What's changed? My ability to schedule in family time and bits of fun around work and school work improved, although I will not claim perfection by any means. But, overall I settled into the new schedule; however, that happened in large part due to my perspective change.
I always thought I'd get my PhD as a career step, taking me to the place I've been working towards all this time: professorship. The final means to the final end. That might be the case one day, but it's no longer a certain goal. As I've worked, cried, and dragged myself through this first semester I've realized differently.
This journey is a dream realized, but it is not the destination.
This journey is going to change me like no other journey has. It's going to force me to face my weaknesses and broken parts and learn to live in them and through them, changing what needs to change to come out a stronger and better person than when I started. Deep? It was a crazy "Whoa" moment when it came to mind, so yea, I'd say so, but also not surprising.
I should know by now that it's always about the journey. When one ends another begins and so we are always living in an opportunity of personal betterment, if we're willing to see it.
I was not willing to see it for the first half of this semester. The work was immediately challenging and forced me to set boundaries on my time and energy. To do well, I had to change the routines I'd been living in (basically doing whatever I wanted to) for years. I felt left out and lonely on a journey that no one around me had taken before - so that even in the good moments I didn't feel anyone could share my joy. Because of that I tried to keep my schooling separate from the rest of my life and often found myself silent among people or avoiding the topic because my schooling is my life right now. I avoided the FB newsfeed to avoid the empty hole ache of what felt like friends enjoying life without me and spending time with their families while I had to limit my own. I felt guilty over the choices I made to balance my schooling with work and family. Feeling completely dumb, I kept wondering why something I wanted so much was so difficult?
I felt God had given me the desire of my heart and then left me there to struggle through it. Dramatic? May seem so, but anything life changing has the ability to turn you upside down and inside out, while appearing completely normal to everyone else.
Fortunately, I do have family and a couple friends who allow me to vent and babble my way through the emotion and revelations until it's all sorted in my head. Also, I read a few books over the summer whose lessons kicked in for me on a level I hadn't foreseen. One of my beloved authors, Lysa TerKeurst, states best what I've learned about this journey so far in her book Uninvited:
To be set aside is to be rejected. To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.
Embrace the preparation today. And remember you are 'set apart' beautiful one. Chosen. Adored. And reserved for a high and holy calling."
This...now...is the preparation for something else. God has not left me high and dry, He has set me apart. This is time to wait but also time to grow. If I put in the time now, seeking all God has for me on the other side, all the hardship and change will be put to good use - the best use as only God can manage. I don't know exactly what awaits on the other side of my next four and a half years of schooling. I am content to know I am right where God wants me and that He will guide my steps. I need only keep my focus ahead and remember He has me set apart for a higher purpose.
Wherever you are today, I encourage you to stop and ask God "Why am I here and what would you have for me?" He may encourage you in the direction you're already headed; He may surprise you with a turnabout; He may ask you to keep waiting on Him. Whatever the answer trust in it and keep at it!