Is there a doctor in the house?

One of the things I love about one of my jobs – I have two jobs – is that I get paid to think and write about things I’m interested in.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s difficult to conceive any job better than that.  The corridors of academia, now that I’m walking them, do seem relatively attractive.  Dusty and uncool, but then that’s me all over.   I’m still coming to terms with that.

I realise this looks like most people's worst nightmare.

The glass is half full because the project is about perception and human rights, and I wouldn’t be any happier if you slathered me in Johnny Depp’s oiled body.

The glass is half empty because I’m a late entrant to the project and most of the really interesting stuff has already been done.

The Chief Brain's Office

The glass is half full because I get my own borrowed office and can work at home whenever I want, but half empty because I only do this job for half my time.  Half full because unlike my other job nobody bothers me and there’s a welcoming lack of managerial pigheaded bastard incompetence, and half empty because actually it’s pretty lonely.  I’m used to my job being The West Wing busy and with the same cut and thrust.

The Chief Brain's desk.

Half full because the Chief Brain is really encouraging me to think about doing a phd, and half empty because after my masters degree I told anyone who would listen that I was never signing up for any more education.  Ever.   Especially half empty because I’m actually considering that that the Chief Brain might have a point.   No matter how much I try to throw the rose-tinted spectacles across the room, I look back on the time I did my masters as difficult but worth it.  Those meltdowns I had weren’t real meltdowns, I was just being a wimp.  It was because I was also trying to work four days a week at a job.  I imagined that approximately one third of my hair liberated itself from my head.   Besides, I loved designing and carrying out my own research project.   I can still bore people for hours about my findings.

I’ve been reading and watching material on whether I should even allow these thoughts of a phd into my tiny mind.  I mean, what the hell am I thinking?  I’d have to find some funding and I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a recession taking place.  I would probably have to work part time and this thing, this millstone around my neck, would last for 5-8 years as a result.  I’m not that far away from thinking about a family.

If I don’t do it now, I don’t think I would ever get it done.

I must be insane.

While I was researching I came across a video where various folk debated the merits of getting a phd.  Not because you think it’s going to guarantee you a job, one of them said.  Not really for trying to get a job outside academia at all.  It’s hard.  It’s lonely.  No, this incredible woman said.  You do a phd because you can’t help yourself.

And I thought that’s me.   It’s like a fucking addiction to knowledge and inquiry.  It hurts but it feels good but it hurts.  I hit what I considered rock bottom during my masters but no, evidently not, because now I’m wondering about going back for that next hit and upping the dosage significantly.

Help.  Are you a reader with an opinion?  I want to hear it.  Please advise.

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9 Responses to “Is there a doctor in the house?”


  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life October 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I think that woman in the video is spot on.

    I’m just now doing my master’s and, at 46, there is no way I could ever justify the time and expense of a PhD career-wise, and yet . . .

    If you DON’T do it, will you be able to advance in your career and have the intellectual stimulation you need? I think a person you might want to talk to is Nora from Whopping Cornbread–she is a friend of Heather’s and she finished her PhD around the time she had her first baby, I believe.

    • 2 nic October 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks for tip on Whopping Cornbread, Jenn – I checked Nora’s site but it looks like she hasn’t updated since late 2009. I’m going to see if H can put me in touch.

      I think this is problem I’m having too Ashley: I’m finding it difficult to know what the pay off will be which would enable me to objectively assess what pros and cons are and justify the incredible time and money commitment. In this job market, I have to consider that I may end up with nothing. Sure, I want to do it, but is that enough? A Ph.D might help me get a job in academia but I’m not even sure that’s what I want. I could live with it, for sure, but my real love is government advice. Shame they aren’t hiring! For me the pros are really about continuing to learn for its own sake, and I wouldn’t ever do it unless there was some kind of external motivation and I have ‘permission’ from myself to devote such a chunk of time and energy to it. I can’t achieve that level of knowledge and inquiry I crave while working full time. Bramble you raise another good point – this job right now will support me, but this job expires at the end of May – even if I submit a proposal right now by the time I actually start, this job (in fact, both my current jobs) will have evaporated. On the other hand, if it’s a choice between being unemployed and doing a phd I would rather be doing a phd. And all of this is contingent on some external source of funding. Gah.

      Respect is due to all of you women who are/were studying while you also have family commitments. That’s not something I can comprehend, but on the other hand hearing that you’re doing it makes me wonder whether I shouldn’t just wait.

      I hate making these kind of huge decisions.

  2. 3 Ashley October 11, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    I’m in the same boat except considering a master’s. For me, with my already limited time and finances, I’m asking – what will it do for me? Sure, I could do it just because it’s calling out to me. But if that was the only attraction, I could simply audit the courses or continue my lifelong patronage of the library. No need for the expense or earned degree.

    But there WILL be a career/financial payoff if I get a master’s, so I will likely do it, at some point. Right now I have to get the bachelor’s finished – and boy, if you want to talk about doing something just to get ahead, talk about finishing your bachelor’s when you’re in your 30s with a husband, kids and career already moving. That might have been the longest sentence I’ve ever written. Probably not.

    Anyway – I guess, you could ask yourself – do you really need to be in a Ph.D. program to continue learning – if that’s all there really is? On one hand, the answer is no. On the other hand, without being in a program, how can you ever justify or motivate yourself to do that level of research?

  3. 4 bramble October 12, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Weigh what you want from it,the pros and cons and see if they make sense to you. I stopped mid way through masters work because life intervened and I was needed elsewhere. Do I regret not finishing? Yes and no. You will know what you are capable of at this point in your life. Will work support you in the pursuit? Mine did not and made things more complicated. Good luck it’s a big decision and alot of work!

  4. 5 Gail October 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Substitute fabric and orphan blocks for all those books and you have a good idea of what my sewing/computer room looks like.

  5. 6 Suzanne October 14, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I think you should do it. You can always stop if it turns out to be the wrong choice, but can you live with wondering “what if?” or thinking “woulda/coulda/shoulda” the rest of your life if you don’t try?

    I may be wrong, but I suspect that would drive you crazier than trying to make it work. And it would open a lot of doors and provide more opportunities, even if it turns out you’re not interested in them. I think it’s always better to broaden your options through additional education, especially someone like you who actually enjoys research. A Ph.D would be right up your alley!

  6. 7 Jennifer October 19, 2010 at 4:49 am

    I hated my job, went back to school and got a JD, and now I’m still paying for it ten years later, even though I’m not working (and therefore, have no salary to cover the loans with). As Bramble mentioned, my life intervened. I guess I would encourage you, if you’re thinking about a family, to consider going that route first. I had my first child in law school, so I promise that balancing act can be done if your partner is amenable. But here’s the thing: having a family changes everything. Maybe you’ll want to go back, maybe you won’t. I’m a staunch enough feminist that this whole idea makes me cringe, but it’s true–I love my time with my family so much that I don’t want to invest it in the work or the degree anymore. Maybe you’ll still want the degree after you have kids, but you’ll be more certain, and you can do it then. In my experience, you’ll do it even better then, because you’ll have another life experience that you can draw on, and you’ll be surprised at how little bullshit you’ll put up with at that point. It makes things like PhD’s and JD’s seem less life-altering, and more a means to an end.

    Either way, best of luck in making your decision. Thinking about higher education always makes me wish I was going to class and carrying around a ton of books.

  7. 8 Erick May 3, 2013 at 4:44 am

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You’re
    incredible! Thanks!


  1. 1 Un-Delete « lifesmudged.com Trackback on November 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm

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