When I was in my late 20s, I had fleeting visions of wanting educational degrees, in particular, a Ph.D. I say fleeting because I was raising a family and there was no way I could be on a college campus, let alone have a way to pay for it. This was the time period before affordable computers for individuals and before the Internet became public.
It was an idea so far out of my reach that it was an impossible dream. At that time, my education consisted of an executive secretarial certification from a business university—one where I would later in life find a career as a teacher. An irony not lost on me.
On June 29, 2013, at the age of 62, I walked across the stage and was hooded for a Ph.D. I was an English professor, overseeing two campuses at the time. In earlier years, I’d overseen three different locations, spending a lot of time traveling, in addition to teaching, and overseeing a dozen or so adjuncts at these locations.
It was my employer who had propelled me toward the degree and had paid for its tuition. How could I not want to achieve that goal with that kind of help? It was a win-win for me and for them. In exchange, I couldn’t leave their employment for five years, a price I was willing to pay.
Now that I had the Ph.D., along with my MFA, I felt secure in my career, and the university wanted me to publish. The problem was I wanted to focus on both creative writing and academic writing but I didn’t have time for both. I had to choose.
My gut told me to go with creative writing, and it was my first choice, but would the university agree? After a brief discussion, my supervisor agreed with me, saying the MFA and my previous publications created a more natural path for me. She supported me in that decision.
Life events kept getting in the way of doing that writing, however. After being involved in a 22-car pile up on the highway while traveling from one campus to another, I sent a request out into the Universe. My request was, I want writing time but where I’m allowed to live comfortably enough without horrific sacrifice.
It was late fall 2014 when I made that request.
As was happening with many colleges and universities, student enrollment was dropping and had been every year for several years. Fewer classes got offered. I watched as an organizational restructuring took place. I’d seen it happen a few times in my twelve-year employment with them and with every restructure, jobs would disappear.
The last big restructuring had taken place a few years earlier where they shut down several of the smallest campuses. We knew the Battle Creek campus would be next, and then our Kalamazoo campus after that.
Those campuses residing in community college environments were becoming partners with those community colleges. We could see the writing on the wall for Kalamazoo. By late spring 2015, we figured we had only a year left. As summer progressed, we were confident we’d be closed at the winter Christmas break. We were prepared.
Late June 2015, a meeting with all the senior administration occurred. Not usual for that time of year as we prepared for another year. A couple times a year such meetings would take place. We figured this would be the talk for the winter closing.
What some of us didn’t know is that day would be our last.
I was taken into a room with a senior human resource official. I was informed that I was being let go as they were shutting down our campus for all classes that fall. The core administrative staff was moving to another location and classes would be held on the community college campus. We were six weeks away from classes starting. When I left the room, I would have 10 minutes to gather my things and could arrange to come back later to collect anything else.
I sat there, in my usual stoic manner, thinking it all through.
I wasn’t stunned at all. Just merely surprised that we hadn’t guessed correctly.
And then I realized. I had asked for this. I said the words aloud. The HR official’s expression was one of surprise. Great surprise. “You’re not angry?”
“How can I be when I asked for this?” I told her of my fall request, saying this was the Universe answering that request. She was astonished and I could tell that she was also relieved that she wasn’t having to deal with anger, resentment, or frustration.
The good news was my Ph.D. was free and clear of any indebtedness. A big win for me.
As I collected my things, I wondered what I was going to do. Where I was going to live? How I would support myself until I could officially retire, something I didn’t want to do until I turned 66.
That’s when I heard my little voice say, Don’t worry about it. It’s going to be okay.
Having trusted that little voice in the past, I knew it spoke a truth that I couldn’t comprehend yet.
In the coming months, I was to find out.
Stay tuned for “The Power of Visualization, Part III.