Last week I returned to school for what I genuinely believe will be my final degree – a terminal degree a public health. Almost 10 years ago when I left my first master program, I never thought I’d return to school. Actually, when I left home for undergrad degree, I had no intentions of returning to school … ever! But here I am, many years later pursuing a doctorate. 

Two years ago when I started working on my second masters, I spent days and nights daydreaming of what  the experience would be like. After a year and a half of being enthralled in theology, I was ready to return exclusively to the field of public health. My “return” doesn’t mean that I would leave all that I’d gained behind – I am forever committed to interdisciplinary work – but it does mean that the field of public health is the gate to which I choose to enter in addressing many of our society’s ills. 

So why wasn’t I more excited on my first day? Why did I spend the two nights preceding my first day of class unable to sleep? And why did I spend my first week unable to decipher exactly what it was that I was feeling?

I have had a little time to think and process my thoughts since last Thursday and I have realized a few things. I don’t have any doubts about me “doing well” in my program or finding my groove, but what I have realized is that many of the quotes I have read about being in a doctoral program are true. Yes, “it is not a sprint – it is a marathon.” Therefore, there wasn’t and won’t be any grand entrance events. With the exception of my new commute and class schedule, things will go pretty much as they have. I anticipate some ups and downs, but I must remain committed to the long haul. 

“Those who complete doctorate programs are necessarily the smartest, but they are the most committed – they persevere.” As I think about the next two years of course work, another 2 years of dissertation research and writing and however many years to follow to potentially being in a new work environment I recall being told time and time again about how many people start doctoral programs and the subset that complete them. I will readjust my perseverance hat as much as I need to, but ADB (all but dissertation) is not an option. 

And finally, I am reminded to stay in my lane: what would I like to gain from this experience? What classes would I like to take? What are my career goals and what are my dreams for what will follow? As it so quickly happened last week, moving forward to I am working earnestly to focus on what it is that I want to achieve and the dreams that are deep within my heart. 

With that, I prepare for my 2nd week of class just a tad bit more excited than last week ;-).