I have a group of students at the university who haven’t always taken a straight path to graduation. They’ve transferred schools, changed majors a few times, or in some cases, left school for many years before deciding to come back.
I recently read the reflection papers they submitted as part of their last course. Some wrote about their disappointments in getting poor grades or not getting accepted into programs they had their hearts set on. For many, this interdisciplinary studies degree was Plan B, or C, or D…
Here’s what one student wrote:
Let the learning and exploration take you on a path, instead trying to dictate it yourself. I immediately saw the correlation with my own academic career. I had been viewing my adult life as being on a “Plan B” path since I failed at becoming a teacher. However, I wasn’t weighing all the positive involvement activities I participated in, all the courses I did well with, and even all the learning that happened with courses I dropped. In my mind there had been no other option than to be a teacher or double major from a Wisconsin school. And there I was working as a development officer at a prestigious theater oblivious to how much my path had changed, how much I achieved, and most importantly, that that change was not a failure.
I left a variation of the same feedback for almost every student: “Your degree took you the time it was meant to take, and you were meant to be an interdisciplinary studies student.”
I have struggled with this concept myself at times — I have a plan for things and then feel disappointed when that plan doesn’t come to fruition. I have had to let go and realize there is something bigger going on.
I have a writing project that I have been working on since 1999. Yes, that’s right — almost 20 years. Sometimes I get impatient or down on myself, thinking thoughts like, if I were a better writer, I’d be able to kick this thing out. I see other writers who are so productive and produce a book a year. But quickly I try to banish those competitive thoughts. This book is taking a long time for a reason. It certainly has changed in the nearly 20 years I’ve been working on it, and I actually think the topic is more relevant than ever.
Is there a timetable you’ve struggled with? Have you been guided to a Plan B, a Plan C, etc., and now you understand the reason for the change?