My Second Graduation
For the second time, I have completed my undergraduate degree, in the same program. As I wrote about here, I received a bachelor of arts in gender studies last spring after four years of university. Only, in order to receive that degree at that time, I actually cut a year off of my studies. My program was originally listed as a bachelor of arts with honours, with a major in gender studies and a minor in history, but because I thought I wanted to be finished and that I didn’t care about having an honours degree, I graduated a year early (in my case) with a degree that specified a general in gender studies. And it never felt right. The thing was that gender studies, while challenging and ever-thought provoking, complicated, and complex, came to me quite naturally. Thinking through feminist lenses about issues of race, class, gender, sex, sexuality, patriarchy, etc. made sense to me, and once I got a firm grasp on critical thinking, I took off. History, however, didn’t quite come that way. I didn’t take my first history elective until second year – The History of Modern Europe. And thus, a spark was lit. The amount of dorky excitement I got over those moments when you suddenly link a current event to a historical one was undeniable. I made history my minor and took the classes purely out of self-interest – that is – I was never planning to teach. Once I hit my stride in studying history and understood the subjectivity of it all (the realization that history is not all ‘objective fact’ but subjective stories told by people from particular points of view and under particular influences), I was able to apply my critical thinking and feminist lens to the study and I really took off. BUT – it was never easy. Nothing about the study of history, for me, was easy. It did not come with the ease that gender studies did. My history minor meant studying my ass off for tests and exams (of which there are few in gender studies), remembering dates and names, and connecting those to events and times and politics and situations and theories and schools of thought. The bottom line is, I worked damn hard for my history minor and the fact that it was not written on my degree (even though it remains rolled up in a cardboard tube) left me feeling like I had unfinished business. This, on top of the fact that I didn’t find full time or part time work that would pay my bills, led me to enrol for my honours year and complete the degree program I had originally set out to complete four years earlier.
I’ve been officially finished for about a month now and the feeling is completely different. I got to take some awesome courses that I’d been trying to get into for years and I exercised a degree of freedom in my academic writing that was refreshing and, at times, a little scary. I was even invited to apply for grad school by a brilliant gender studies professor. When I pick up my new degree in November and maybe purchase myself a keepsake from the gift shop, it will reflect all of the sweat that went into getting it. I feel complete and I feel ready to move on.
A New Chapter
Having finished my undergraduate degree for good, not only am I starting a new chapter of this life, but I am starting it by taking on two completely new jobs that I have little-to-no experience in. The most significant is a faculty position at a college that was bestowed upon me by a retiring faculty member who I know personally (which seems to be the way that all part-time faculty positions are filled at this particular college). On September 9th I will officially begin teaching a genealogy course for all levels called Digging For Ancestral Roots. (Note in the section above that I did not mention any study in genealogy or teaching!) It is a part-time position and the course is completely online, AND I’M GOING TO BE A TEACHER. In the recent weeks leading up to September I have been working away to familiarize myself with the material and rewrite documents to bring everything up to date. Needless to say, it’s all been a little overwhelming.
The other position I’m taking on is a part-time job with a big, corporate book retailer. While the position itself doesn’t worry me, the corporate retailer aspect makes me a little bit nervous because it’s not a world I’ve spent much time in, not to mention moral objections to many aspects of working for a corporation. But otherwise, more than being a big new responsibility, the fact that I am starting this week, right in the middle of preparing the course and juggling shifts at the shelter, where I still do relief work, is taking some getting used to.
In all honesty and without a shred of doubt, none of these transitions would have been positive for me (or the people around me) without the ability to ground myself. And that ability has come from my daily yoga practice and daily, endless support and love from Mr. W. Since May 15th I have worked to cultivate this daily practice of yoga asanas as well as to incorporate the yamas and niyamas into my everyday and I have experienced a new degree of self control. This is not to say I haven’t had bad or hard or just shitty days, but I have continued to find my way to my mat (almost) every day; to connect my feet to the earth; to connect by brain to my body for a period of self-awareness, focus, gratitude, and love. This practice paired with Mr. W.’s warmth, kindness, optimism, and hilarity has been a vehicle of sanity that I wouldn’t dream of trading in!
I’m ending this post with a picture in the spirit of optimism and openness, in joyful contrast to the picture that I left at the end this previous post about my terrifyingly unknown future :)
And so it goes!