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Thursday, October 18, 2007


*EDIT* I just want to clarify that I'm not saying people without degrees are inferior or inadequate or anything of the sort. Dear God, I have such a negative opinion of academics, I can't even tell you. Anyway, I'm trying to say that I've failed in the path that *I* chose, which makes me feel a touch on the inadequate side. And also, I guess things always seem like they're more, um, serious/trying/difficult/emotional/whatever when they're happening to you. It's been an eight year battle and I guess I'm a little emotionally invested. So, thank you for the support. Sunshine on a rainy day and all that.

I'm going to talk about something I always say "WE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF THIS..." My dissertation. Bah. (Drama queen nonsense ahead. Proceed with caution.)

Once upon a time, there was a smart girl who had mediocre grades. She didn't really work in high school or undergrad; but in her Master's program, she realized that she loved school, she was a critical thinker, and research, well that sounded like a lot of fun! The smart girl also met Amy there.

The two years of the Master's program were almost non-stop fun. And the smart girl got offers from several different PhD programs. (There were even a couple of good schools in there. I know. I was shocked too.) The smart girl made an emotional - but not necessarily the best - decision and chose the program closest to her family. Her grandma (the aforementioned Great-Grandma Jones) was getting very old and she also had a new nephew. These people, she told herself, were reason enough to choose this less than awesome program. The good? The university was in Chicago and she'd always wanted to live there. The bad? It was the first year of the PhD program and the smart girl would be in the first class recruited from outside the university.

The smart girl's family was ecstatic. Her mom and dad were both laborers. Neither of them finished high school (due to family circumstances), but both got their GEDs. And they're both smart cookies. They could not believe everything the smart girl had accomplished.

The smart girl was on the fast-track too! If she worked hard, she could be done with her PhD before she turned 28.

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH... Roadblock. The department was terrible. They did not have an adequate number of faculty for their Master's and doctoral students. Advisors were choosy about whom and how they'd mentor. If you did not agree with them politically/socially, they were even less-inclined to work with you. Not to mention, they made the process ridiculously long for candidates who received Master's degrees from different universities.

CRASHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH... Another roadblock. Something bad happened to the smart girl here. But, after a couple months of crazy, she felt like she was back on track! Rock-n-roll, baby! Here's where it got difficult for the smart girl. Her advisor began to repeatedly try to divorce her. He didn't think she had "the stuff" for the program. Other professors felt "too overwhelmed" to take on another candidate. The smart girl considered quitting. Some stubborn streak in her caused her to carry on.

Things got progressively worse. The department strayed from its original principles to something SO FREAKING OUT THERE and began to bring in students to match their ideologies. The students who had the audacity to disagree were given undesirable assistantships, poor grades, and discussed with derision at faculty meetings. The smart girl's advisor continued to lead her astray and distance himself. The smart girl gave up. She didn't speak to anyone in the department for a year.

HOPE?... The smart girl was contacted by one of the faculty members. The professor said that he felt badly about the smart girl's advisor and how she'd been treated. He said that a new faculty member was interested in advising the smart girl and that she would certainly make it through. The smart girl met with the new advisor just a few months before her wedding. Needless to say, the smart girl was too stressed out to think about her stupid dissertation. The new advisor was concerned. The progress made by the smart girl and her previous advisor did not seem adequate. The previous advisor had steered her into increasingly vague and broad areas of research. The lack of progress on which they spent four years. The new advisor felt that the smart girl would basically have to start over. Her four years of searching, reading, annotating, and writing, down the drain.

So now, the smart girl is on hiatus. Her ego is battered and bruised (much of it of her own making). She's convinced that she doesn't have "the stuff." The Targo started his degree two years after the smart girl did. He is doing well and should finish soon. He's just that much of a rock star.

I don't know if I will ever finish and that breaks my heart every time I pay or think about my student loans. But I know that it was something I had wanted. And I wanted it for a reason. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, largely because of Peanut. I want my child to be proud of his/her mom, to know that I worked really hard, and to know that I'm not a quitter. But, I can't really prove that by quitting, can I?


Anonymous said...

sometimes it's all about timing. Peanut will be proud to call you mom, just like Targo is proud to call you a wife, and I'm proud to call you a friend. Plans change, and what we wanted at one point gives way to other things we want later in life. I wanted to be a librarian when I was younger, and then I wanted to be a teacher. And then grad school came and I already had student loans and yeah, it just wasn't worth it to me. For you, that might be different. But figure out what you really want NOW and do that. You've got the support and the smarts to do anything you want to!

Nicole P. said...

I agree with Aimee. Just because something was the right decision however many years ago doesn't mean that it's the right decision now and that is ok. Who's to say you won't try something else in another couple years.

Make the choice that is right for you right now.

Kristabella said...

Peanut is SO going to be proud of you. First, you have a bachelor's degree AND a master's. That is awesome! Second, timing is everything. And I wouldn't call you a quitter by any means. It is a lot of work to get your PhD. And you were dealt a lot of roadblocks. And when you're ready, you'll go back.

And if you don't? You're still smart and funny and you're going to be the best mom evah!

And at the end of the day, all that matters is that you're happy.

Anonymous said...

Peanut IS ALREADY proud of you. You are Peanut's super-cool mom with a super-cool blog to match. ;) And, for the record, I'm proud to call you a friend, too. :)

You're NOT a quitter. The lesson that you will pass onto Peanut is that life is change. To change is to live. To remain stagnant is to cease growing as a person.

I never went to university, got a degree or went to graduate school. Straight from high school to secretarial school. Glamourous, huh? But I know Lovely Daughter is proud of me, because I can see it in her eyes.

That feeling means more to me than anything.

L Sass said...

First of all, the way you told this story is hilarious. You may not have finished your PhD, but you're witty and a great writer--two pluses in my book.

Second, finish if you want to finish. Are you happy with your current career path? If not, would finishing the PhD change that? It's not all about having that degree, or the letters after your name... it's what you do with it.

And Peanut? Reread the way you speak about your parents' educational attainment. That should tell you exactly how Peanut will feel about yours.

Christi said...

I agree with everyone thus far. You are awesome and Peanut is going to feel the same way. I struggle with not finishing school and I haven't even went nearly as far as you have but I do believe that timing is a huge thing. You are not a quitter and you are also stubborn (a trait that you share with me) and us stubborners are going to get what we want no matter what it takes. You ARE going to finish school...just wait for the right time. Peanut will be proud of you no matter what. Just wait and see.

I feel very proud to know you and even more proud that you have made it this far in your studies. :)

janet said...

quitting is never easy or fun, but it sounds like now it might be time to cut your losses. I generally think that life is too short to be miserable, so if you are in a miserable situation, and it seems hopeless and unending, get out! Don't worry so much about what you think you SHOULD do or what you used to want to do. I know the student loans must be a punch in the gut. It's okay to change your path, especially when it's not what you really signed up for.

(I hope this doesn't seem harsh...)

Humor Girl said...

Weird! Something not working out the way YOU planned!! That NEVER happens to me! :)

Nonnie Bear said...

Don't feel bad about the student loans. I quit working altogether and still had student loan debt. How's that for putting that degree to work? But I don't even think about it now. I am doing what I love and that makes me a better parent. So go after what makes you happy and know that will make you a better person all around. And remember you will shine in Peanut's eyes up until about the time he/she is a teenager. Then it's up in the air for all of us, no matter what we've accomplished or not.