Pare Down, Prioritize, and Sacrifice

A blog post from SOLES MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management Ambassador, Joseph Shumate

There is very little in my life that I love more than bedtime. It wasn’t always that way. I remember as a young child rebelling against the maternal regime’s demands for repose after the seven o’clock hour. Yet, three-fourths of the way through my master’s program, there is nothing I would love more than to crawl into bed after lunch for nap time.

Going into USD’s Master’s in in Nonprofit Leadership and Management program, I was advised over and over again to come to terms with being perpetually exhausted. The demands of a graduate degree, paired with working full time, would result in some near-sleepless nights as I plowed through seemingly endless reading assignments that were surely designed to dismay and torment the ambitious cohort of students bent on improving the world. The deep dives into research and constant parade of applied projects would result in lost weekends, angry family, and alienated friends.

My mantra through it all has been, “This will all be worth it.”

The graduate program has been a study of discomfort, throwing me into situations that I would usually avoid. One of my very first classes was a leadership course which challenged me to confront my role in perpetuating systemic racism and misogyny. Long sessions were spent with over one hundred fellow grad students as we were forced to discuss leadership problems, the solutions to which have eluded experts for decades. Other courses would suddenly drop me into the position of field expert, as I was expected to act as a consultant for real people and real organizations seeking real guidance on real topics. And I felt woefully ill-equipped, sleep deprived, and unfit for duty. The funny thing is, those challenges were more educational than many of the lectures I have attended during the last two years.

And while I was sitting bathed in distinct discomfort, my mantra through it all has been, “This will all be worth it.”

My education over the last two years has been a practice in time-management. I’ve been forced to confront my own proclivities to procrastinate and waste time on frivolous activities. I can’t even remember the last time I had the luxury to play video games. I can’t recall what a relaxing day on the beach feels like. Even when class isn’t in session, I find myself preparing for the next semester because I know that, once classes start, it will be a nonstop sprint to keep up with the pace of life. I’ve learned to pare down, prioritize, and sacrifice.

My mantra through it all has been, “This will all be worth it.”

So here I am, staring that the back end of my graduate program. The last two years flew by in the blink of an eye, and I’m already preparing for my pending graduation. I’ve found myself answering questions and speaking on topics as if I were a master of the material – because it turns out that now, I am. All of those sleepless nights, marathon study sessions, group projects that didn’t go as planned, and term papers that were either too long or too short have culminated in an insidious percolation of expert information that now permeates my sleeping, waking, and working moments. My friends and family see the change that has come over me, as though I’m a more complete person, and understand the frantic circus of a life I’ve lived the past two years. SOLES has advanced my career and bolstered my confidence, broadened my horizons and opened new doors of opportunity.

And I can tell you, “It has all been worth it.”

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