For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of only two things:
The ocean, and the death of someone I love.
I am constantly perplexed by the fear of others.
Public speaking = no problem!
Starting a new business = fun!
Signing up for a spartan run or taking a flamenco class = let’s do it!
What I’m saying is that I don’t struggle with fear or trepidation. I don’t often feel fearful or queasy when asked to try something different. In fact, it invigorates and intrigues me, to be put into situations that oppose my norms. I learn so much about myself and others – and often come away from the experience learning something completely unexpected.
And then I applied and was accepted to a Masters program.
As I’ve mentioned before, last Spring I decided to finally indulge my extreme fascination with history, and apply to be a candidate for a MA in American History. Of course I felt excitement, exhilaration and happiness during the application and acceptance period. It’s all fun and games when you are thinking about the possibilities. I’ve been an “armchair historian” for quite some time – talking off the ear of anyone who will listen about the Civil War and the demise of the Confederate Army, or the positioning of the United States in the Vietnam War, and the contentious feelings still held regarding , or the many reasons (dating back to the 1930s) why evangelical Christians might vote for a Republican candidate and how that effects public policy…..
You get the picture.
It’s all fun and games when projecting your love of a subject. It’s all fun and games during the application process and when you get that fun acceptance letter confirming, “Yeah! You’re good enough!”
And then the rubber meets the road.
I’m about seven months into my program and moving through my third course. As you can see, I’m taking the slow approach – I have three daughters who I homeschool, after-all, and I want to be both successful at that job and my attempt at higher education. I’m not in a hurry. In fact, I’m intentionally moving slowly through the entire thing. This is so unlike my normal attitude toward almost EVERYthing. I usually jump headfirst into projects, ideas and plans. I attack, go for it, and never look back. I never feel fear.
After my second course, I had great academic standing within the program and felt really good about the work I had presented. I decided to take off a term because it was smack in the middle of the holiday season. Classes began mid-September and lasted through the first weeks of January. I ducked out of that term and instead started back up yesterday.
I thought that I was being honest with myself and wise to step back during a particularly busy period of our family life, and I was. I don’t want anything to do with anything that is going to force me to compromise my sanity or family time….BUT.
As I sat down to begin my course yesterday, I suddenly identified a feeling in my gut that I hadn’t identified before, but has been there all along. It is uncommon and unfamiliar. It is hindering me from really diving in to the class discussions and required texts.
I am afraid.
This is new to me.
I hate being this honest, but I will be. I sit in these classes with fellow students and professors that have multiple doctorates. They are published historians. Many of the students are acquiring their second and third Masters. Most of the students are fresh out of college so they are familiar with the academic world. In this program, I am being thrown into the ring and expected to just swim, when the entire idea of research proposals and papers is a wildly new concept to me – I spent three hours just figuring out how to cite a source one Saturday. This was after staying up one entire night, writing a paper and working with a writing tutor just to make sure it was “academic” enough. I’m a homeschooling mom of three that hasn’t been in a college setting since 2002. I graduated with a Liberal Studies degree and thought I would head out to teach 2nd grade. Now I’m throwing my hat into the ring with historical scholars and current students who have dedicated much time to the current area of study. I feel unqualified. I feel small.
Here’s the thing. Before you tell me I don’t “need” this degree to be qualified as a lover of history – I know that, and thank you, truly. I love history and this degree is something I want. I really do. I anticipate the many ways that the Lord may use this degree in my life. I also know that I could go my entire life without going back to school and love history just as much as the next guy. It doesn’t make me better or worse, necessarily. I am endeavoring to pursue this because I really, really desire it and think the outcome can be used for good.
I feel tremendous fear because I am in a unique position where I am a very, very, very little fish in a enormous, brilliant pond. I read the books my professors have written and see the discussions that my colleges are posing and I’m all…..”Can I submit a GIF for my next paper?! Thanks!”
It’s a new thing for me, fear. It’s good, too. It’s humbling me and allowing me to work even harder. As I’m reading my course text, I literally FEEL my brain stretching. Text I would never have been challenged to pick up – pushing and pulling my brain to think differently about the area of history, the job of a historian, and my duty as a student of the past. It’s all good. I’m grateful for this opportunity.
But, I have fear.
I’m scared I will fail, or not finish.
I’m scared of being the last in line.
I fear falling on my face, and getting a proposal back with a huge F on the front.
I fear that I won’t be able to hang with the big dogs. That academia is simply not for me.
BUT….I’ll keep pressing forward….
Because I’ll never be afraid of trying.
(how’s that for being honest?)