All righty, peeps – I am about to ask your advice about something which has me genuinely torn, and while it doesn’t directly affect my relationship, it certainly has all sorts of possibilities to do so. The reason I’m torn is because I feel like there are two things I want more or less equally, and in some ways they are intertwined and in others they are in direct competition with each other.
Ready to weigh in on my life? Here goes…
Choice #1: Going Back to School
As most of you know, I work for a large state university as a staff member. One of the benefits of my employment is that I can take up to 9 credit hours (graduate or undergraduate) for $25 per semester. That’s right, $25 per semester. Since this is so inexpensive, on the one hand I feel almost guilty if I am not taking classes. It means that – in this terrible economy – I can pick up a new skill in any area I’d like, practically for free. This is very attractive for a couple of reasons:
- The BF and I are looking to leave the state in the next 1-3 years, and while we’ll be following his (more lucrative) career, if I can pick up something else useful then I can a) greatly increase my odds of finding a more lucrative job than I currently have, and b) find a job more quickly if I add something else to my repertoire.
- I have a PhD – I’ve been in school continuously since I started kindergarten. If I pick up some classes, I will almost certainly be extremely successful and derive great satisfaction from it. Rarely do you get to do both of those things in one fell swoop.
However, there are certainly some cons to this. The first is that if I were to pick up something else, I should pick it purely strategically and to increase my employable skill set. This would be very difficult for me because every degree that I have – two in creative writing and one in composition and rhetoric – I have chosen purely because I was interested in them. I have never thought strategically about school and am not quite sure how to go about it.
The second con is that if I were to enter a degree program (rather than taking courses here and there) it would almost certainly take me several years, since I work full time and probably cannot reasonably take more than one graduate-level course per semester and meet my own standards simultaneously for the course and for my job. This would definitely impede the mobility that the BF and I quite desperately desire at this stage in our lives.
Finally – and this isn’t really a con, although it’s something to think about – I have a PhD and 10 years’ employment experience in my field. How the fuck more employable do I need to be? Although there is a useful certificate program that is tangentially enough related to my degrees and experience that I know I’d do well, yet different enough to increase my skill set, I have to admit that the course that has caught my eye for the fall semester is one that is offered from a different type of department than my degree, but basically on my exact dissertation topic.
I am sure that I could contact the professor for this course and say, “I already have a PhD in X with a dissertation topic of Y. I am interested in taking your course and guarantee that I would have a lot to offer the other students in it. I don’t want to write an original research paper; instead I want to adapt one of my dissertation chapters for submission to an academic journal” and this would be agreed to very quickly. But aside from pride, if I don’t ever anticipate going tenure track, what good does it do me to get published in an academic journal?
Choice #2: Picking Up Freelance Work
Dudes, let’s face it. I’m hardly in desperate need of additional education. What I do need to do is pay off my debts as fast as possible, open a Roth IRA, save for a wedding, and maintain my mobility so that I can follow the BF when he makes a lateral move in a year or so. Getting additional education will not necessarily help me achieve these goals, and if the BF is successful in making a lateral move to another state, his salary will probably go up at least $30K. This means it won’t be imperative for me to find another job right away anyway – I mean, I’ll want to work, but we definitely won’t be under the gun as far as me having to find that work by any particular deadline. But the faster I can pay off my debt and save for these goals, the sooner that we can do all the other things we are interested in.
So, it seems that where I should really be expending my efforts is in increasing my income now so that we can achieve all these goals faster. I’m an alumnae of a large sorority with a huge alum club in the city, so I am sure that it would be relatively simple to start picking up contract work in editing and/or writing, and my reputation would grow relatively quickly and I could make lots of cash. And I would still be doing something that I love and potentially increasing my network so that I could pretty seamlessly pick up contract work in a new city if we did move, which would certainly tide me over until I could find something full-time.
The dilemma, of course, is that there are only so many hours in the day and I can’t do both. So what should it be? Should I continue to follow my passions – an especially attractive option since it is practically free? Or should I finally be a grownup and focus on my future – especially since it almost certainly means I will continue to get to do what I enjoy?
Let me know what you think! And once you’ve done that, check out the following posts: