I started my final set of classes for my Master’s this week, and it has been intense.

As I stress and worry through countless late nights, there is something comforting about submitting something and marking it complete. Being graded for your words. It gives my world a sense of tidiness that otherwise does not exist. In corona, in life, things aren’t wrapped up in a package of pass or fail and good or bad. You just struggle through in the gray, making decisions on your own.

I read once that generally women succeed more than their male counterparts in school because they can easily follow the rules and stay disciplined, but in the outside world, the glass ceiling comes into play. “Thinking outside the box” gains traction, and men who break those rules, or better yet, disrupt them, get their time to shine.

I didn’t realize how tiring this would be after I graduated the first time. How tough it would be to work in tech with so many men above me. How much more confident you have to be to have your voice heard. To suppress the urge to apologize for things that aren’t your fault.

I went to an all women’s college as an undergraduate. My first year there, I complained. I missed boys. I felt uncomfortable with how progressive everyone seemed when it came to thinking about their gender and their sexuality. I felt overwhelmed. A whole new world from the co-ed public school in the suburbs I had graduated from.

But now, I wish everyone had had that experience. I wish everyone could realize that this corporate life, this real-world life, is so vanilla, so bland, so deeply boring and predictable.

As I return to school in a totally different environment than that which I studied in more than 13 years ago, I am trying to piece it all back together. Determine, for myself, what are important values I want to defend and see practiced and represented as I teach myself new things, and while I interact with a younger generation of girls like me, like who I used to be. What stereotypes are being reinforced, either by myself or others? What am I getting out of it this time? Who is coming into the job market with me, now? Younger and highly motivated, with so many problems to solve in this world.

I am so inspired by this new step, this fresh start, taken in my mid-30s. Despite the late nights, white hairs and stress sleep, I am holding my own. But more than before, I hope, I am doing it for myself. I didn’t consider myself a feminist in my early 20s, but certainly do now. I want only better for both women and men than what’s on offer today. I want to make a difference again, a change. And I think that’s what school is always for, regardless of how or where you learn it: to try to be more yourself in a world that asks you to be the same.


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