Seeing the Future

This is something I've been thinking about for several months but have hesitated to put on my blog. I'm still not sure if I want to open it up for discussion, but I've talked to enough people in real life about the issue that it's time to come clean. I'm thinking about quitting grad school. Walking away from it all, and probably not going back. I actually started thinking about it this summer when I realized that I didn't feel all that excited about going. At the time I was unsure about whether it was just the discomfort of a new experience or if something deeper was going on. I've nearly finished one quarter and I still don't feel very excited about it.

Part of it is the adjustments in my life; I don't get to sit around and lazily read books all the time like I used to. I have to do a lot of schedule adjustments to deal with my school schedule and Mr. Fob's work schedule. It's been tricky for all of us. It's not really a money thing, since they're paying me to be here. And I know that it's common during your first year or two in grad school to feel completely lost and inadequate. I feel that way sometimes, but at other times I feel like this is something that I could do, and even do well.

The problem is that even if I can do it, I'm not sure I want to. When I see myself ten or fifteen years down the road, I'm having a hard time seeing myself as a professor. I don't like directing large groups. I don't like the upheavals in routine the come every few months with semester schedule changes. I love doing research, but writing papers always feels like an uphill battle. I'm also not sure how I feel about academia. Some days it just seems like a closed circle: I will spend my life writing papers that will be read by a small group of people who will all write papers on related subjects that I will then read and comment on. Ad nauseum. Why should I spend the next four years of my life preparing myself for a career I wouldn't want to have?

Those are my negative thoughts. I like my classes and the literature they expose me to. I love our discussions, and I even like some of the theory I've been exposed to. And I think that school is something I'm good at. But I'm not sure it's what I want to do with myself at this point in my life, if ever. I've decided to finish out the year and think about it some more. This also leaves open the question of what our future as a family will be like. Mr. Fob and I toy with the idea of moving back to Utah, since many of our family members and friends live there. Plus we could actually afford to live there and get financially settled. Unfortunately we really like it here for a lot of reasons too, and the current economic situation is not favorable for job searching. So for the time being we are here and I will continue writing my research papers while pondering my future as a scholar. Perhaps I need to just be an independent scholar; if I only I could get someone to pay me to do that.

Comments

Julie said…
I like the move to UT idea! :)
Good luck deciding. Hard decisions are no fun.
Kristeee said…
That would be hard. To not like what you've committed yourself to doing for several years isn't very fun.
rantipoler said…
I feel the exact same way. I think I haven't quit only because I feel an overwhelming duty to finish what I start, even if I hate what I'm doing. Grad school feels like a roller coaster to me. I know a few people that are going to finish just to finish and not actually go on to be professors. I dunno.
Zillah said…
i think that ultimately you need to figure out what sort of job and life you want, what you need to do to get it, and what you're willing to do. if you want to teach, but maybe only as an adjunct rather than as a t-t prof (with all of those accompanying worries), maybe you should just drop the phd. if you don't need it for what you want, and you don't love it for itself, then all the hell of getting it won't be worth it. there's no shame in it not being the right thing for you.
skylark said…
amen.

i think i'll come back and say more later, but for now i just want to say that i hear you. and i know that you're not the only one feeling this way. i don't know if that makes any difference or not.
Em said…
I sympathize. I'm impressed that you went back. Once I'm out, I'm out. I've actually been busting around the same thoughts. I've convinced myself that I need to at least wait until after this baby is born (wouldn't want hormone imbalances to skew my decision-making skills, right?). We'll see what happens.

One thing for sure, though....if you DO decide to not finish, I will still think you're just as cool as I think you are now! :-)
TK said…
'The problem is that even if I can do it, I'm not sure I want to.'

Of course you can do it! But some of the hardest decisions involve walking away from something you could do well (that would be impressive to others) in order to do other things that you feel more strongly about for whatever the reason. And while no one may pay you for being an 'independent scholar', who's to say that whatever you might decide to 'research' on your own might not prepare you for doing some 'professional' research at a later date, when your children are older and you feel the time is right. 'Kind of reminds me of the statement that a woman doesn't need to sing all the verses of her song at the same time. There's a time and a season . . .
Recession Cone said…
FoxyJ - I live this dilemma too. Getting a PhD is hard. I think it's more a mark of endurance and stubbornness than anything else. It has also been a real roller-coaster ride: one day I'm feeling great about my progress, the next I'm totally depressed. Whatever you decide, it won't change anything about who you are. But I'll be sad if you move to Utah. It was fun seeing Mr. Fob & kids yesterday... =)

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