This is a serious entry, guys.
(Well, aside from the David Bowie references.)
Two weeks ago, I withdrew from school. All the doors are still open for my eventual return, but, really, I don't intend to go back.
Maybe this isn't as serious to you all as it is to me, but, let me tell you, to me it's the end of the world. It's terrifying. I have been a student all my life. All. my. life.
What will I do without homework? What will I do without teachers? What will I do without constant validation of my memorization test-taking abilities?
(I'll take the LSAT and apply to law school, that's what.)
I had always thought that I wanted to get a Ph.D. and be a professor. I am a child of two Ph.D.s who learned to crawl up the steps of the MIT library; I agreed to go to BYU for undergrad because I knew I could go elsewhere for grad school; I always envisioned myself building a career of reading and thinking and, if I had to, writing. I didn't know anything different, I couldn't imagine anything different.
And yet, over the past two and a half years, I have grown steadily more unhappy in grad school--though there were some good times, there were more than enough bad times to balance them out, and, in general, a sense of unease, discontent and, eventually, boredom, lingered over my graduate school experience.
I know everybody hates grad school; that's the way it is. And yet, if I'm so unhappy at it now, how is the end result any different? Do I really want to suffer through another three or four years of this pressure-filled, stultifying environment only to get a $40,000/year job doing exactly the same things, only this time with tenure on the line? Do I really want to go to conferences and force myself to attend talks that bore me or talk with colleagues that irritate me? Do I really want to talk, think, eat, breathe linguistics, linguistics, linguistics all the time? Do I really want to spend my life in trivial arguments? Do I really want to publish or perish? And do I really want to work 16 hour days, to put my time, mental health, family life on the line, for language change? In sum, do I really believe my work is worth it?
I've been mulling over these questions for a long time now, almost a full year, and no matter how many variables I've toggled in my environment--fewer classes, no classes, teaching positions, research projects, whatever I can change--I find myself coming to the same answer: no.
I went to grad school for some of the right reasons and lots of the wrong ones, and, though I don't regret that decision--I got a free master's degree out of the deal, after all, plus a husband, a home, and, most importantly, the sure knowledge that academia isn't the right place right now--I would regret the decision if I stayed, if I let myself be dragged along by the system, writing each chapter of my dissertation just because it's there, or just because there's funding, or just because I'm trapped in the culture and can't think of anything else to do.
So I left. And here's where I consider myself very lucky, because I found something else to do. I got a job. A good job. I don't know if I'll love the work itself, but even if I don't, it's a job that pays well, or at least better than grad school, a job where I work with interesting, smart, dynamic people, a job that gives me unbelievable benefits and perks, and, of course, a job with pretty serious confidentiality agreements, so, uh, don't expect to see much discussion of it around here.
(Curious about where I work? Let's just say that it starts with F and ends with acebook.)
Sometimes when I think about how much my life has changed in the last year, my head spins and I want to reach through a time portal and shake my January 2009 self by the shoulders, just to warn her about the change that's about to come--brace yourself! Take some deep breaths! Hell, take a nap--in a year or so, you'll deserve it. At this time last year I was a single graduate student living in Oakland, riding a bicycle to school and dressing in jeans and T-shirts; this year I'm a married Facebook employee living in Berkeley and taking a work commuter shuttle to work and dressing in…well, okay, I can still wear jeans. At least I have something in my life that isn't ch-ch-ch-changing.