MALS and me: A retrospective

Today I will complete the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Duke University. This has been a long road. I started in the fall of 2004 – and a lot has changed since then. I have traveled to Africa 7 or 8 times, got a divorce, became a vegetarian, went to Oxford, changed jobs, got engaged…..geez. My MALS experience has been one of tremendous change. I don’t think the two are necessarily linked, but I do know that the more I learned, the more questions I had about the world around me. And I didn’t just ask the questions, I also sought out answers. This has been a tumultuous journey to say the least.

When I started the program in the fall of 2004, I was a little over a year into my marriage, struggling to find a path to adulthood. My then husband and I were in a beautiful home in North Durham (which I just googled only to find the house is on Countrywide's foreclosure list - that hurts a bit inside), he was working as an engineer for the State, and I was working as an assistant to a former US Ambassador. My travel to South Africa had awakened a curiosity I had about the world, and MALS provided a forum to explore new avenues and have new experiences. It was a tough adjustment. I had class one night a week for about 3 hours, and I had a lot of reading and writing to do. It took a few semesters before I was able to find a good habit of actually doing the work I needed to do and having the life I wanted to have.

And I don’t think I found a comfortable balance – for any of it at all. When I think back to those days, all of my insides sink a bit. In my search for meaning, I behaved selfishly and lost quite a bit of control. My head was in a constant whirl. My then husband, and subsequently my marriage, was an unfortunate casualty of my need to find meaning in my life and direction in my world (the ex husband is still alive and well – he’s found his counterpart in the world and has a little one now – he escaped my craziness rather unscathed). Notice the use of the word “my, me and I” here. It was the time of “me” and I still have a lot of unresolved feelings about the pain I caused to others, specifically the ex-husband and also my Mom, during that time. Not too long after our two year wedding anniversary, my husband and I split. It was like the whole world was spinning so fast I couldn’t keep up. In less than a week’s time, I went from sleeping with my husband, two cats and my dog in a beautiful 3 bedroom house to sleeping on the couch of my best friend’s townhome. A week after that, I slept in a small one bedroom duplex, sans the dog (I still miss my Maggie dog oh so very much) and husband, crying a lot and drinking too much – trying to figure out what the hell was going on in my world.

All that time, MALS was still there. I continued classes – I never missed a semester, and I stayed on track to complete the degree as fast as I could. In class, I could ask questions and debate with my classmates to find answers. In a world where I could find no answers at all, it was comforting to be surrounded by people asking questions, too.

MALS gave me the continued connection to Duke as a student, which would become very important for me. The MALS community is a great one, and I have made some of the best friends I have ever had because of this program. I met my bestest buddy, Lauren on the first day of MALS. I met several other people who were very close to me for different periods – some have gone their own ways for various reasons, and there are others I met part of the way through who have become important to both Mike and I in our lives today. MALS helped me make North Carolina home.

As I became a more active student, I took the position of representative to Duke’s Graduate and Professional Student Council. As long as those meetings were, GPSC will always hold an important place in my heart. For if it was not for GPSC, my friend Jeremy would have not met Stefan who then in turn would not have introduced me to Mike. It’s an important part of my life puzzle. If you want to know that whole story, you can ask me in person.

MALS gave me the opportunity to study abroad, which was something I wanted to do in college, but I just didn’t have the funds. Therefore in the summer of 2006, I was lucky enough to have enough vacation time saved up and enough cash in the bank to hop on a plane to Oxford and study creative writing for a month. I learned I am NOT a creative writer – it was actually embarrassing to have to read my work in the same room with some of the amazing writers from all over the world with whom I shared class time.

In the midst of all this, in September of 2005, I met Mike for the first time. We developed a strong friendship, and in January of 2006, he made the first move. Oh, he was bold!! Since that time, we have been together and very, very happy.

Anyway, it will be strange for me to not have MALS in my life anymore. It has been a constant amidst all the questions and turmoil in my life over the past 3.5 years. But, I have new constants – I have the best girlfriends in the world – I am truly lucky. I am engaged to marry a wonderful man – silly, incredibly smart, sociable, and amazing. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love them some Mike Brady! I am ready to walk out of MALS and walk into the new life that is currently in production. A lot will change for Mike and me over the next year. In August, we will be married. In the fall, he will go onto the academic job market. Soon after that, if all goes to plan, Mike will have a job lined up somewhere and we will probably be plotting a move to a university that has so graciously opened its doors to Mike’s fantastic teaching abilities. And hopefully soon after that, if not while all this is happening, we will begin a family of our own.

MALS has been a roller coaster – but it’s time to get off this ride and for Mike and me to start building our own. Thank you, everyone, who has supported me through all the crazy events over the past few years. It has been one hell of a trip – but I’m already packed up and ready for the next one. Let’s go….

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has it REALLY been 4 years?? It doesn't seem like that long to me, but then, I haven't been doing all the work. ;)

Congrats on completing such a huge phase in your life. Most people couldn't have survived ONE of those changes, let alone all of them at the same time.