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And then there was one… student loan

A diversion from my normal music related blogs to discuss this milestone. I was notified by my lender that one of my student loans had been paid in full, leaving one final loan, (which should get paid off within the year). We used to joke about whether I would clear this debt off by the time I retired. I guess now we know.

For a moment I slipped back in time. It was 2004. I was feeling a bit like I was in a dead end at work. I was doing fine – you certainly couldn’t say I wasn’t successful, but I kept feeling like I wanted something more. I was looking for another challenge. I had been kicking around the idea of going back to school for a doctorate degree, but I had my doubts. It had been almost a decade since I had earned my master’s degree – could I handle the course load while also working full-time? I wasn’t sure.

And then of course, how to pay for it. I knew some that had the luxury of taking a sabbatical from work and knocking out a PhD program in a couple years. That wasn’t an option. If I was going to do it, I would need to keep working full-time. And paying for it would mean more student loans. And it turned out – a pile of them.

The other unknown was that simply getting a PhD was no guarantee of career success. I might earn it and remain right where I was.

In the end I decided to bet on myself.

It turned out to be a good bet. If you have that kind of time and a bunch of money burning a hole in your pocket, I highly recommend it. The faculty talked about the “process of becoming doctoral. I wasn’t sure what that meant. But I sure learned. Learning to think and write more critically has paid dividends with my career and with how I view the world. I have become more aware. Probably mostly of what I don’t know.

I was on the long program. I eventually figured out that I could handle two course per semester while working full-time. But it was tough. There were many long days and missed family events. It seemed like every moment I wasn’t at work I was reading or writing something related to a class. I passed my comprehensive final exam on the first try. I had a few hiccups getting started on my dissertation, but eventually completed and defended it. I was now Dr. Gray!

And completing the degree did lead to more career success in my day job – which affords my passion for my night job (writing, playing, and producing music). I have been more successful than I could have imagined. I’m the sort that just takes one day at a time and keep plugging away. That’s why I often say I “accidentally” completed my PhD. I wasn’t trying to complete a PhD – I was trying to get through the next class. And nobody had the good sense at the school to kick me out!

And now there is only one loan left – with a few years to spare before I retire from the day gig.


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