Friday, August 14, 2009

The Story Behind the Story

I have always hoped that I would get a PhD eventually. My sister, Carol, would ask, “Ale, when are you getting your doctorate?” and I would say, “eventually.” I just didn’t know when it would really happen. I am married, raising a beautiful 8-year old daughter, making mortgage payments, working full-time, etc. How could I afford to pay for all my responsibilities? But the universe kept sending me messages in the form of live people, other than my sister, who kept asking me, “when are you getting your PhD?” When Dr. Brown asked me this question and then subsequently wrote me a reference letter, I knew this was going to happen and was meant to be.

I finally decided to apply last summer. I reassured myself, if I don’t get in, I’ll re-apply next year. If I do get in and can’t afford to attend, then I’ll try to defer enrollment and save up some money. I started by requesting a program brochure from one of my professional contacts at UCLA who also offered to introduce me to the director of the doctoral program (who became an ally and supporter in this process). I set about requesting my transcripts from every college/university I had every attended. I started on the application essay and compiling required documents. Things went smoothly and I was grateful for the the summer off to work on it. It felt a lot easier than the application I submitted to Berkeley for the MSW – then again, perceptions may be everything. I am a lot older (40!) and hopefully wiser now than I was then (25!).

Every step felt exciting at first – deciding to apply, working on the application, telling everyone my plans (Oh, no! What if I’m not accepted? Oh well, I’ll just re-apply until I am accepted. It took Arthur Miller three tries to get into grad school). Every step became a confirmation and encouragement to take the next. (Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. --Rev. Dr. M.L. King, Jr.).

Then my first real test of faith came. My part-time work leave request was denied and the UCLA deadline to submit my intent to register was April 15. So at 9 am on Monday, April 13, I completed the UCLA form online and before I pressed the "send" button, I paused and asked myself, even though my part-time leave request was denied and I don’t know how I will pay for school or replace my salary, I am still going, right? I did my part and God will figure out the next part, the how, right? The answer rang through my whole body and I pressed "send." This time I couldn’t see the next step but took it anyway and hoped it would be there when I set my foot down. At 11 am that same morning, my administrator called to tell me that my part-time leave request was being granted after all. My foot firmly landed on the next step, just in time. I almost cried right on the phone while sitting at my desk. It was a Thank You, Yesus moment – this is what my mom taught us to say whenever standing in the middle of a blessing.

I know people who consult readers and once a mentor kindly gave me a gift certificate to consult a reader. Only when I tried to fashion some questions for my reading, I kept getting stuck because it seemed that all my questions sounded like fear talking. Will I go back to school? What will happen? How will I pay for it all? I realized those questions are answered by faith. I don’t worry about the how, I choose to let God show me how.

Classes start September 24th. I am looking forward to the whole experience. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I began dating Chris, my husband, 18 years ago. Natural. Just right. No fear, no worries, no need for strategizing. This is going to happen. It’s only natural (like the Crowded House song that was popular then). Wow, this is really happening.

I received a fellowship that will pay for tuition and a quarterly stipend. I am working part-time – two days a week in the first quarter. After anxiously crunching numbers, comparing income and expenses (thank goodness for the expenses of a low-maintenance lifestyle) it looks like we are going to be ok. That is what I call a miracle, Thank you, Yesus and good night.

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