–written by Sharon, a former graduate wife
Newly married and with hardly a penny in our bank account, my husband and I moved to North Carolina for him to get his MBA at Wake Forest. Our decision was based in part on a scholarship and also on the appeal of being on our own, away from our families in Chicago and Annapolis.
We had a plan. Two years in Winston-Salem and then a move to a more metropolitan area. There was no tug of war between my career and his and I never saw this time as a sacrifice. We mutually viewed it as an investment. My heart’s desire was to be a mom and I frequently joked that after these two years I wanted my ROI, or return on investment.
In order to work right away I began an hourly job through a placement agency, just covering living expenses. It was not until after a year that I was able to use my degree in a salaried marketing position. Like most newlyweds and grad students, we lived on a tight budget and saved our pennies for fancy date nights at Taco Bell. We moved into our first apartment with a mattress, Phil’s velour dorm room recliner, a kitchen table, and two suitcases. Our budget was small, but some of the funniest memories from this time in our lives came out of learning to live cheaply.
Our mindset in coming to North Carolina was focused on a means to an end. We wanted to get through this stage to the next. Phil felt tied to his role as a student and I felt tied to my job, keeping us from enjoying this time as much as we could have. Graduation, job, house, dog (the kind on the front of an LL Bean catalog), baby, and a reupholstered recliner – we did all of those things and in that exact order.
Four kids, three different houses, two Golden Retrievers, and four jobs later I find myself looking back on the simpler days of Taco Bell and our velour recliner with a new perspective. Twenty years later, I see each of these as things to enjoy and not stages to check off.
With two kids in college and two in high school, I have also begun taking classes for a master’s degree. I’m not sure what the next few years hold, but this time around grad school is not a stage to get through. This is a time to enjoy my studies as I also enjoy my home and children. Present moments turn into past moments that I cannot get back. So, for now I am not treating grad school as a stage separate from the rest of my life. The next step? Well, I’m not quite sure. Finishing my degree? Maybe, maybe not – and that’s okay. As God has proven to me in the twenty plus years since my husband graduated, the next stage will always work itself out.
What thoughts or expectations do you have of the future that are hindering your joy in the present moment?
What checklist in your life keeps you from celebrating the blessings before you today?