What a week we have had here in Pittsburgh! Jelly Bean, my collie dog, and I have accomplished a lot. We spent some time digging over and planting three new flowerbeds, began a creative project, and finished our ‘spring’ cleaning that got sadly, sadly behind when concentrating on exams and some professional projects. This week we also finally finished two big, lingering work projects. (Yes, we – she is a very good co-pilot for long stretches at my desk.) Having professional and personal projects like this is a great thing right now. While it is sinking, albeit slowly, into my brain that I actually completed the degree, I have not quite figured out what to do with the time devoted to study. There was a celebration and a few tears of relief and joy when grades were released but nothing like the sense of satisfaction that came with the invitation to our graduation ceremony in the spring.
It feels like transition time, and perfectly timed too with the lovely feeling of spring ripening into summer, not that it is always a process without drama. This week we had an incredible summer storm. In just a few hours, we had three inches of rain. A building on our street was struck by lightning, streets were closed from flash flooding, people were rescued from floating vehicles, and our garden room flooded impressively. Although Jelly Bean is normally quite brave during thunder and lightning storms, she felt better sitting in my lap as we watched this one from her favorite window seat. In an almost Shakespearean way, like our own personal ‘Tempest’, the storm arrived along with my decision to pursue new professional opportunities and set new academic goals.
Transition is a good place to be, I think, because it lets us look ahead, as well as takes stock of where we are and how we got there. For example, I have been looking at graduate programs with teaching responsibilities and thinking about how one would begin to teach a course in, say, Victorian literature. It made me laugh when I realized that the very first thing I would need to research and express to engage an audience is precisely what our Examiners’ Reports and tutors stress year after year. You must put the literature into the context of its period and engage with it on the level of language. Until this week, I did not fully appreciate the importance of those key points.
Appreciating what it means to have studied in this particular program is just sinking in too. This week I also realized just what an amazing opportunity and privilege it has been. I have said this before, but studying in this program is so rewarding I would begin it over again tomorrow with sheer delight. It is counted among my most satisfying and productive experiences. Right now I am savoring the experience and thinking carefully about how to use and further develop the skills gained in the process, starting a search for a new professional opportunity, and considering my next academic program. Transition, and the perspective gained by looking back at the work required to complete the degree and considering the structure and requirements of our program, is a very valuable experience indeed.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.