Thanksgiving is a lovely time. It’s nice to get away from campus before the last mad dash of final performances, studying, exams. There’s actually time to sleep. And catch up on the homework I seem to be perpetually behind in. I spent five hours in the airport translating passages of the Prose Edda from Old Norse to English. It was pretty fabulous.
I’ve also had lots of conversations about what my life will be shaping into after I graduate this spring. Necessary conversations, but a lot less fun than translating Old Norse. Decision-making has always been hard for me, especially when the decision is important. Recently, it’s become a sometimes-agonizing process. I’ve had mornings of stress-induced decision-making-paralysis, where my indecision has become debilitating to the point of standing in the closet for forty-five minutes trying to figure out what to wear, and getting so panicked in the process that I later insult my roommate by charging off to class without her after Chapel. Not a good start to anyone’s day.
As I have written before, I have decided not to pursue graduate school–at least, not yet. I may (and I hope I do) return to that possibility somewhere along the line, but I am not submitting applications now. I’ll take at least a year off upon completing undergrad before I continue my education, if I do decide then to pursue a master’s degree at all.
This was a very difficult decision to make, and I’m still not certain it was the right one. I feel as though I’m cheating, or taking the easy way out. I feel like I’m giving up. I know I could do it, would enjoy it. I know I want to do it. I also know I’m scared as heck of the application process, and the prospect of another two years of even harder school and even more pressure to produce quality work that matters.
I am standing by as close friends begin the graduate school application process, meet with advisors to talk about personal statements, and make campus visits to universities. Not being a part of this is hard. After following my roommate around pretty much everywhere for the past two years, and after taking so long to finally make the decision to consider graduate school myself, and after all I have done over the past year to prepare for that path, it feels pretty awful to be giving it up.
I love the things I study. I’m excited by the idea that I could keep studying them. So why am I not pursuing that? Am I letting myself down by not doing what I thought I was setting out to do? Am I letting the people who believe in me down by deciding to ignore their advice, trust, and confidence in me? Am I letting God down by not continuing to build up and steward the passions and skills He has given me? I’m not sure.
Given all this, my decision to put off graduate school is shaky at best. I need to talk about the decisions I am trying to make in order to get to a place where I feel comfortable making them, but I don’t have anyone with whom I can talk. I’ve already annoyed all the people who could give me advice by asking for it too many times. I feel trapped between a wrong decision and another wrong decision, with no clear path marked “I’m right. Pick me.”
I don’t actually expect road signs. But I’d really like advice, and I’d really like to not feel like I’m giving up, and I’d really like to not fear being left behind.
You may well be asking by this point, well, if you feel so rotten about all this, why are you not just sucking it up and going to graduate school? And you’re right to ask.
It doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, to invest so much time and energy into something I’m not completely sold on, and as this last year of college has progressed I’ve felt more and more strongly a desire to graduate and get out into what some call the real world. I want a job, I want a normal life which isn’t ruled by homework and due dates and tests and no free time to do what I want. I crave roots. I’d like to be able to come home from a long day of work and have no homework hanging over my head. I want an apartment that’s not college-owned, that allows me to light candles and get a kitten. I really, really want a kitten.
And after getting a masters, I would be in exactly the same position as I am now. Wondering what comes next, and struggling to figure out a way to go. I’m ready to take a break from being a professional student. I’m ready to try and figure out what my life will look like once I’m no longer being fed and housed by someone else. I’m excited to figure that out.
But I still feel like I’m giving up. I still feel like I’m being left behind, like I’m failing, yet again, to be the best I can, or to live up to my potential, or to be good enough for myself and others. It’s not making the decision any easier.
I’ll probably change my mind at the last minute, as soon as it’s too late.
Maybe I should just get the kitten and call it good.