I am about to quit my job before jetting off to Alaska followed by Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for vacation – for a dose of the untamed wilderness followed by sunbathing in an exotic locale.
After a month unconcerned by work or following a rigid schedule, I’ll be hitting the books or rather, newsroom, for a 9-month master’s program in journalism at the University of Southern California.
Attending graduate school was a decision that I flip-flopped on many times in the last few years, oftentimes resolving to go for it when at my most lost or confused.
With the expert training, resources, and network, it seemed like a sure springboard to my dream career… at a very steep price.
Being economically mindful and knowing other routes could deliver me to the same end result, I could not justify spending the money and amassing debt to haunt me for decades to come.
I chose a much cheaper alternative – enrolling in a TV news and production class at Cal State Long Beach as well as a TV news writing class through UCLA extension – costing me around $1500 total.
This year, I spent at least three months running around like a chicken with its head cut off, attempting to milk my classes for all they were worth, while balancing a full time job.
I felt gratified and encouraged by the portfolio that sprung from my efforts, which I intended to leverage in order to obtain an entry-level position or internship in TV news.
I had written off graduate school… until I got an offer I couldn’t pass up.
A bit late in the game, USC drastically upped its original scholarship offer to encompass the 36 units of tuition required to graduate, all fees including health insurance, along with a monthly stipend.
I was stunned when I got the e-mail and drove to work crying, feeling as though an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and mind-blown by how things had worked out.
It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.
I have fantasized about graduate school — spending full time honing my skills in what I am most passionate about and taking full advantage of my education unlike my very lackadaisical approach to my undergraduate years.
The steep price caused me feelings of regret that I hadn’t figured things out earlier on, taking advantage of my time in college.
I even mused — What if I had been born into a rich family, for whom financing a graduate education was no problem?
I don’t think that graduate school is an absolutely necessary step and I believe I would have accomplished my goals regardless.
It’s the experience that matters — I relish the opportunity to intensively hone my craft full time with a network of like-minded individuals and expert guidance.
However, there’s no denying furthering my education at USC is a solid stepping-stone in my efforts to evolve into a serious journalist capable in covering urban affairs, business, politics, and international affairs, etc.
I would ultimately like to report on issues of critical importance to Americans’ lives, committed to making the world a better place, especially for those on the margins of society.
Furthermore, I would like to serve as a correspondent and anchor in a visual medium.
My vision is a result of a period of intense soul searching, during which my career was in a state of limbo.
Financial security and stability were such strong desires of mine post-college, that I found career paths in finance or technology suddenly very attractive.
I felt suspended between the promise of a lucrative future that it seemed other career paths could offer versus what burned in my soul and ignited the spark in my being.
Something eventually pushed me over the edge, to a firm belief that life isn’t worth living unless you pursue your dreams — that I would rather die working in an office crunching numbers as opposed to following my calling.
While in a much much better place than two years ago (six months unemployed, on food stamps), I am grateful for the early struggles, as I developed a sort of humbleness through them that I feel is essential to happiness.
Realizations that superficial achievements do not make one person better than another and that they do not define who we are.
Life is not about what we achieve, but about living in the moment and soaking in its full essence, as every day is a gift and tomorrow/the future is never guaranteed.