My Love Affair with Graduate School

As a graduate student, I see myself as on an adventure. I choose, as a mature, experienced adult, to walk away from the outside world of employment where I was unhappy. I did not have a goal and I felt like I was floating. I worked hard and enjoyed many moments and colleagues in the past but I did not feel I was leading the life I wanted to lead.

Then I returned to University. I took two or three classes in English Lit. while working full time. I graduated after several years and found myself wanting more. I wanted grad school. I could taste an academic career. I found my adventure.

I moved across the country to a place that was completely alien to me. I was a blue collar boy in a white collar world and I did not know what to do with myself. Yet, I found myself.

Everything that I have earned as a graduate student, just like anything else I earned in the past, has come from hard work and personal investment. I am thriving. I am so happy to be where I am today.

I am about to end the period of funding support from my program and I am entering that year where I need some more time to finish my dissertation. I have a project that I love and I am determined to finish it. This means more personal investment. More hard work.

That hard work and investment will pay off. I do not feel as if it is my manifest destiny to be employed as a Professor so please do not look at my words that way. I do not believe in manifest destiny. Rather, I am looking at the beginning of a new chapter in my life and I have no clue what will happen. That could be frightening. I assure you, there have been moments of terror involved in my dream. However, I refuse today to be afraid. The sun is shining. I have students to meet. I have supportive friends and colleagues. I have a supervisor and second reader who truly support my work. I have the opportunity to create my next adventure now. That is the power of a PhD. I can live for my work. I can take ownership and pride in my work. I can share my work with others in order to help them find their next adventure.

I do not usually make personal posts here and I do not want you to see that as a personal mantra or anything. No, I do not think my outlook is very different from any other Graduate Student. This is not an attempt at universalising the graduate student experience either. Instead, this is a personal choice to be adventurous and to embrace the values of the arts and humanities. I have decided to enjoy the uncertainty. I have decided to reject the negativity that swirls in all departments about the terrible job market or the desperate financial situation.

The humanities began as a site of scholarly study. A community not based on market value but on cultural archiving. A community based on passion for ideas, books, and the preservation of human endeavour. As a critic of the Victorian and Edwardian ages, I see myself as one such dedicatee. I have every confidence I will lead the life I want.

So, if you are also a graduate student you must also learn to enjoy the adventure of the unknown. The arts and humanities are not a place to turn to for job security or financial success. This is a place for people who see work as knowledge as their own rewards. We have to start looking at graduate school this way again. The money is slipping and it will take a lot of determination to maintain our passions in the face of time pressures, money pressures, and interpersonal pressures. Embrace it and thrive.

Enjoy your adventure today this lovely Monday morning. I will.


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