June 17, 2008

another peek at grad school

Every once in a while I have a peek at what might have been and find that there are some really interesting graduate programs out there. Unfortunately none of these were ever on my radar back when I was graduating from college, and now that I have the perspective to appreciate them I don't have the money. Well I never had the money. It was only my stipend that allowed me to attend grad school in the first place, and we can all see how that turned out. I fairly hated the place. My favorite part of going to school was the walk from our apartment to my eight o'clock class. The rest of it...meh. One day I sent in a few e-mails and submitted an application to be withdrawn from the university. That was that. Some days I still wish it could have worked out. My parents would have been a lot happier with me, and it would have fulfilled a dream of mine. But I have to ask myself, "what really matters here?" If I expected that a piece of paper would earn my parent's approval I have only to remember my own college graduation to know that's not true. That one B I made the summer before my sophomore year sort of nixed that on my mom's side. Talk about growing up with perfectionist tendencies! For my own sake, education was so completely ingrained in my psychic that I would have worked myself into the hospital for a piece of paper signifying completion of a program I intensely disliked and whose philosophies and shibboleths grated my weary and bleeding soul. Hardly a satisfying accomplishment. I know these things, and yet it's still the death of a dream. It was a very cheap, second-rate dream, but it was all I could afford at the time. Sometimes I wonder whether that shabby, much abused dream of mine will ever come back to me -the part that really was mine I mean and not just the fears and urgings of my parents. It seems like it must still be there somewhere in my passion for writing, books, and the well-informed imagination. I just don't know anymore.


TBE said...

Champ, you got out while the gettin' was good. I must say that I hated 80% of grad school, and got so burned out by the end that I completely blew off my last final exam, a paper that I now have to make up and turn in BEFORE I can finish by taking my oral comps.

And I STILL can't bring myself to look at that paper. (On Iris Murdoch, whose work I detest to the point that it gives me ulcers.)

All and all, though, I wouldn't change it at all--I got to meet some cool people (yourself included), and I had a golden opportunity to witness for Christ to the classes I was teaching. Wouldn't trade THAT for all the world and a sharp stick to poke it with.

Long and short of it, then, I guess, is this, as cheesy and trite and probably unhelpful as it all is: give it up to the Master, Who will put it on His wheel and make all things new.

Yer ol' pal,

Natalie_S said...

Curtis, if anyone can change the face of Christian scholarship it will be people like you who have seen what academia is and have a vision of what it might yet become. I have the deepest respect for what you are doing.

Glad to have you pop by. I appreciate the updates.

dancinghobbit said...

How does one make those monolithic types of decisions? Whether and where to go to grad school, what to study, etc.

Perhaps what you do doesn't matter as much as how you do it?

Natalie_S said...

I suppose it depends what one wants to get out of the experience. If you're deeply committed to a getting a certain job then perhaps you just go to the best program you can find, shut your eyes to all the things you may hate about it, and head towards that job that will make everything you're currently experiencing worthwhile. If, on the other hand, you are seeking a sort of personal fulfillment I would say go to the program that sings to your soul and forget all the rest. Of that course may make you less than ideally employable. Oh the trade-offs.

Perhaps you could unpack that last statement? I'm inclined to agree with you, but I'm curious to hear what you mean by that?

dancinghobbit said...

I'll try to unpack: :-)

It's just that I've wavered so much between career/education choices, always worrying, "What if I pick the wrong thing"? With so many factors involved, trade-offs are inevitable. Money, time, practicality, passion for the field, altruistic considerations (does a career allow you to serve God and others?)...how do you balance it all? A perfectionist person like myself can easily find it overwhelming.

Well, lately I've realized that what you pick probably doesn't matter as much as how you live your life. God doesn't care as much about whether you are an interpreter as a opposed to a professor, or a speech pathologist as opposed to teacher, as much as he cares about the kind of person you are. C.S. Lewis once said, "We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort." Now, I might be taking that out of context, but it still makes a nice point: what someone does is only good or bad when considered in the light of the kind of person that decided to do it.

Also, I once heard Dr. Kurt Wise talking about changing majors. Now, Dr. Wise seems to be the quintessence of diligence and focus. A professor of paleontology at Duke, he studied under Stephen J. Gould (as a creationist! but that's another story). You wouldn't believe how much this guy knows about all things paleontological. But he said, "Don't worry if you change your major a few times. You'll learn things from everything you do that will become useful wherever you end up."

So I've decided just to do whatever I pick as well as I can, and stop worrying. :-)

Natalie_S said...

That is probably one of the truest things I have ever heard.

susan said...

Graduate school is much better the second time around. I'm so ready to get back.

You might find yourself back on campus one day.