This week was the first week of classes for the spring semester. I have two hybrid classes that meet Saturdays and online, and one class that meets entirely online. I will spend a total of 5 days on campus this semester, but those will be long (9a-4p) days of intense informational overloading. I will spend, on average, 20-35 hours per week on my computer working on school assignments or reading online information. That's in addition to about 10 hours a week of reading textbooks. Just in case you didn't think being a grad student was a full-time gig, heh. All of that's in addition to 15 hrs/wk of work for my job, and the countless, 'round-the-clock hours spent being a full-time Mom.
Yeah, I'm a busy gal when school's in full swing!
I was originally enrolled to begin classes the summer of 2010, but then I joined up with a local band and realized that one of the gigs on the band calendar directly conflicted with one of my mandatory Saturday classes, and I chose at the time to be in a band rather than be a student.
They say hindsight is 20-20, and now, looking back, I certainly wish I had chosen school over the band. I'd be finishing up this semester or next instead of just now getting to the meat of my Master's program. I'd have spared myself a lot of emotional pain and trauma if I'd gone the student route instead of the rock star route... But, then again, I'd have missed out on a lot of fun times and life-altering experiences. There's nothing quite like pouring your heart out to a roomful of strangers through song or having your name up on a casino marquis as the weekend's main attraction. If I had gone to school when I originally planned instead of trying my hand at the band business, I'd have never known what I was missing. I might have spent the rest of my life wondering... Now, I can say with certainty that I gave it a shot, and it wasn't for me.
Some people are suited for a life on the road, living paycheck to paycheck, feeding on the applause from the crowd and the free meal vouchers given as payment, but I'm much happier being rooted down, spending time with my family, and having a predictable day-to-day routine. I like that I wake up at the same time every day to put C on the bus, then I have each morning's routine, then I greet her bus again at noon. I like having due dates for school assignments, books to read on a predetermined schedule, and regular work to churn out for a paycheck. I LOVE sleeping in my own bed every night instead of shuffling from one hotel room to the next. One important thing to note, however, is that I didn't fully appreciate all of these things until I spent just over a year living an entirely different sort of life. I had to try out both to know without a doubt where I belong. I'm glad I can be so certain now.
This post is titled Perspective, but it's not just about perspective on my career path or the last year and a half. It's also about the perspective I'm given from my classes.
I'm studying to be an Early Childhood Special Educator. That means I'm being educated and trained on any number of disabilities and high-risk situations faced by children from birth through 8 years old. I'm also being educated on how children in this age range typically develop, when not affected by high-risk situations or disabilities. It's all very eye-opening, particularly in regards to my own life.
Having a child with disabilities and complex medical situations can be a real downer sometimes. It's easy to focus on how each day is more challenging or more expensive than it would have been if your child had been lucky enough to be born "typical." It's also easy to trick yourself into thinking you know all there is to know about life with disabilities.
One of the most important things I have learned from my graduate coursework is that I only know one tiny perspective. I know MY situation, but my situation differs greatly from that of every other parent out there, whether their child has any disabilities or medical challenges or not. I will never know what it's like to be the parent of a child with autism, no matter how much I study to better understand it. I will never know what it's like to be the parent of a toddler who is typically developing and going through the "terrible twos," because that wasn't my reality. I will never know what it's like to have a child with a life-threatening condition and live in constant fear that each moment could be the last. (Of course, I say I'll never know these things, but I plan on having one or two more children in the next few years, so maybe I'll get a glimpse into one of those other lives... You never know what life will bring!) I never thought I had all the answers to parenting or to parenting a child with special needs, but my classes are a constant reminder that I really don't even come close to knowing it all. They're a constant reminder that things could have been a lot better, they could have been a lot worse, or they could have just been completely different. My experiences, my challenges, my joys, and my overall perspectives... They're so tiny and isolated and unique. They are mine and mine alone, and they can't be compared to those of anyone else. It's so easy to close your mind to all the other lives around you, all the other ideas and perspectives... But I am fortunate to have regular and eye-opening reminders that my perspective is only one of millions. It's nice to be kept in check, forced to keep an open mind, and constantly challenged to try and see the world through another's eyes.
It's awfully nice to have perspective.