Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And It's Only the Second Week

Someone talk me out of quitting grad school.

Or talk me into it.

I'm not sure which option I want to be convinced of.

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I'm trying to remember why I started grad school. I have some vague notion that I wanted to work more directly on issues of development, social justice, and Africa; that I wanted to write my own material, not just edit other people's work; that I couldn't get where I wanted to go without a master's degree.

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Now, here I am, in my sixth year of grad school. I have a master's degree and an ABD (which WILL become a PhD), and I'm starting a second master's degree. I also have a mountain of debt, a semi-permanent scowl, and a growing sense that somewhere along the line, I've lost the plot.

I came to grad school to get a master's degree in anthropology. I stayed because I passed my qualifying exams and the next "logical" step was to continue with the PhD. I wrote grant applications and preliminary exams because I was in the PhD program. I went to the field because I got a grant. I'm writing a dissertation because I went to the field.

At some point, grad school stopped being an active choice that I was making toward a goal and became a process in which I'm a passive participant. I do things because they are "what one does," rather than because I want to or need to.

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I'm no longer sure why I'm writing a dissertation, why I'm in library school, why I'm giving up any form of a life, digging a deeper hole of debt, and generally making myself miserable.

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I really like editing. It's one of the few things I will claim to be very good at. Better than most, even. AND I have a proven history of getting jobs as an editor. I'm not quite sure why I ever left it.

Would I be entirely lame if, after more than five years of grad school, I went back to where I was before? (Not exactly where I was before; I have no desire to live in Austin again. Sorry, Austin folks!)

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Someone make the decision for me. I've had to make entirely too many decisions lately.

(For those keeping score: I bought a cheap chest of drawers instead of any of the furniture sets I was considering, and I'm painting the office "Aerospace," and I'm putting the chalkboard on the shorter wall, and I'm getting bookcases from Target instead of building in bookshelves, and I'm keeping my fourth course in library school instead of dropping down to three, and . . . see, LOTS of decisions.)

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In an unrelated note: My keyboard is possessed. The left-hand shift key will no longer work with the asterisk key. It works with every other key. And the right-hand shift key works with the asterisk key. But for some reason, the left-hand shift and asterisk will not work together. And I can't put more than one hyphen in a row. Given my deep love for the m-dash, this new quirk is seriously cramping my style.

Tonight might be a good night to hunker down with a large plate of tuna casserole and a good YA novel (which I can totally justify now that staying in my class on multicultural children's and YA literature).

3 Comments:

At 6:31 PM , Blogger Bearette said...

Quit grad school. A lot of people who get Ph.D.s decide not to work in academia anyway (case in point: my sister). Why don't you want to live in Austin?

 
At 3:15 PM , Blogger artemisia said...

Well, Jesus.

Quit grad school. I have wanted to tell you that for a long time.

I think you will be much happier reclaiming your life. Even if you aren't sure what that life looks like just yet.

I discovered, while dragging my way through my masters, that a Ph.D. is only worth it if it is about a topic you love more than ANYTHING. That topic must be THE THING you want to think about, do, study, research, sacrifice,sweat and stress over for the rest of your life.

Do you love voluntourism in Africa that much? Do you want to be writing grants and doing fieldwork, and putting your life on hold every time, for the next 10 years? Can you imagine still working on your intesrets without a Ph.D.

Otherwise, it is misery.

I realized I am deeply interested in cultural phenomenon but am not willing to give up all I'd have to in order to research it. I will find another way to satisfy my interests and feel accomplished.

This was hard for me to learn. I really wanted to feel smart, dammit. I thought the Academy what the way to do that. I've changed my mind, and am happier for it.

But. It is hard to quit projects, and this is a big one. So, if finishing is important to you, I've got your back!

P.S. What YA novel are you reading?

 
At 5:40 AM , Blogger Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

 

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