how much it sucks" was my only answer. I was very disheartened by the experience of grad school, and left it feeling confused and conflicted. I thought I knew what my goals were before I returned to college. Had they changed?
After taking some time off, I realized that I do still care about the same issues, but I want to be in a position to make change rather than simply theorize about what the problems are. I came to this realization when I decided to just focus my life on doing what I love. I didn't worry about money or long term goals. I simply started involving myself in things I care about. Eventually my path became obvious. The kind of obvious where I don't understand why I didn't see it all along. I'm not going to dwell on that, though. Instead I am just happy that I understand myself better, and what I need to do is more clear to me.
I currently spread my time between tutoring elementary school kids and volunteering at a shelter for battered women and children, and a child abuse awareness group. Between these activities and my family relationships, I began to understand that the work I want to do is encompassed in the field of social work. This was a revelation to me, although it is exactly the part that seems so obvious in hindsight. Beyond that, I have been pursuing jobs with group homes for teens. The one I really want is with a home for pregnant teens. While discussing that with my favorite nurse at a doctor's appointment, I mentioned how much I enjoy being a (non-professional) doula. Nurse Nancy told me she had been involved with a group that provided free doulas to pregnant teens who were alone and needed that support. I can't express how I felt when she was telling me about her experience, but it filled me with a sense of purpose and drive to pursue involvement in exactly that kind of work. I am now registered to complete my doula training in March, and I will begin volunteering my services immediately after. To prepare for my training, I have started re-reading several of my books about childbirth. I was using them for study so I had them on hand, and now they are required reading for my certification. I find myself reading them this time with more enjoyment now that my purpose for reading them has changed. Reading Ina May's Guide To Childbirth continuously brings me to happy tears. Which I take as a sign I am on the right path.
As for grad school, I am going back. Into a different program, though. When I left the communication department, the thought of starting over in a new major was depressing and I felt completely discouraged. Now my sense of excitement about academics has been renewed. I feel like I can make a difference in the world. I want to. And I am ready.