The Master’s Plan

I have very few regrets in my life.  Very, very few.  I believe that mistakes and missed opportunities in our pasts help shape and guide us into our futures.  Regrets are just part of the plan.  But my one regret for the past ten years has been my Masters degree.

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My big plan in life was to go to law school.  Chris and I had planned that when we graduated from undergrad and were married, we would move to wherever I was accepted to law school.  And then, about four months before we graduated, Chris literally got a phone call from Yale University inviting him to apply for their graduate program on the very day that I received my first acceptance letter to law school.  The boy never even had to fill out an application.  After months and months of preparing for my LSATs and shipping off dozens of law school applications, I was baffled by the ease with which he just seemed to glide into the Ivy League world.  But I knew how hard Chris worked, and I was so proud that his efforts were being recognized.

Chris and I decided that my law degree could really be acquired at any point.  My LSAT scores could hold for a while.  A phone call from Yale University inviting you to attend would not wait.  We also knew that my work experience was extensive and my degree in English was fairly versatile, while Chris’s very specialized degree in technical theater was not.  I could bring home a steady paycheck without a Masters degree.  Chris most likely would not. So, we made the decision to postpone law school for me and to move to Connecticut for Chris to attend Yale.

While living in Connecticut, I began working in a law firm, as I always had.  I worked all throughout undergrad as a legal assistance and, later, as a legislative assistant during spring Session at the Florida State Capital.  I thought I would continue working in the legal and political field until Chris graduated, and then I could reapply to law school with even more experience under my belt.  But as I worked and he went to graduate school, I started to notice something significant about our lives.  For the first time in Chris’s entire life, he was on FIRE for school and the future.  While his passion for technical design and production was ignited in high school and fanned in college, it exploded in graduate school.  He was doing work that he was born to do.

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I looked around at my own career and realized that, while I had already been fairly successful for someone so young, there was no passion there.  I came home from work depleted and Chris, after working much longer hours than me, would come home from classes and productions energized and excited about whatever was coming next.

And that energy was contagious.

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Two years into our time in Connecticut, I realized that I didn’t want to go to law school anymore.  I wanted a career that brought me the same energy and enthusiasm as Chris had about his, and the legal field was not doing that for me.  I spent a few months trying to figure out what new direction I was going to take.  I thought about all the jobs and experiences I’d had in my life, and I realized that my happiest times were leading, teaching, and instructing.  I loved teaching Sunday school classes, giving tours at Florida State University, and helping freshman find their bearings in a new environment.  I loved the work I did with children as a Guardian Ad Litem in college, acting as child advocates for those kids who desperately needed a voice.  I loved mission trips with my church, where I taught vacation Bible school in other cities, states, and countries.  Finally, I realized I loved teaching.

I began looking around for a position at Yale, and was beyond blessed to find a job that gave me the perfect balance of the corporate life I was used to and the love of teaching and students that I craved. I took a position for a job I was NOT qualified for and a salary that made me cry when it was offered.  In fact, when the HR guy called and told me the offer, I had to ask him to repeat it twice and then I cried on the phone with him.  (True story.)  While at Yale, I noticed that everyone around me had a Masters degree, even people in positions lower than mine.  And I realized if I ever wanted to move through the ranks of higher education, a Masters degree was going to be necessary.  So, I applied and was accepted to a private university up the road from Yale and began working on my Masters in Leadership from Quinnipiac university.

It was the biggest regret of my life.

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Private universities are expensive, people.  In fact, when all was said and done, we almost owed more on my useless, unnecessary masters degree than we did on Chris’s masters from an Ivy League institution.  My decision to get a Masters degree had nothing to do with necessity and everything to do with pride.  And I would literally pay for my pride for years to come.

When we moved to Florida, the economy was still trying to come back from the 2008 recession, and I could not find a job at a university to save my life.  Chris had a new job at a regional theater as the production manager, but we couldn’t afford the health insurance and it barely paid the bills.  If it weren’t for the extreme kindness of my parents, we wouldn’t have paid the bills.  My anxiety about the future kept me up every night, and at the center of those thoughts was my useless masters degree.  At a time when we had not one penny to spare, we were shoveling out hundreds every month for a masters degree that did absolutely nothing for me.

I remember praying angry prayers during that time.  How had God let me get so far off course?  How had he let me drift into this awful place my family was in?  Why had he forsaken me?

I eventually took a position at a middle school where a friend taught, simply to pay the bills.  I had just discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant with Gracie, and we found ourselves in the worst position imaginable – pregnant without health insurance.  I felt bad, but I hid my pregnancy for months because I was so afraid they wouldn’t bring me back to teach the next year and we were desperate for a paycheck and insurance.  But God’s grace covered my doubt, and that’s how sweet Gracie got her name.

Year after year as I have taught, I have continued to be fulfilled, inspired, and ignited in my passion for teaching.  Had I known how much I would love being a teacher, I would have pursued it from the first day of undergrad.  It is my true calling in life.  And, let me tell you what it does for a family to have TWO parents in career fields that they are passionate about.  Chris and I come home happy and proud of our work we’ve done that day, and that satisfaction pours out into our home life, too.

In the past two years, I have taken on some leadership roles in my school and county.  Primarily with digital instruction, which makes me laugh because that darn, useless masters degree focused on digital education, of all things.  Turns out, it was kind-of-sort-of useful.  Though, still not vital to my career path and definitely not worth the money.  Anyway, as my leadership experience became more significant, I realized how much I enjoyed it.  Turns out, I like teaching teachers almost as much as I like teaching students.  And in the past six months, I have been tossing around the idea of eventually leaving the classroom to go pursue a principalship.

The process down that road is long.  It begins with a two-year leadership program through my county, which I’m okay with because that gives me at least two more years in the classroom and two more years to decide if I really want to leave the classroom.  But before the leadership program, there is the masters degree.

Always that damn masters degree.

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In Florida, you have to have a masters in Educational Leadership to pursue the administrative track.  My masters is in Leadership in Higher Education.  Most likely SOME of the classes would transfer, but not all.  And there was no way I was going to fork over MORE money for a masters degree that had become the bane of my existence.

But this summer, at the urging of my mother-in-law, a 25-plus-year veteran teacher, I sent my masters degree transcripts to the Department of Education to have them evaluated.  I figured I would see what was lacking towards the Ed Leadership masters.  I prayed over this decision for weeks.  I told God that if the DOE came back with more than two classes I had to take to complete the appropriate masters, then I would see that as a sign from him that this just wasn’t meant to be and I would very happily stay in the classroom.  But, if the DOE came back with two or less classes I had to take (and pay for…), then I would know that God was gently pushing me towards administration.

I sent my transcripts off in early June and have been waiting to hear whether my useless, unnecessary, prideful masters degree actually mattered.  I received my letter yesterday in the mail.

My entire masters degree is transferrable and I can now begin the long road of becoming a principal.

While the steps in my career are important, it is the grace and magnitude of God’s master plan that took my breath away.  I don’t know how it works, really.  I don’t know if God leads us to the places we are supposed to go, or if he goes with us down these paths we forge ourselves.  That’s the great mystery of faith, I guess.  But I do know this… God works all things for good.  ALL THINGS.  Even useless, expensive, prideful regrets.  He takes even those mistakes and turns them into intricate stepping stones on our journey.  That stupid degree that brought me so much anxiety and sleepless nights has become the bridge in my career, almost ten years later.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.  Morning by morning, new mercies I see.  All I have needed thy hand hath provided.  Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever leave the classroom.  Right now, I plan to complete the two-year leadership academy and then see how I feel about it.  But I know that no matter what comes – in two years or beyond – God is working all things for good in my life.  That’s his masters plan.

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25 thoughts on “The Master’s Plan

  1. Erin

    I’m so glad you shared this story! I love seeing God in action. 🙂

  2. Mama Lee

    I needed to hear this this morning, the reminder that God is the master planner and is working through everything. Thank you! And congratulations to you!

  3. Sarah H.

    What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing! Good luck!! You will rock it no matter what you decide!

  4. Christy

    You give me hope with these kind of posts. I’ve watched you successfully raise 2 kids while excelling in a career….this is one of the hardest things to do in this day and age. Sad but true. I too want to pursue this same route but after my second baby is born but I will be changing jobs. I have no idea how it will work out but it worked out for and you are thriving. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  5. Mariya

    How awesome that it worked out! Proud of you for working so hard and being brave. 🙂

  6. Diana

    I read your post and started crying because in 2012 I graduated with a PhD in Plant Biology and four years later it still feels like a total waste. I’m good at my job and it pays the bills, but I come home miserable every day because I don’t like what I do. And what really brings me joy is nutrition research / coaching / personal training and playing with babies. But I haven’t pursued that because I’m not ready to leave the financial security. And friends and family tell me it is silly to get a PhD and then walk away and I won’t know if I’ll be any good at my new job because I don’t have any experience in it. But I hope that some day I can find hope in your positive experiences and pursue something that brings me joy.

    Best of luck to you in your journey. I hope that the next step in your life is truly amazing and continues to bring you happiness.

  7. That is awesome! Love this testimony of God’s faithfulness. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Tori

    I love this! How wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Katie!

  9. Rachel

    This post gave me chills. Thanks for sharing & happy for you the degree transferred. =)

  10. I’m inspired. Your story is quite similar to mine and you may have actually provided a road map for how I can use my “useless” degree. It’s a Masters, in Education for Administration in Higher Ed. Thank you.

  11. Alicia

    Thank you for writing this! I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. I quickly realized while I was student teaching and absolutely miserable (literally almost failed my first student teaching placement and fought to get through my 2nd placement) that teaching just was not in the cards for me. Considering that I had dreamed of being nothing else for most of my life, I was pretty lost for a long time after I graduated. I decided to 100% step away from the classroom and I have never regretted it. I know people like yourself who have such a passion for teaching, education, and their students and I knew that I did not have that. I didn’t want a career that I dreaded every single day. I so love hearing stories of wonderful educators though because I feel like I can kind of understand what it took to get there and appreciate that they can do what I couldn’t. I have always been creative and I honestly still say that I would make an awesome teachers aid in a school if those jobs didn’t pay so horrible. ;o) So, I do creative things as my hobby and work in an office setting….just like I did in the Summers while I was in college.

  12. AydBee

    What a great testimony! An inspiring one at that. Faith is the one thing we can continue to hold on to in every situation and allow God to work amazing things in our lives.

  13. Carlene

    Ugh. I chose a private, super expensive college in Mobile right out of high school. Got almost done with my degree and BAM. Out of money, flat broke. In 2008. I felt so stupid. I had a 100% Bright Futures scholarship sitting there. Unused. All because I wanted to go to my fancy private school. I had to drop out. Biggest regret ever, I now wish I had taken out a student loan and pushed through. Went through a deep depression, had to move in with my parents in Pensacola. This all happened right around the time I got engaged, so the rumor mill went around that I dropped out of college and moved home because I wanted to be near my boyfriend (it was a 70 mile move, people), so I got more depressed and angry and embarrassed that my friends and family thought I’d put a boyfriend over my education. The whole experience was so horrible I completely lost my passion for education, and every time I’ve tried to go back to school I get embarrassed and sad all over again. Now I’m 27 with no bachelor’s degree and am JUST starting to get my passion back. Thank you for this article. I love reading your blog posts because they’re human. Sometimes it seems like the whole internet is Pinterest-perfect. Thanks for being real.

  14. Amy

    What a beautiful testimony to God’s work in your life. Thank you for sharing it with the world in this way, and I hope you share it in person with your friends and your church community- it truly is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Those of us who are faithful Christians, and those who aren’t, all need to hear stories like this over and over again.
    Also, apparently I don’t even need to hear the music to Great Is Thy Faithfulness to well up with tears! Just the lyrics to that powerful hymn are enough!

  15. Jenna

    I got chills reading this. And I actually, literally pray that someday I could work under a principal just like you. Kids will be blessed, no matter the direction you take!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story! God has a master plan for us, even though we might not be able to see it. I went to college and got my BA in communication studies and theatre, completely ready to teach speech in small town SD. My advisors discouraged a masters because I’d be “unhireable” in SD. I taught 2 years and hated it. I love to teach, I don’t like teaching high school when parents aren’t supportive. I ended up meeting my now husband online and moved 150 miles to be with him, in a much larger town and got the first job in education I could find at a private college in admissions. I hated admissions (sales calls), but found my passion in academics doing transcript evaluation. I loved it and stayed 10 years! We weren’t able to have kids, so when the private, regionally accredited, online college offered free tuition for their Masters in Mgmt. program, I went for it. I loved school! I loved getting my master, 1 class per quarter, over 4 years. After I started the first quarter, I got pregnant and just as my daughter was born, my mom passed away from cancer. I kept going, slowly but surely, accidentally getting pregnant again and having a little boy. But I keep plugging away. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Higher Education Mgmt. I realized how frustrated I was in my position as an Assistant Registrar, working for under-educated individuals who did not value my degree. On a whim I applied for job with my alma mater as a program coordinator and academic advisor and 6 months later was hired for the job. I’ve been in it for a year and I LOVE IT!! I come home energized and loving work. It’s flexible for my family life and I love to advise students. My masters degree was the turning point in my career and I am so excited to begin. I’ve recently applied for a higher ed. Leadership Academy and I look forward to where it might take me in the future. Thanks for sharing your story. We never know where our lives might take us, but we have to LIVE.

  17. Bess Wirht

    Congratulations! I have always thought you would make a wonderful administrator. I’ve always loved you perspectives on life, faith, and teaching (I teach 5th grade). You are a blessing to so many students, and if you decide to leave the classroom, you will be able to bless that many more with your leadership.

    I’ve just started my Masters in “Educational Leadership and Policy Studies” to maybe one day move into administration. I wish you the very best in this new chapter! God is with us, that’s for sure!

  18. I love this post so much! It’s amazing how things work out in the end. Thanks for sharing your story

  19. Sonya

    Oh Katie this made me cry happy tears for you! Congrats! When I was working on my Master’s and then an endorsement I wasn’t actually teaching in positions where I could use what I learned. I finally got there and using my degrees, but it was frustrating. Then there’s my husband who had a teaching degree and went back for a 2nd bachelors in accounting. His loans doubled after the 2nd time because even though he only got a 2nd bachelors we had to pay graduate tuition:( It was crazy!

  20. Patty Tillman

    You constantly remind me how much grander our Father’s plan is for our lives that we can ever dream. My own life has taken so many twists and turns and I look back now, in amazement, at how God’s hand was so clearly working in my life. God is good. all the time.

    Love,
    Your Proud Mom

  21. I’m sitting here crying; moved by your story and grateful that you shared it. My own frustrations and doubts about my Masters are entirely different, and yet your story resonates with so many of us because ultimately we all struggle with doubt, confusion, and regret. But the One orchestrates life knows the plans He has for us…. “Great is thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.” Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  22. Thank you for this beautiful story. I am always amazed at God’s amazing redemptive work.

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this!!! My husband and I are making lots of decisions right now that will affect the future of our lives and trying not to live in the regrets of decisions we made in the past regarding degrees and jobs and where we moved. It is so comforting to know that we aren’t the only ones who feel this way. And we will be covered by HIS grace as we pray and move forward. Thank you!!!

  24. […] really good read about regret, the big picture, and life coming […]

  25. Nigeria Simone

    So glad you wrote this. I’ve been questioning my faith because of something my dad (who isn’t Christian) said to me and it’s been hard pushing those thoughts away. A few seconds ago, I made a comments to myself that maybe He wasn’t real anyway. Then I read this. Can’t be a coincidence. Thanks Katie!

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