Friday, August 3, 2012

I'll be funny again tomorrow, promise.

"Don't you think it's so funny how you're life is turning out?"

No. No I do not. And as she sat there at my kitchen table, grinning and laughing about "how my life has turned out", I felt like throwing up. I don't accuse her of maliciousness, as I think she was genuinely amused for me and not at me. But I am not amused. Not at all.

I don't remember when I decided to get a PhD, or how long it's been since I've seen myself as a professor. Seems like that's always been the plan, though I know it hasn't (didn't I once harbor faint ambition to be a singer? for like....a week in high school maybe?). And then there was this fantastic grad program that fit my interests and credentials like a glove. And I applied and got some great feedback from them and some unofficial "we want you, are you still interested?" emails.

But I also had some friends and coworkers who had run that grad-school gamut already, who told me it was a blast...and they didn't quite but almost sort of regretted it because it didn't end up landing them a job, like, at all. And some of them are not giving up just yet. And others have taken that PhD and accepted jobs not at all in their field of study. And none of them said not to go for it, but you know, it's not a fairytale here. Really.

And that PhD program? It's not around these parts. Which would be great since "these parts" have some of the highest costs of living in the country. Except, I don't harbor any ambition to move to a dying old city in the middle of nowhere and, as much as DC summer kicks my butt, I'm even worse at long, ugly winters (I think). And the closer we came to leaving this city, the more I realized how much I love it here. And then the cherry blossoms came out again.

I started to think about my own sense of entitlement, too. Quite deeply. For me to go on and get that degree in religious studies, someone else (likely various someone elses) would have to fork over the cash so I could become an expert in goddess worship. I see no reason why I should not be an expert in the worship of female deities, only that I'm not sure why it would be worthwhile to anyone else. That is to say, I think learning and knowledge are vital to the continuation and improvement of the human race and condition, but I was never really sure that my own contribution would be all that helpful. And then it seemed that the world is flooded with people who study what they want to study, but do all of them really pay back to the academic community what their education cost them? I don't mean financially, but intellectually and philosophically? Can I ask someone else to pay for me to study and write about this? Do I honestly believe it will be worthwhile to them? I don't know. (Please don't get me wrong. I think foodstamps are great. This is about my own sense of entitlement and not some overarching political statement. I'm not interested in judging others here, merely myself.)

All of things things, and a few others besides, contributed to the fact that I'm not going to graduate school. And it breaks my heart right in two. It is not a joke for me. It is not some funny giggly, who'd-a-thunk moment in my life. It's terribly sad. It will affect everything I do from now on. I now doubt I'll be able to be a mother, because I'm afraid I'll either push my kids to follow the road I didn't take so I can live vicariously through them, or base my entire self worth on my children until they fall apart under the pressure. And when I meet someone new, I don't like to talk about what I am doing with my life anymore, in casual get-to-know-you style. I've started to hate having people ask me "So, what's going on in your life?" and I've kind of stopped answering with anything of substance. Ask me that, and I'm more likely to talk about the weather than anything else. But it comes down to this: I have decided to give up on graduate school, and as a result, I don't really know who I am anymore.

I've been offered a couple of new positions at my current company. Technically I work for two companies right now, one owned by the other. They each asked me to come over full-time to their side and were both super flattering about it. Eventually I chose one and will be transitioning over to a new set of responsibilities and opportunities. I've also stared taking some graphic design courses at a local arts college. I'll be enrolling this fall in a certificate program, so that in a year I'll have not only the credentials but the real life experience of a graphic designer, since my new position is basically full-time graphic design. I harbor no illusions that this will make me an actual graphic designer, but it will be fun and marketable. Something I can do full time, or part-time, or even from home if I get over my fear of being destructo-mom and decide to start gestating. More than anything, it's a chance to try something very challenging for me, and hopefully something very rewarding. It's an outlet for some creativity, but it will also require me to be relentlessly creative, which is daunting and new. I don't pretend to be a creative genius, or even anything out of the ordinary. But I want to try, because there is something I need to find out about myself: Am I more than a mocking-bird?

I've always excelled in academia, and underneath it all I've wondered if it's because I am nothing more than a good student--capable of giving a professor exactly what they want, but nothing further. Is my strength limited to the assignments I am given? I can rock a standardized test like you would not believe, but am I capable of making something of my own? My mother would assure me (and you) that I am very capable of it. I hope she's right. I'm about to find out.

But honestly, truthfully, I don't want to talk to you about it. To you, or anyone else. Giving up grad-school has torn a little hole in my soul, and I can't drag that out and let you poke at it in casual conversation. As much as you might want to. As curious as you might be. As funny as you may find it.

This was my final project from a photoshop class I took a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to choose a quote and make a poster illustrating it. Everyone else chose inspirational quotes from famous people. Mine is a line from the weather forecast.

No comments: