Long Story Short: I am
I can’t help but wonder if all of my twenties will be defined by these years containing so much change it’s hard to concept.
If so, I need to take more naps.
It’s the middle of December and yesterday I finished my fourth semester of grad school. I wrote a paper that I’m really proud of and, as I turned it in last night, I found myself giving thanks that I’m in the season that I’m in. Well, I was giving thanks for grad school. Most of this season has been nearly impossible; grad school, surprisingly, has been a bright spot. Who would have thought I would be here? Who would have thought I could love this season so much?
A year ago, I was planning to drop out of school. I hated it. I had good grades and my professors all loved me, but I was miserable. I wasn’t being challenged and I was too bored to be paying thousands of dollars to feel that way. I’d gone to grad school because I loved school, but after a few months at UAB, I hated everything about it. I didn’t know why I was there, and I wanted to leave.
“I think I’m going to drop out of school,” I’d tell my friends, my counselor, people I met at my barista job, anyone. They listened, but I don’t think many of those who actually knew me believed it. I told anyone who would listen because I was trying to convince myself, too. I wanted, so badly, to run away from this hard season God had called me to. I wanted to get a normal job, to stop writing papers and learn what life felt like without homework. I prayed. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed, asking God to give me the freedom to withdraw. I’d go back to school later, in a few years after I really knew what I wanted out of a master’s degree.
But, I felt His spirit tell me to wait. I hadn’t heard from Him in months, had questioned his existence more in that season than I ever had before, but I knew, without a doubt, that He was asking me to wait on Him. He would make Himself clear.
So, I waited. I finished my semester, turned in my final papers, went home for Christmas, and kept praying. I browsed the job market and hoped that, through attaining some dream job, I could will God to show me that I needed to drop out.
That didn’t happen, though.
I thought that Him telling me to wait was a “Wait, I’m going to give you somewhere else to go,” but I was shocked to find out that it was a “Wait, I’m going to remind you why I brought you here,” and it was one of the best things in the world.
In January, I went begrudgingly went back to school, prepared to begin more classes I would hate. I even waited to really invest in my classes because I so desperately hoped that I would leave. I lightly set into a routine. I went to work and class and church. On the outside, it was any other semester. On the inside, my time in Birmingham was a ticking clock.
I kept praying, asking God to show me why He’d called me to grad school and to show me why it was worth it. I needed Him to make it matter to me, to show me that He had a purpose for it beyond my selfish desire to say I had another degree. If He wasn’t going to do that, I so desperately wanted the freedom to drop out. Over the weeks, though, as I waited for my free pass out of this season, I found myself falling in love with it.
I was in a class that was completely devoted to Jane Austen, taught by a woman who I can only hope to be like when I’m older. She made the pages of novels that I’d loved forever come alive and mean so much more than I knew they could be. She was hilarious and brilliant, and quickly became my hero. I’d watch her in class everyday and think things like, “Damn, I wish I had a job I loved as much as she loves hers,” and “She really has the best job in the world. I wish I could do this with the rest of my life,”.
I spoke of that wish to no one but Liz, who enthusiastically said, “Ash, I can totally see you being a badass English professor,” but I really didn’t think anything of it. Until, one day, after class, I talked to the professor of my Jane Austen course, Dr. Jay, and explained to her that I was in grad school but that I wasn’t sure what I was doing. At this point, I at least had accepted that I needed to be there, but I didn’t know why. She looked at me and asked me, “Well, what do you love?” and that’s when everything changed.
That afternoon, I admitted to Dr. Jay that I wanted to be a professor. She explained to me that it was a cut throat world and it would be hard to get a job, but that if I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else, to go for it.
And, well, long story short: I am.
I waited, and He showed up. I trust that one day, after I finish this degree and the next, that I’m going to get to be the woman at the front of the classroom teaching about things I love. I’m going to get to be the professor helping students find what they love and leading them through these years that contain so much change and feel as long as decades.