Why I’m Going Back to School at 32
So, I decided to go back to school. This time, I will be working towards my Ph.D. in Psychology. For some reason, a sense of calm washed over me since I made the decision. I took some time off and now I’m ready to get back into the fold. At my age, many of my friends have already settled down with kids. While I’m married, I am still free as a bird in that respect. So, I want to use my time wisely and continue to study.
Psychology saved my academic life once before. I took time off after Freshman year because of financial difficulties. Then I decided to take a different approach to my education, I pumped my breaks. Eventually, I found my confidence to re-enter the fray. My first college degree was an Associate’s in Psychology. Who could have guessed a Black woman who started her career in a 2-year degree program would end up with the whole pie? I certainly didn’t. There were some dark times, like when I failed my math class after losing a close friend. Grief made me drop my responsibilities like a hot plate. But, we all fall from time to time. I chose to get back up.
Psychology, as in all fields of science, helps us to understand the world a little better. I think I love the humility involved in research. It’s not about knowing everything, trying to know everything, or being right. Science is about having the bravery to be wrong. It’s only when we get back up that we can see falling as a necessary evil. Studying human behavior has improved my life but I’ve always longed for more. That’s why the Ph.D. program makes sense for me. It’s my way of diving deeper into a subject I love, while also opening doors that would have previously shut in my face.
As a Black woman, I often feel the need to do more than white women who have the same educational background. Systemic racism doesn’t take days off. Black women, as a group, have more higher degrees than any group of Americans. Yet, we are still paid the least. While many people say they want things to change, that’s not a guarantee. Right now, Black women are living in a world that constantly devalues them.
I know that once I obtain my Doctorate, some people will think I didn’t really earn it, deserve it, etc., Some will take issue with me placing“Dr.” before my name after I’ve obtained my degree — just like Dr. Jill Biden. Those slinging mud at her don’t seem to understand the way our educational system works. You can get a Doctorate degree in a number of subjects. Each gains accreditation from the Federal Government. So, while each program offers something different, there is a clear standard. Practicing medicine is only one of the many Doctoral programs. Don’t worry. I won’t let them stop, my shine. But it’s worth noting the world I will be entering into after it’s all said and done.
You might be asking, “Why not just get a Psy.D in Clinical Psychology?” I have a really simple answer — I don’t want to prescribe medicine to patients with mental disorders. Research shows that Psychiatrists often cause more harm than good when they opt for drug therapies. That’s my professional opinion. So, I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting into a situation where I was sitting behind a desk, writing a script for every problem a person faces. But, I’m not naive. I understand that in many cases, patients need drug therapy in combination with cognitive/behavioral treatments. Nevertheless, I don’t have to dwell in that world. For me, picking a Doctoral Program is really about choosing a specialty. And I want to specialize in Psychology, the study of human behavior. I hope that I learn more, and I look forward to the challenge of writing my Dissertation. At 32, it makes perfect sense for me to go back to school. In my opinion, it’s never too late. Learning is a lifelong journey and I’m down for the ride.
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△The author Allison Gaines wears many hats. In addition to her role as EIC of Cultured, she is the proud founder of the Civil Rights Organization Justice Can’t Wait (JCW) and the co-founder of Writers and Editors of Color (WEOC).