A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

To Ph.D. or not to Ph.D.?

It's been over a year since I last posted to this blog -- but I'm a girl who has also had the same Netflix DVD sitting beside my TV (Slumdog Millionaire, if anybody is interested) for almost 3 months now, without watching it. Sometimes I'm really good about taking care of things, but sometimes I just let things go in a ridiculous way.

At first I didn't write because I was wrapped up in writing my Master's Thesis... when you take on a project like that, it takes over your life--yet you still have to deal with other classes and do your own laundry so that you don't start smelling like the broccoli and cheese you had for dinner last week. I'm looking forward to the fact that when I write my doctoral dissertation, at least I'll have completed my classwork by the time and I can mainly focus on writing the dissertation without the distractions of other research and papers on completely different subjects. I work best when I can stay focused on one track.

Then I didn't write because I graduated (THANK GOD) and didn't have a whole lot left to say about my career in graduate school because it was over. (At least for the time being.)

I didn't really think I had a whole to say about anything, for that matter. My brain went on autopilot, and I was lucky enough to find a couple of gigs that let me kick back and have a little fun. I worked at summer camp (as usual) over the summer and spent a lot of time with family, then got a job teaching Composition and Argumentative/Academic Rhetoric at a community college in the fall. I've been doing things that let me relate to my own humanity again -- drawing, playing with kids, making jewelry, learning how to watercolor, reading novels on a whim instead of being assigned to read them, visiting with friends from back home in Michigan (Christmas was wonderful). I've gone to the beach and gorged on coconut shrimp and amaretto sours, photographed the cherry blossoms, decorated Christmas cookies, rearranged the furniture in my apartment, learned how to play Dutch Blitz (a great card game), enjoyed the historic and quickly-infamous "Blizzard of 2010" in the D.C. area... Life seems pretty good, overall.

So now the nagging question is -- do I really want to go back to graduate school?

The answer is both yes and no.

No, because I'm enjoying the fact that when I wake up in the morning, I can think about what I want to have for breakfast, watch the news on MSNBC or an episode of Law & Order on Netflix Instant Viewing, take a leisurely shower and think about what I want to wear -- all of this before I really start my day. I don't have to role out of bed, wrap myself up in a robe and immediately sit down at the computer to work on my thesis for a few hours before I can even think about taking a shower and running my errands. I don't have to read and research for eight hours a day unless I'm totally engrossed in a novel and I want to keep reading... and when I'm reading, I can stop to look out the window, enjoy the brightness of the sunshine or the blueness of the sky, and actually think for a minute about what it is that I just read. I have time to meditate, not just consume.

But yet -- I DO want to go back to get my Ph.D. because I love teaching literature. Right now, I'm teaching composition part time, which is basically the best position that I will get with only a Master's degree. I'm enjoying myself (a lot), but I won't make enough money to buy myself a condo or modest house, donate some money every once in a while to UNICEF's children's fund, and buy my kids' Christmas presents (let alone take a few vacations) if I don't get a full-time/tenured position at a college or university -- and for that, I need a Ph.D.

So, that's where I'm at right now -- I haven't brought you up to speed on everything that has happened since last January, but I've hit the highlights of what's relevant to the decision before me. Of course, the applications are all in for different Ph.D. programs in the Washington DC area and in the Carolinas... and everyone's fingers are crossed. The decision has already been made -- sacrifice 4 to 6 more years of a comfy, normal life of 9 to 5 hours with evenings free in order to prepare myself for the future that I want. It's a sacrifice that plenty of people make, and at least I'm lucky enough to truly love studying literature and literary theory. I would love grad school totally and completely -- if it weren't for the pace, the feeling that you cannot be a person any more. You have to be a machine to crank out the work at the rate that they expect. I've lost enough of my humanity in the last few years and I have to ask myself -- can I really afford to become a machine again? Because I think that is what it will take to earn my Ph.D.

1 comment:

Albertha Hudson said...

I think it would really matter if you know if you really want to get a PhD degree or not, because it would affect the rest of your life. And it would be good to equip yourself with thesis ideas for education purposes so that you won’t feel lost when you decided to tackle PhD degree.

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