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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.