Now What?

As my life as a graduate student comes to an end, I am surprised to find myself in my current mental and emotional state.  I fully expected to be overjoyed, bouncing off the walls and brimming with excitement, but so far I just feel tired (and many of my classmates have mirrored this sentiment)! 

Perhaps I need a few more days to let it sink in that I have achieved this major accomplishment.  Not that I am so much smarter now that I have a master's degree (though, let's be honest, I am), but I have reached the finish line in a long race.  I have written thousands upon thousands of words and read even more in case studies, compiled projects and participated in what seems like countless academic discussions.  I have become a little more of who I am as a person, as a student and most of all, as a leader.  As different theories have resonated with me, I can feel that I am truly better equipped now to move forward in my career.

But at the same time, my academic pursuits have been a security blanket.  An excuse for me to be at home.  An excuse not to risk my time or my money on different types of goals.  An excuse to turn down uncertain opportunities with a casual, "Oh, I can't right now, I'm in grad school."

How many times have I uttered those words?

And in truth, I have been in school while working full time for the past seven years.  While my undergraduate work was less time consuming, it was no less an excuse and a security blanket.  And so for the first time since my mid-twenties, I have an abundance of free time. 

Now what?

I have wisely, I believe, taken some time to rest.  And for me, rest rarely involves sleeping or idleness.  The past two weekends I have walked many miles, enjoying the heat and the sun, thinking this very question to myself.  And in my imagination I have found many old dreams and goals that I now intend to dig out, dust off and devote myself to with the same enthusiasm and diligence that I have to my other pursuits.

I want to write another book.  I want to learn to (finally) play my guitar competently.  I want to travel somewhere entirely by myself and experience what that feels like.  I want to teach others.  I want to learn new things about life, not theories in a book and not even about work, but the sweeter things of life that make it worth living.

I get to add the letters MSM behind my name, and that is a great thrill to me.  Greater still is the thrill of filling my time with new adventures, investing in my family and my friendships, and chasing always after new and different goals.

I have succeeded in my goal, only to find that is the beginning again.