From 2004 to 2009 I went full-time year round in pursuit of my MA and PhD is history, successfully defending my dissertation and graduating seven weeks ago. Prior to that I spent 2001-2004 finishing my BA in history. What I am re-learning as the post-commencement euphoria disappears is just what it means to live like a normal person again.
Now, as an admitted geek, the word "normal" is a heckuva stretch in describing me, but for the first time in almost a decade I can concentrate simply on working and enjoying life a bit. There are no looming research paper deadlines, dissertation and thesis defenses, or comprehensive exams to keep me awake at nights, and I can spend my time in ways I only imagined up until recently.
In some ways this is a very new experience for me, as prior to returning to school I worked 60-80 hours a week as a business owner for most of the 1990s. I was employed for most of the 1980s at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and worked far too many nights and weekends.
As an example of "normal life" I point to the fact that I will be watching the season premier of the final season of Lost tonight. I never watched the series on a first-run basis, but recently I downloaded seasons 1-5 on Netflix to catch up on the show. It has been many decades since I regularly watched a television program on its appointed night, although in the last year I did get addicted to watching The Office via cable and Web reruns.
My wife just returned to the university to work on her second MA, this one in applied mathematics, and I have been taking care of more of the domestic chores to free her up for her studies. Yesterday I went to the grocery store (another "normal" activity) and found myself struggling to locate an item on the shopping list: Ramen noodles. I walked up and down the soup aisle several times before figuring out that Ramen noodles might be in the pasta aisle.
These are just a few "normal" experiences in the past few days that I have encountered, and I look forward to many more years of "normalcy." I originally toyed with the idea of adding a second MA in geography to my academic portfolio, but I might just find "normal" life to be more appealing than another two years of hitting the books.
Besides: at 45 years of age I lack the desire to put in the 12-to-16 hour days that can be the bane of a graduate school experience, especially on top of the significant work in teaching and research I already put forth.
Life should be enjoyed, not endured.