In 2002, I would never have dreamed that less than ten years later I would be putting time into serving as an Educational Consultant. Back then I was seriously exploring doctoral programs. For years I had planned to go back to get a doctorate, but something always got in the way—usually time enough to complete the program while working and dealing with day-to-day life. Oh sure, I knew about time management; after all, I used to teach time management skills to my students when I was still in the classroom. I even had practice prioritizing, especially after reading Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People with his tips on distinguishing the urgent from the important.
But no matter how important the program was to me, it seemed almost impossible to carve out the time needed to not only complete the courses but to add in the drive-park-and-make-it-to-class-on-time time! You see, my best options were UCLA or Cal Lutheran, both of which would require a 2-hour drive one-way, if prayers for no traffic were continually answered. Thus the nearly all online program in educational leadership via the University of Phoenix (UOP) sounded great. I officially started the online program in October 2003.
My experience at UOP was pretty good. The basic schedule was one class for eight weeks, with a week off before the next class started. I took the courses in sequence, and if I needed more time off between the classes, I could just take it and then carefully schedule when I would step back into the routine. I made great friends, since many of my classmates stayed the same from class to class, and the group projects really pulled us together even if team members were spread from CA to HI to FL to Saudi Arabia. This experience confirmed for me that students get out of their classes what they put into them—and I put in a lot of quality time and energy! An added benefit was that everything I was learning had direct application to my work as a dean. Besides, I was having fun!
IS ENOUGH TIME AN OXYMORON?
What I missed the most throughout the process was time. Free Time. Enough Time. Time to Plan, Think & Dream. Nearly all evenings and every weekend were devoted to classes—with the rest of the week keeping me on track with the 50 to 60 hours I put in at work. Oh sure, I took time for family and friends, even an occasional nap. But I noticed that I stopped planning things like vacations or even outings. I did not go to see movies or order many books for fun reading. I rarely ate out, opting instead to drive through a fast food place en route home. The plan was to get right to work on walking through the front door.
In looking back, I realize I was a stunning example of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, especially as he explains the maxim: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute—and it’s longer than an hour. That’s relativity.” I swear, each week off between classes sped by in less than a day. Weekends? Lasted only 10 hours. Maximum. The last hour before the submission deadline for either a paper or group project? 10 seconds. The extra time put in at work slowed to a crawl, so an extra hour spent there lasted for a good day or so! Really!
In looking back at my experience, I have the sense that I finished the doctorate at a pretty good pace. But—in reality—it took me a little over seven years. My plan had been to be done in four. Of course, I chose to complete the longest case study ever that interviewed over 30 people, collected state data reports, and conducted a self-designed survey. But that case study approach gave me the information I wanted to collect. I also stalled a bit with several major surgeries—four actually from 2006 to 2009. And at least one of these surgeries was a real oddity: A new colon repair was needed when the repair from an earlier surgery folded down on itself and wounded me all over again! Don’t I feel special?!
These surgeries added to my distorted sense of time. With every surgery, my doctors would actually say with all seriousness, “You are healing so quickly!” when I had been hospital bound for about a month and had many weeks of healing still ahead of me! No ironic tone. No wink. Not even a smirk. And just guess how long it takes to drive from Bakersfield to Pomona, which is about 150 miles. If you think about 2.5 hours, you would sound logical. But try it on a gurney, in an ambulance, at rush hour, without lights and sirens. A more accurate estimate is about 12 years, easy. At least the driver and attendant had a good sense of humor—and we all agreed this was the stupidest plan on how to deliver me to an available bed in a recovery facility. The weekend I was stuck in that place—the Healing Everyone without Laughs or Liquor House, yes, that’s HELL House—lasted at least two decades. Minimum
But now, I am fully healed, and I am a cancer survivor (surgery #2). I completed my doctorate in November 2010. Over these past holidays, therefore, I enjoyed an odd luxury of time. I was not frantic to complete one more edit or to seek yet another signature. Instead, I did such normal things as pull out decorations, help my parents host an open house, read several good books—and I did not feel guilty over wasting my time. Watching all my favorite Christmas movies was a real treat too, as was sleeping in. Gaining back my evenings and weekends gave me more time than I knew what to do with. I even had the time to start new projects, like writing this blog.
TIME ENOUGH TO START A NEW ADVENTURE
Now, I am feeling like I have time on my hands. Not too much, actually, but enough to really take on new challenges. No matter what I do during the day, my evenings and weekends are free again and stretch before me with possibility. I will be forever immersed in education—Isn’t learning new things the reason for being? I not only like but am really good at completing projects that involve writing, editing, and creating. I actually see many possibilities: write or edit an accreditation report; help a homeschooler develop writing skills; develop a newsletter for a group or organization; and design, deliver and analyze customized surveys are just some of the options. If I put all that together, what does it mean?
My new adventure is to market myself as an Educational Consultant, so I can help individuals and institutions with projects. I cannot believe it took me so long to make this decision. Now that I have decided, I am eager to put my time into this adventure, mainly because Teddy Roosevelt was right: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is to work hard at work worth doing.”
This new challenge feels like a perfect fit: It allows me to use my time and talents effectively, but keeps me in charge of my extra time, depending on what clients and projects I accept. Of course, I do still need to find clients, a whole new challenge in and of itself, but I am excited about putting in the time on this new adventure. My website is ready to go, and I will start an advertising campaign soon. If you need any help in my areas of expertise—or could recommend me to someone—just let me know. My time is yours!
Of course, a year from now, if I develop enough clients, I may once again be complaining about not having enough free time. That’s a problem I would welcome.
My website is http://www.patti-ross.com