My most recent life decision, explained

I recently got back to Washington from a very long, relaxing Christmas break. I spent a week in Missouri and a week in St. Thomas with my family over New Year’s.

The long break and time away lent itself to a lot of reflection on what I’m doing and where I’m headed. I had become really disillusioned over the last half of the semester with the master’s program I was in at GW and the classes I was taking and how they applied to what I want to do as a career. The more the semester went on, the more I realized that it was a more theoretical, scholarly program (actually much closer to a master’s in journalism than to an MPA) than the practical program I thought it was when I came to D.C. I kept telling myself that if I just held out and waited until I managed to get into the elective portion that it would get better and I could make the master’s what I wanted.

Then, over break, a couple job prospects opened up in Missouri that I wound up applying for. None of them ended up happening, but in the course of trying to decide how to make it work if I did get one of them, I realized just how much I wanted to be doing something different than what I was doing at GW. I still came back though, planning to stay if the jobs didn’t work out, because I figured that was the best backup plan. I thought maybe it would get better and I would be more content with the program and my classes.

But the opposite ended up happening. I got my syllabi for the semester and it turned out that the classes were more of the same — repeats of classes I’d already taken at Mizzou, and classes that weren’t relevant to my long-term goals. I realized that pouring more money into that wasn’t worth it. I came here to learn and to gain new educational opportunities that would build and expand upon what I’d done at Mizzou, and instead I felt like it was the same stuff being rehashed over and over again (like I said, it was more of a master’s in journalism than I’d anticipated).

I’d been looking into transferring to the Truman School at MU if I went back there and that became more and more appealing as they made it clear that the transfer process would be painless and seamless. I could even start in March if I wanted to, they told me, instead of waiting until June or August.

There are things I like here: My job, for one thing. Working at a small nonprofit advocacy group like the NTU made it clear that studying for a real MPA and in a program that emphasized nonprofit management (like I would have at MU or Pitt) was more relevant than the Media and Public Affairs program I’d gone into at GW. If I could stay at the NTU full-time, I totally would. But work is just a small part of the equation. I’ll definitely be trying to find a similar job in Missouri when I move back. I like my apartment, and living with Rebecca has been working out really well (aside from the Lake House, which was a much different kind of situation, Rebecca’s probably been the best roommate I’ve had so far). I like being touristy on the weekends and riding the Metro instead of driving and being so close to my parents (and Jewels) in Pittsburgh so I can go home on the weekends.

But school is the prime reason I came to D.C. It’s the biggest investment I’m making here, in every sense of the term. And the fact that school wasn’t working out made the whole equation of things that made it worth being in D.C. unbalanced, to make a horrible chemistry analogy. And so I made the decision to move back to Missouri and transfer to MU regardless of how the last viable job opportunity turned out.

I think this will be much better for me in the long run. I was planning to move back to Missouri anyway when I graduated from GW because that’s where “home” will always be for me (Pittsburgh fills the role temporarily also, but that’s another point) and I knew I would be happier there in the long run than in D.C. This just pushes that up a little bit and puts me into a situation that I think will be more valuable and enriching to me and my education.

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