Category Archives: family

Yes, it was worth it

Last weekend, I traveled back to Missouri to attend my Master’s graduation ceremony and to celebrate with friends and family. At the same time, my email has been bombarded with requests for articles on “Why getting your degree is overrated,” and “Is it really worth it to get your graduate degree?” At first glance, it seems like most people take the stance that the financial commitment outweighs the benefits such a degree can offer. Yet, I find myself taking a different view-point. Sure, it takes considerable financial investment, but there are numerous advantages to getting your graduate degree.

For me personally, getting my Master’s widened the job pool for positions that I wouldn’t have even been able to apply for if I hadn’t gone to graduate school. In the three years it took me to finish the degree, I obtained a Director-level position and more than doubled my salary. I know this isn’t true for all fields (for example, the wage you receive in a non-profit with a bachelor’s degree isn’t all that varied from what you’ll receive with a Master’s degree), but generally speaking I believe you have to spend money to make money.

However, there are a lot of non-financial benefits that perhaps, given their pricelessness, outweigh the financial benefit. Not only did I get to become an expert in a field that I love but I gained a skill set I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to master on my own. Sure, I love data analysis and I’m good at program evaluation but I wouldn’t have known how to design research studies or know how to prove or disprove that programs are in fact making a difference in the lives of the people they’re intended to affect. I learned an invaluable skill set that not a lot of people are trained in, which makes me a critical asset to the field I work in. No one can ever take that away from me. I guess what they say is true: knowledge is power.

In the end, choosing to get your graduate degree is a personal decision, but for me, it was totally worth it. In a sense, I understand how it can be a bit overrated but I also don’t think we should dissuade people from bettering themselves career-wise. I had never been more proud of myself walking across that stage to receive my diploma. It was empowering and my commitment to the program has had such a positive impact on my life. Even though I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement of friends and family, it reminded me that hard work and tenacity pay off. I loved being able to share that feeling with those who I care about most. Here are a few photos of one wild and crazy night, although it doesn’t encompass everyone I got to see (still waiting to get photos from others!).

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Congratulations to all the other graduates out there and for those still in their program, keep on keeping on!

On a completely unrelated note to this post, I am writing an article on what’s different about dating in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. I created an anonymous survey and it’s short (5 questions)! Please take a moment to provide your feedback here. The more responses, the better the insight, the better the article!

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Filed under family, friends, graduation, photos, school

Good riddance, 26!

I often put puzzles out on the filing cabinet that sits outside my office at work. I also have a white board hanging there, both of which I use as a means of engagement with my coworkers. Puzzles are fun for breaks and what I put on the white board varies by the day. Anything from “What are you grateful for today?” to “Goals for the week” to “Let’s play hangman!” It’s a fun way for me to foster a positive work environment and if you’ve ever worked in state government, you know we could use a little light-heartedness at the office.

I’ve had a running countdown in the corner of the white board since January, keeping my coworkers guessing for months what it could possibly mean. This week they finally figured it out. What was the countdown for? My 27th birthday, of course!

April 30 is a day I’ve been looking forward to pretty much since the day I turned 26. FINALLY, I get to kick my 26th year to the curb. Sianara, sucker! Good riddance! Adios! I most certainly will NOT miss you!

I started out 27 by spilling coffee all over my shirt but coworkers were quick to the rescue with tide-to-go pens and shout wipes (I should really start carrying those) so it turned around quite quickly. Everyone has made my birthday feel special – from sending flowers and cards to taking me out for lunch to sending me loving and thoughtful messages. But the best birthday present of all?! The birth of my nephew, Sawyer Dean. It is so cool to share a birthday with him!

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Even though 26 was a trying year and I’m happy I never have to live it again, I learned some not-so-bad things too.

What I Learned About Life
Everyone, everywhere basically wants the same things: to love and be loved in return; to be joyful and happy; to feel like we belong; to have a sense of purpose that is greater than ourselves; to feel validated; to have a sense of security; to have enough money to enjoy things beyond our basic needs.

It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or who I talk to, it seems like this is always what my conversations circle back around to. Early on in my twenties and up until this past year I was fairly ignorant about that. I thought that no one else could possibly understand what I felt or what I was going through or the things I desired. I was wrong. And at some level, in the back of my mind, I already knew this. But now, I know for sure.

What I Learned About Love
I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to about love in my 26th year. I couldn’t possibly list them all here but what sticks out to me the most is this: at 26 I realized people do things to each other all the time that are awful, disappointing, and devastating. The way I was treated and the things that happened to me at the hands of someone else were flat-out cruel and deeply traumatizing. I don’t know why what happened to me did. But it did. It happened. And even though it makes no sense to me and I don’t have the answers to all the “whys” I can at least acknowledge that despite its horror, it transformed me (and for the better).

Now, at 27, I realize people also do things to each other all the time that are beautiful, uplifting, and genuine.

What I Learned About Myself
Put simply: I am brave, courageous, strong, and willing to both challenge and question myself. I am worthy of good things happening to me.

What I Learned About Work
In December 2014 I accepted my dream job. Six months later I quit.

I am unwavering in the values and beliefs I hold about creating a positive work culture – it’s probably the number one thing I look for in an organization. When a leader does not share those same values and instead abuses their position of authority, it lights a fire so deep inside me. I didn’t know this about myself until I actually experienced it.

I was fortunate enough to work for someone who became like family in the 4 years prior to accepting this particular position. With affection, we called her Mama Bear because she was fierce and firm in protecting us. If you find yourself in a situation where your supervisor does not do this and instead treats you like less than a human being, please stand up for yourself. Their authority does not give them the right to abuse you or your coworkers. No job is worth creating unhappiness in your life.

What I Learned About Family and Friends
I’m quite honestly horrible at keeping in touch regularly with my friends and family. We may only talk every couple of months but if any of us are suffering or hurting there is no doubt we will come out of the woodwork in waves to lift each other up.

I spent a long time presenting one face to the world, which had little resemblance to who I was at home alone. In fact, I was a skilled magician creating an illusion where people only saw what I wanted them to see. When that mask came off I shouldn’t have been surprised to see how many people loved and cared about me. But I was. They are the most important in my life. I didn’t fully realize how much until I hit rock bottom. I have mad love for you guys!

What I Learned About Water Parks
Best way to celebrate your birthday. Ever.

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Filed under birthday, family, lessons learned, life lessons, love, photos, self-awareness, work

Getting all sentimental

I recently read somewhere that images last forever but minds don’t.

It makes sense we wouldn’t necessarily have the capacity to remember all that has happened in our lives. Plus, you would think that more recent events are more important to the here and now than something that happened years ago. Of course, there is a sense of nostalgia that comes with being able to recall our past.

I had been wanting to go through old family photos in hopes of jogging some memories between the ages of 7 and 13. For whatever reason, I have vague memories during this time period and I find it frustrating at times to not be able to recall that part of my life. I even get a tad envious of my friends and family who are able to recall stories of their adventures and misadventures during their younger years fairly easily.

So, on a mission, I went home last weekend and enlisted the help of my parents to sit down with me and go through a number of boxes filled with what was probably thousands of photos. And boy did we find some gems!

What I loved most about going through the photos was being able to share some old memories. I particularly enjoyed seeing pictures and hearing stories of my parents, aunts, and uncles growing up. It seems like we have such a limited view of our parents as only having existed from the time we were born. We forget they had this whole other life before us and went through the same awkward stages, fashion faux pas, and heart breaks we did.

While I wasn’t able to recall much from the time period that feels lost to me my parents were able to fill in the gaps. Although it’s disappointing to not remember that part of my life, going through the photos gave me a greater appreciation for my family and along with it some sentimentality. It doesn’t matter how much time passes by photos will always be there telling a story – of a person, a scene, or of a family. We may think they are lost forever but they can certainly live again.

This is my momma. The only red head out of  six kids we often joke she is the mail man's daughter. I have a striking resemblance to her even now.

This is my momma. The only red head out of seven kids we often joke she is the mail man’s daughter. I bear a striking resemblance to her even now.

I treasure this photo from my first communion. My great grandmother is standing to my right and my great aunt stands to my left. Both have passed away. My great cousin (if that's the word) is on the far left and has dementia.

A little fuzzy but I treasure this photo from my first communion. My great grandmother is standing to my right and my great aunt stands to my left. Both have passed away. My great cousin (if that’s the word) is on the far left and has dementia.

My grandparents and their kids on the family farm. My mom is on the far left.

My grandparents and their kids on the family farm. My mom is on the far right and I believe this was shortly after my big brother Brandon was born.

I so love this photo of me and my childhood dog, Bailey. She was in our family from when I was 5 until I was 20.

I so love this photo of me and my childhood dog, Bailey. She was in our family from when I was 5 until I was 20. Pets are like family. She saw me through my teen angst.

My grandfather passed away when I was 13 and it was probably the first major depressive episode I went through. Few photos exist of us two but he was my favorite person ever. He had the biggest belly and I used to hug him, my arms barely reaching around his stomach. He had a deep hearted laugh that I still remember to this day.

My grandfather passed away when I was 13 and it was probably the first major depressive episode I went through. Few photos exist of us two but he was my favorite person ever. He had the biggest belly and I used to hug him, my arms barely reaching around his stomach. He had a deep hearted laugh that I still remember to this day.

Always a rock star!

I still break out these dance moves. Always a rock star!

 

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