Degree Quest: Day 66

Yes, as of April 3 I’ve started on the final leg of what I like to call my “degree quest”: beginning work on my Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Western Governors University (WGU). Since it’s a go-at-your-own-pace online program I’ve been able to work pretty fast right from home. So far I’ve completed work on two courses, and am about halfway through a third, out of eleven total. I might be done sometime in May at this rate, which will suit me just fine, because the MBA work has felt grueling.

Not so much because of the raw difficulty of the material but rather because of the volume of it. Interestingly, it’s about what I expected for master-level work as compared to bachelor level. Interestingly and perhaps in a sense disappointingly, because I don’t exactly have the highest opinion of graduate or (especially) professional degree programs. I’d say compared to the bachelor’s degree it’s…20% more difficult and 60% more voluminous (I don’t necessarily stand by those exact figures, but that should give you an idea).

Much like in my educational journey in general whenever I’ve interacted with a school it’s been a real drag, because I can learn the material (or, in many cases, come in already knowing it!) much faster than I can demonstrate I know it. Anyway, I don’t mean to come off as whiny; the competency-based education aspect of WGU is a blessing for me, because it means the days of grueling will be mercifully short: bearable, but, perhaps concerningly, not bearable by all that much.

I’m sure I can do it, yes, but compared to when I started with my bachelor’s program I find it a struggle to sit down, focus my mind, and put out the work. I have to almost force myself to plug away and bring this thing home. I baked myself and decorated a whole batch of MBA sugar cookies as a reward for me starting the work (yes, really; I’ve got two more batches I’m saving up…), and I struggle with motivation. Much more concerningly, I took corticosteroids (those are the anti-inflammatory kind, not the muscle-building kind…) at the same dose I did late in my bachelor’s program, and I still struggled with motivation and focus, with it all feeling overwhelming. Since the early days of the month I’ve upped my dosage whenever I’m working (up to the equivalent of 2 milligrams of prednisone per day, for those curious and knowledgeable about such things; for worried fans, be assured that’s still a very low dose), which has solved the problem, but the fact I’d need such a boost in the first place is kinda worrisome.

For background, corticosteroids are the strongest nootropic I’ve tried, and it’s a cure-all for almost everything that bedevils me. It gives me energy, helps me focus a lot better, gives me confidence, and clears away brain fog as if it never existed, while making the tasks ahead go from feeling overwhelming to doable; it even tamps down the feverish feeling I often have, eliminates the frequent and persistent nose bleeds I suffer from, and even helps me sleep better. All the fatigue and feeling of being ground down by life over the past decade go away; it’s like the clock is wound back to when I was 20 years of age rather than 30, bar the only real side effect I get from it, feeling hot all over, particularly in the face.

All of which is really interesting, because it doesn’t have anywhere near as positive an effect on normal people; indeed, cortisone much more often gives them brain fog rather than cures it. I honestly suspect my body doesn’t work quite right; perhaps not to the extent there’s anything clinically wrong with me (I don’t meet the criteria for any diagnosis I’ve ever heard of), but to the extent I can’t quite measure up to what normal people can do. A standard which itself is influenced by performance-enhancing drugs, mind you, but the very fact that cortisone is the best performance enhancer for my body means something.

I lack any personal experience with amphetamines, the go-to study drug for normal people, but one of my parents, who had some of the same brain issues, ended up trying them a couple of times (circumstances: don’t ask) and all it did was make them feel horrible (ditto for cocaine), whereas they (both of my parents, actually) always had a great reaction whenever they happened to get prescribed corticosteroids for some medical condition or another. Hmm…

Anyway, perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much. The enhanced dosage is temporary, and I even have room to let it creep up more if I find it expedient. I’d be comfortable taking up to around the equivalent of 5 milligrams of prednisone every day, which is double to triple my current dose. Past that point I start to feel weird, probably because if I need that much my natural energy is gone and I’m running just on drug energy (which always feels worse), and I start getting really moody, start to have trouble getting to sleep, and feel even hotter in the face to the point I start to look noticeably red. My recent experience extends up to the 7.5 milligram range (while doing some truly hardcore road-tripping), and as a child I once took 10 milligrams (when I was sick), but that’s not experience I care to repeat unless I have to, which I expect I won’t; my dosage only needed to increase very modestly over the course of my bachelor’s program, after all, which would keep me well under that 5 milligram range through when I get my MBA.

As for why I’m bothering with all this when I don’t even think highly of graduate or especially professional curricula? Well, simply put, I’m smart enough to deserve a masters-level qualification, elitist enough to want to be a cut above regular people, competitive enough to want to get the sort of credential my friends have, and ambitious enough to want all the doors an MBA in particular and a masters-level qualification in general open for me. Inside of a couple of months, my goal will be realized. Just gotta plug away and hang in there…

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