Friday, December 10, 2004

To Ph.D or not Ph.D.

There is quite a discussion going in various places around the blog world about one single person's decision not to pursue the Ph.D. (I found it via wolf angel). The comments to the original post by this woman have gone way beyond reasonable. I do find her a bit whiney, but hey. Whenever I read about people deciding not to go on, not to finish, I take notice. I am an ABD myself with no plans to finish. I did a little bit of the sour grapes stuff myself--my advisor's not supportive enough, etc., but really what it comes down to is I'm not determined enough to get the degree in spite of many obstacles in the way. Despite not getting the degree, I feel pretty good about what I did accomplish. I have a master's degree where I had to write a thesis and take an oral exam covering the entire scope of literature from Beowulf to the present (we actually got to Hemingway). I took classes toward the Ph.D. while also caring for an infant and a child in kindergarten. I took both my written and oral exams (aced the orals), the written on Early Modern literature generally and the orals on Mary Wroth and sonnet sequences. I then spent a month in London doing a theater course. Then we moved and that's when it ended. When we moved, I had originally planned to finish, but after spending a year adjuncting and writing my dissertation (50 pages), I started looking at the job market and decided it just wasn't worth it. My degree would have been from a third-tier university and I knew going in that that put me in the market for the really bad jobs. Originally, I was thinking of teaching at a community college or something, but the pay is so low and the work load so high that again, I decided it wasn't worth it. I just don't like teaching *that* much. In addition, we were now living in a place where things cost so much more that I needed to get paid pretty well.

With the job outlook looking grim and my generally feeling lonely and discouraged, I received the final blow. I got a fairly negative review of my initial chapter from my director. I cried and cried and cried. I don't know why. I was already considering not finishing. I think that I had hoped for a really positive review which would have encouraged me to finish even if I rejected going on the academic market. About a week later, I began looking for jobs in my current field. I spent the week really thinking about where I was and what I wanted to do, what I was really drawn to doing during the days that I didn't teach. I was in front of the computer screen. I liked html coding, figuring out how gadgets worked, playing with new software, etc. In teaching, I incorporated all of this into my courses. I now need a job that would allow me to continue to do that.

Within two months, I had my dream job--honestly. When I saw the description for the job at the college where Mr. GM teaches, I said that's exactly what I want to do. I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in hell of my getting it, but I did and here I am. I love what I do and it helps to have the background I do even if it's without the extra 3 letters. I know what it's like to be in front of a classroom. I know what it's like to do real research, to be in front of an audience at a conference, etc. I like supporting those efforts. I get compliments regularly from people thanking me for the resources I provide. And I still get to think and do research and go to conferences and even teach. It's just that my career doesn't depend on those things anymore. So it's enjoyable again. And I make real money, which makes my life a lot easier in a lot of ways.

So I'm happy where I am, but I do think sometimes about what I might be missing out on. If I wanted to move up very far, I'd probably need those three letters. But life isn't about moving up for me. It's about balance. So far, things are balancing just fine.