Tomorrow I officially start "the beginning of the end."
4 years ago I started a Masters program because I was told I needed it to get further in my career. It didn't matter what the Masters was, for the most part. I just needed something.
I explored a bunch of different options - I got to choose what I wanted! I completed about 1/3 of a masters previously before I decided that statistics wasn't what I wanted. So I got to explore. I settled on Public Administration. I'm told the best way to explain it is that it's like getting an MBA, but in the public (ie non-profit/gvmt) sector. I went the route of the "MPA" because it seemed to mix a bunch of things I liked. I wondered if I should do something specific to healthcare but that seemed like it could limit me. So, class by class, one class at a time, while I work full-time and have a family (and the MS beast), I've worked through this.
Rather than being this thing I had to have to go further in my career, the education I've had has taken a life of its own. I've looked at how organizations are structured and really got to think about what works best in different scenerios. I've had some classes in policy, how policy process works, and been fascinated. With each class, there's been a ton of writing. I do love to write but there were some burn out times. And I got to research things in different ways - and the research topics have been up to me. So I've been able to do disability things, but I also go to incorporate religion. I've been able to mix a bunch of things together. I think the 4 years has shown me more of who I am, and pointed me in terms of what I want. It's taught be to embrace thinking outside the box. It's not what I expected.
What I have found is that while I focus on people with disabilities a lot, we are part of a mix. I've learned about Medicaid. I've learned about poverty - I've never been there so I can't say I understand poverty, but the overlapping combination of disability, Medicaid, and poverty is where I've found some kind of passion. And then the 3 split out as well, so there are so many angles.
Through this whole process, I've also been very active in the community in terms of people with disabilities. I network with many people which led me to learn more about Medicaid and poverty. And so I start the final semester, where I get to combine things.
I'll work with the State, looking at a federally funded program called PACE. It's for people who are over age 55, on Medicaid, and meet criteria showing they have significant disabilities, enough to be in a nursing home. But while these people could live in a nursing home, they can also choose to live independently. PACE is one way they can live independently, but also the gives them the ability to participate in a day program up to 5 days a week. They get transportation there and have access to medical specialists, activities, etc. PACE's goal is to keep people out of nursing homes, with some evidence people stay healthier and are happier that way. So I'm going to be looking into this, looking at data which tells how people are doing, and considering policy implications.
So, what started as "you need this" has transformed itself into some awesome opportunities, the ability to think outside the box, and to love learning without feeling as if my life depended on it. I think doing this while having MS has been the biggest challenge - outweighing working and family. It has not been easy. I always wanted a Masters. I thought that having MS would make that impossible.
But step by step, after 4.5 years, I'll be done. I do want more time back. But I've learned so much. My hope is that this may somehow open itself to a beautiful new park of opportunity (see previous post). I think I'm ready to continue pursuing the passions I've found.
Thanks be to God.