Monday, January 18, 2010

Where do we go from here?

I started this blog as an attempt to enter the academic blogosphere whilst I completed my Masters in English Literature and followed my hopes of pursuing a phD in same.

The radiowaves have been silent for a long time.

I finished my degree, popped out a baby, and have been treading water ever since. I'm using my degree, which is nice. I can't say I necessarily expected employment to result from this things I call a Master's (I mean, it didn't with my Bachelor's!). But I've been working the composition route, and learning lots more about pedagogy in general, since I now have more time to dedicate to my students and my planning. Not to say I didn't dedicate time, sweat and tears to planning during gradschool, but it was constantly panicked and frazzled. Now its just planning during stolen moments of naptime, infantile fascination wtih a new toy (cardboard box or wooden spoon) and these late night ventures.

I've got a job at a small technical college, and its paying the bills. It also allows me to work during the summer, which is something I am quite grateful for, as most composition teaching positions (at least for low-dudes on the totem pole like me) fall by the wayside during the summer months.

But how long will this hold me over? I suppose that anyone working in the humanities spends their career justifying their occupation and its relevance to the world. Sometimes I'm just tired of another composition student who doesn't want to be in my class and doesn't care what I have to say. Perhaps its a personality disorder, but my thoughts and doubts always reside in these students, not the ones clamoring for assistance with paragraph formation and generally bursting with enthusiasm for writing. And then there's the part where I'd rather be up to my elbows discussing literature, not paragraph structure and rhetorical appeals (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I can't say that I'm bored, because I'm constantly busy. Overly busy (see bit about stolen planning/grading moments above). But this isn't what I had in mind.

I wanted a baby. More than anything. And I have one and he is fucking awesome. I use the term "fucking awesome" to reduce any potential eyerolls at cliches like "light of my life" etc. But seriously, lil dude is pretty sweet. And not "sweet" like cuddly (though that happens on occasion) but "sweet" like IN YOUR FACE AWESOME.

So now I have a baby. And what's next? What happens to my plans for a phD? I could go for it, try another few years of school/dissertating, etc. Put my family through hell. I tend to be consumed by things, particularly school. I'm into school like Cookie monster is into cookies, and I turn into a monster. Going back just now might be detrimental to my marriage and to the upbringing of my child.

Do I wait till lil dude's just a bit older and apply for programs? What about the fact that I'm just not satisfied with just one? I come from a huge family, and forgive me if its hokey, but family means just about everything to me. I define myself in the largest sense by my relationships with my parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. I want more than one baby. And I don't want to have another baby when baby #1 is in kindergarten. If I'm up to my elbows in poop and diapers and teething and vomit; if my independence and self-definition is currently on hold, I might as well do the mom thing all the way and have the babies now. Moreover, it is important to me that my children are relatively close in age, simply because having siblings near me in school was invaluable to me, growing up.

So now we're (we being me) looking at having a few kids before really returning to school. In the meantime, as I said, I'm occupying myself teaching composition and even with some tutoring. What's the statute of limitations on my recommendation letters? In ten years, will the people I've worked for in composition be able to write a convincing letter to a graduate committee regarding my ability to perform as a student and a scholar? How do I stay in the game?

When do I just throw in the towel?

I mean, maybe its just not right for me, after all. Say I got into the program, had it consume me for 3-5 years whilst I neglected my marriage and family (this is what will happen, I know myself)...then what? I get job offers a thousand miles away? I'm just not willing to move that far. And that's even if I get the job offers. PhD in humanities is good for one thing, as my father says--good conversation in the unemployment line.

All this time I've idolized the academic life, and the more and more I think of it concretely in terms of my family, the more I realize that it might just not be something I can do. This is possibly the most painful thing I've ever had to face.

Hello dreams, I'd like you to meet the toilet.

I don't wish to give the impression I'm at all unhappy being "married with children." My man and I fit together better than Forrest and Jenny ever could, and lil dude is well, as aforementioned, fucking awesome. But when it comes to family and school, I can't see past the either/or scenario to imagine a both/and one. And its a hell of a pill to swallow.

Can I just sit in on classes till I'm eighty? I don't ever want to stop taking classes. I can read all thebooks I want on my own, but we all know its a real kick in the motivator when you've got the thoughts and opinions of a dozen other people to ingest in addition to the text. And for me, there's not much more intoxicating then the smell of a ball-point rising up from a notebook heated by ink-on-paper friction.

There's other avenues, of course. I've had numerous suggestions of pursuing an MFA. I've thought about the PhD in Rhet/comp, or one in Cultural studies. What about just plain out trying to publish some of the shit I write? I am drowning in possibilities, and at the same time i feel like I'm desert-choked for opportunities.

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