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8 January 2007

this has been a long time coming. long as in years. i’ve been making this decision for so many years that i’m not sure when i wasn’t already making this decision. which is fitting somehow. always already. the catch phrase of late 20th century literary criticism.

what decision? the one to leave my program. no phd. after years of planning on completing graduate education and choosing not to go on and then changing my mind and going on anyway, i think i’ve finally made a decision that will stick. i’m withdrawing. looking for a job that will pay the bills in the short term. and a teaching position at either a junior college or private high school for the long term.

those are the basics. the reasons why are not quite as basic. or maybe they are. it boils down to loneliness. and circumstance. i spend so much time feeling alone. i don’t like it. and i wish i could change it. but i can’t. i cannot exist in isolation. it makes me feel little and meaningless. and there is nothing that makes me feel more alone–desolately alone–than the kind of research and writing required by my program. and that very thing is what would make the career i had been planning on secure. so when i think about finishing the program and getting a job, it feels like all i have to look forward to is isolation with the limited connection that teaching would allow me. and i can’t do that.

i think the thing i’ve realized most clearly in the last few weeks as i’ve thought through this decision is that such choices cannot be made in the abstract. it seems so obvious when it’s stated like that. but i find myself thinking that the fact that i have a certain ability and desire and that those things are good means i am failing or quitting if i don’t pursue them with no consideration for my emotional and psychological circumstances. allowing those circumstances to influence my decisions feels like weakness, like i’m just not strong enough to overcome the need to belong. what i have continually found myself battling is the idea that if only i had the strength of character and will, i would be able to do it in spite of my circumstances. it’s toxic.

i’ve decided that that approach is foolish. how could proceeding in spite of circumstances be a strength? how is it good to ignore realities in pursuit of an ideal? i am by no means asserting that ideals should be ignored. nor that our abilities and possibilities should not play a role in making choices about what we will do with our gifts. just that ideals and reality should temper each other. my reality is that i am alone in many, many ways. and i do not have the emotional strength to make myself alone in other ways when i could choose a career path that would allow me to interact in such meaningful ways without the isolation of the research.

so. i’m withdrawing. with master’s degree number two. and i’ll look for a teaching job. and i know i’ll lose some things i love because of it. and i know i’ll deal with some things that will drive me batty because of it. but i believe it will make me happier. and that it will allow me to fulfill other dreams without the costs–costs that have become a bit staggering–i think i will have to pay if i continue in the direction i have started.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 January 2007 10:39 pm

    while i’ll miss you as a colleague, as your friend i think you’ve chosen the wise course for yourself. and it’s not that you haven’t given it your best effort, because you have, so you should feel no sense of remorse about that. in this regard i think that literature provides the best example. sometimes it’s worth tilting at windmills, but sometimes it’s better to withdraw and be sancho for a while. and besides, only real misanthropes like myself enjoy the solitude and isolation.

  2. 9 January 2007 5:42 am

    I admire you for your decision. I really do. Sometimes I think its harder to withdraw and choose another path than it is too just continue and try to persevere even though its making you miserable.

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