Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Might as Well Face It: Addicted to School?

I've been out of graduate school (for the second time) for almost two years now. Sadly, at the almost-age of 30, this two year period is the longest I've been out of school in my entire life (not counting ages 0-5). And no, I do not have a PhD or an MD, though I have managed to accumulate two Master's degrees. Despite that, I found myself semi-seriously contemplating yesterday whether or not I should enroll in a PhD program. The point here is not to exaggerate nor to downplay my academic achievements, but rather to ask: what's the appeal? I have a job I enjoy in my field of choice that is creative and allows me a ton of freedom. I'm learning and experiencing new things all the time, because I try to seek them out. In short: there's no logical reason for me to go back to school. So why do I seem to be addicted to it, or at least to the idea of it?

Is it the prestige? Meh. I'd like to think I'm over that. While I certainly admire people with PhD's and other academic achievements, I'm starting to really admire people who pursue a creative life outside the constructs of academia. Is school just a nice security blanket? Something I know I'm good at and therefore a kind of permanent "back-up plan" in case I [lose my job/hate my job/have to move/get bored/decide to have a kid/fill in the blank]? I think that's a part of it. It's also a bit of the "grass is always greener" syndrome, in which I become convinced that some other reality may be better than my version of the present - a habit of mind that I continuously strive to break.

Speaking of habit... I think that's actually a huge part of this. I'm in the habit of going to school, of focusing on school-related goals, which come in conveniently structured semester-long, year-long, and program-long packages. I'm in the habit of constructing my identity around being a student. I like the built-in community of like-minded folks. I really like the winter and summer break lifestyle. I like it when someone who knows more than me tells me the best books to read and how to focus my often-scattered attention. Most of all, I like a concrete framework upon which to overlay my dreaminess, where I can hang my big ideas like miraculous plants that need only passionate philosophical discussion and a consistent infusion of beer to grow.

But you know what else I like lately? A paycheck. A job that focuses that dreaminess and forces me into action, into applying my skills and challenging myself to really implement my ideas. I like the time I have to write about whatever I want and to (gasp!) watch a little bad TV. More and more, I envision a future in which the same creative energy and sense of community that I feel in school are cultivated in other ways. And more and more, I'm living it.

A friend sent this to me, because it's totally me.  Thanks, Joanna!  Image credit:

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