Ambivalence is my middle name

Sorry for the month-long absence and the lack of responses to all of your comments! I have come to a decision of sorts in the meantime about this whole ph.d. thing.

I’m staying…for now.

I’m not doing so out of some kind of naive sense that things will be different for ME on the job market in the future, or that somehow the market will dramatically transform itself, the baby boomers will all retire en masse and I’ll be assured a job.  I’m staying for a number of reasons:

1) I’ve always been told to make a decision when you’re ready to, OR when it is absolutely necessary.  Neither of these conditions were wholly met with this situation, so right now, I’m staying the course.

2) My ambivalence over a ph.d., I’ve realized, is less about getting a ph.d. in and of itself, and is more directly related to this program in which I find myself.  At the risk of outing myself, or making anyone from my institution who might read this blog indignant I’ll say this: I realized too late that this program is regressive in its outlook on English as a field.  I am interested in studying Jewish and Arabic diasporic representations of place/space/home.  There is literally no real way for me to do this here, despite the department’s protestations to the contrary.  I’m trying to figure out a way to make it work, but oy…it might not be possible.

3) My ambivalence re: the program also involves ambivalence toward some of my fellow students.  I left a ph.d. program in history where my colleagues were generally younger than me, were often silly, but were also seriously invested in their scholarship.  Here, it feels altogether different.  Sometimes I think I’ve woken up in a sorority/frat house.  I don’t consider myself to be an old fuddy duddy (I’m only turning 33 in September for goodness sakes), but apparently, I am, in fact, an old fuddy duddy (but at least fuddy duddy is fun to say).  Pretty soon I’ll be telling incoming students: “Back in my day…”

4) That said, I’m taking advantage of my fellowship and my space in academia to experiment and explore.  I might be transferring to another program (in geography).  I might discover a way to bend people to my will (that could be handy).  In the meantime, I’m fully funded, and Apparent Dip has a job.  Financially, it makes sense to stay.

5) The other options: library school, teaching comp for a year, etc., are still viable.  They aren’t going anywhere.

6) I need to discover if I’m running away from a challenge (as in the history ph.d. which I now wish I had not run from) or if I’m just bored with the program I’m in.  Only time (and patience, which I most emphatically DO NOT HAVE) will tell.

So there you have it.  We’ll see how things progress.  In the mean time, here’s a cute cat picture to lighten this post!

This is my professor's cat, who was not very happy that I was house sitting...

This is my professor's cat, who was not very happy that I was house sitting...

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4 responses to this post.

  1. my dad always said you can be forty with a ph.d, or forty without a ph.d….it looks like I will be forty without and while I don’t really regret not pursuing it, for all the reasons you mention here, there is a part of me that will always regret it….your work sounds fascinating! I would love to read more about it.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Linda B on July 30, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I have always believed that if there is a will there is a way. Having said that I know the frustration that you have trying to make something work for you when there is no-one who supports your interests. It can be frustrating to say the least. Hopefully you can get the support that you need to make the program work for you. If you don’t at least try then you will also wonder if you could have done something to make it work. Keep up your spirits and I know if you are disciplined you will accomplish what you want.

    Reply

  3. Hi, I came across your post by happenstance. I don’t know if it helps, but as someone who has supervised PhD students I can tell you you’re not alone in your concerns. Lots of people who go on to get their doctorates go through periods of great doubt. And as to age, well I was 48 when I got my first PhD (in Language Studies) and at 60, and retired I’m just setting off on the road to my second in Literature. Who says you can’t be old and fuddy duddy and get a PhD! If I can help get in touch.

    Reply

  4. Table Talk: Thanks for the encouragement! I’m slowly getting to a place where I’m at peace with my fuddy-duddiness. I’m trying to figure out a balance between being involved in my department, and realizing that I just don’t care to go out and get drunk with the “young ‘uns” every weekend. And I’m glad to know that doubt is common! I know that it is in the rational part of my brain, but every so often I feel very isolated in my ambivalence…

    Courtney: Your dad and Apparent Dip sound a lot alike! And I don’t know that I would regret not getting a Ph.D. if I were you…you have an MFA and an ability to write that I would LOVE to have!!

    Reply

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