Why it’s never too late to go back to school


Why do I feel informed enough on this topic to speak about it? Personal experience and thoughtful musings I might say.
I strongly believe that purpose, dreams, passion, or (insert preferred term here) are essential. Living a life doing the things we love means we will enjoy life more – I think we all know this, or at least have heard this – but I feel so many do not have this experience. This is a tremendous loss for the individual, but also for society. A happy person is a productive person, likely doing productive things in a positive way. Any news feed provides considerable evidence that we could use a lot more people like this on this planet.
I have always known my dream, but I have not always lived it. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the life I have had – including the tough lessons – but I spent enough years in what I think is a situation all to common; an uninspired comfort zone. I liked my job(s) and was good at them, loved my friends and family, lived in a beautiful part of the word, and yet spent many days wrapped in a blinding cloud of self-centered bitterness. On these days, everyone frustrated me, my partner couldn’t even breath right, people driving should have had their licenses revoked, and everyone in the grocery store was the most inconsiderate son-of-a-gun (G-rated). Was this true? No, but on those days, that is how I saw it. These days were too frequent in my opinion. I was comfortable, but I was stuck in a boring rut.
I am a people watcher, and I think I see lots of people having this same experience.
So, what changed? I remembered what I loved. From a little girl, I had always wanted to be a scientist. I wanted a doctorate, and I wanted to help the planet. I followed this dream farther than many do. I completed a bachelor’s degree in Biology. I graduate in 2005 and thought I was set. I worked in consulting as a terrestrial wildlife biologist, sometimes in beautiful places, but usually in clear-cuts or along busy highways. The results of the surveys were often disregarded by decision makers. I quickly came to resent it and told myself that I was not really into science after all. Truth was, I still wasn’t living my passion. The other critical ingredient I later realized was the ocean.
Nearly ten years after earning my undergraduate degree, I decided to go back to school. Talk about intimidating! I had amazing support from so many wonderful people; my family, my partner Jesse, the Canadian Federation of University Women, and several of the staff and faculty of Vancouver Island University. I ‘eased’ in with a one year post-degree diploma program in Fisheries, which landed me an amazing summer job working in the intertidal. This led to an opportunity to go to graduate school; an opportunity that had not been evident to me before. Now I have transferred from a Master’s program to a PhD. It has been a whirlwind few years to say the least. Looking back, I can not believe it is real. Everything you may have heard about graduate school is probably true. It is hard, it is long hours, it is stressful, expectations are sometimes uncomfortably vague, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am working ten times harder and am ten times happier. I think that is the difference passion brings.