Friday, November 2, 2007

Just (Don't) Do It

I was a leeetle depressed today. All day long the bad mood persisted, like that little black cloud over the head of a cartoon character. I kept trying to do things to make myself feel better (going to the gym; eating leftover Halloween candy, but not too much, because that would just make me feel worse; taking a nap; washing my disgusting oily hair) but none of it really worked.

I knew what was bothering me: it was this article. In it a professor lays out all the reasons not to go to grad school. All of which I have known in my heart were true, which explains why I haven’t gone back yet. But last week I was driving along sans kids—they were with my parents—and a thought popped into my head: When Liam goes to preschool I could finish my degree. And it made me happy. Because: now I have a purpose in life! I could read books and talk about them, which is pretty much all I want to do in life, except to get as much sleep as possible.

However. There are compelling reasons not to go to graduate school in the humanities, both practical and personal. The best practical reason is that there aren’t enough jobs. “Last year, the total number of advertised jobs in English dropped from 983 to 792, and only about half of those jobs are on the tenure track. Remember that the 977 doctorates produced in 2000-2001 will have to compete with hundreds of job-seekers from previous years, to say nothing of all the adjunct faculty members who are looking for full-time, tenure-track work.”

And those are Ph.D.’s, people! I have no intention of spending years slaving over a dissertation and then end up with no job. If Ph.D.’s can’t get a good job, where do you think that leaves someone with a lowly master’s? Um-hmm. Talk about throwing money away. We’re doing better financially, but not that well.

But, you know what? I’d still do it if it was what I really wanted to do. Today I was pouty, like the Mean Professor Guy had taken my candy away. (Sadly, it is still here, in a humongous bowl on top of the refrigerator, and I wish someone would take it away. [Okay, technically it’s the kids’ candy. Details.]) I took this to mean that I did really want to go back to school and it was just Unfair of someone to be so Rational with me that I couldn’t argue back. Except that wasn’t what it was about.

At one point late in the afternoon I realized something. I said to myself, “You just want to go back so you can write papers and get grades. You want validation. You want to be able to say you are Doing Something, you are not just a stay-at-home mom. That’s why you want to go back.” (Yes, I know I am strange for talking to myself. I do it all the time, though.)

And what I told myself was correct, I think. Because I don’t want to go back to school to teach, even to teach college students (although that would be better than teaching anything else.) Here’s where I say what you’re not supposed to say, because it’s Impractical and Impossible and a Pipe Dream: I want to write. Not just a blog that three people read (although thank you for reading and commenting, I do appreciate it); not just Bible studies for the church, although I love those too. I want to write for a living, and whether that means fiction or freelance writing or some combination, that’s what I want to do. When our pastor was teaching on the Biblical meaning of “vision,” he asked us to look at where our passion and our talents intersected. All signs kept pointing to “Write,” over and over, every time I thought about it. It was kind of like God was poking me in the forehead: “How many times do I have to tell you, silly girl?”

The thing of it is, if I go back to school to get a fine arts degree with an emphasis on creative writing, guess what I’m eventually going to have to do. That’s right, write a novel or a bunch of stories. Guess what I can do when the kids go to school, and not even have to pay a university for. Guess what I’m scared to try to do, but you know what? I’m going to do it. I have a purpose, and it may not seem like much, and it doesn’t pay well at all, but it’s time to stop putting it off.

Or at least it will be time next year. God, I obsess about things way before it becomes necessary, don’t I?

But I do feel better about the whole thing.


  1. if you want to get rid of the candy that bad i'd be happy to take it! ha ha!

    wow, that is a depressing column. i have been thinking grad school but i know that if i do that then i'll have no choice but to get a phd which means i'll spend even more $ and still probably not have a job. ah well, maybe i'll just focus on getting through the rest of this semester. after all, i'm cheesed off that i have to write a 7-8pg 'scholarly' essay in my brit. lit. class... what will i do when i have to write real papers? and as far as my phil track goes... descartes is good, hume is fabulous and kant? well kant is just plain unintelligible to me... i guess he'd consider me one of the 'vulgar' folks he was intentionally trying to keep from understanding his work. (i'm just going to keep nodding and pretend i understand)

  2. well, you can start by co-writing a book with me. And I am entirely serious about this. Someone has to be a counterpoint to my wild ramblings and rants.

  3. Not to get super spiritual on you, but the most important thing you can do is follow God's urging. If He tells you to go to grad school, He'll make a way for you to have a job. You wouldn't believe all the horror stories I heard while in law school about the piddly jobs law school grads had to take because there are too many lawyers. But I knew I was where God had told me to go, so I didn't worry about it (much).

    On the other hand, if He doesn't urge you to go, then you'll likely end up without a job and struggling the whole way. You know how hard people have it when they're out of the will of God.

    And that's my super spiritual advice of the day. :-)