Thursday, May 07, 2009

I'm trying out a new feeling.

So - school. It's going well, even though I now officially have ONE WEEK to write two research papers, neither of which is in a very good state right now, but that's not what I want to write out right now. :)

I'm trying to figure out which TA-ship I should do next year. And yes, I recognize that it is REALLY NICE to have options. And, as I told my mom on the phone the other day, they are both good options - as in, if some external force made the decision for me, I'd pretty much be ok either way. And as my mom pointed out to me, that means I really can't make a bad decision here - there isn't one. And that's kind of a relief. :)

The thing I'm struggling with is what I am "supposed" to do with my career. For the last few years I have felt like I wanted to go in a certain direction with my career, and that impacted my decision to come to this school, and has impacted my choices of classes and research projects so far. I also feel some sense of obligation to the faculty that I worked with during my masters - they knew my plans and direction when I came here, and I feel a little bit like changing direction would be betraying them and the support they gave and continue to give me. But I also recognize the ridiculousness in that, and that I can't and shouldn't live my life based on what I think my former advisors think I'm doing. :) Or even what they hope I'm doing. I have to live my own life - it'll be a really painful career if I'm doing it based on someone else's interests.

And then there's also this - I took a long time to finish my masters degree, and even though I got to do a lot of really cool stuff during that time, taking that long to finish didn't do happy things for my self-esteem. And part of the reason that it took so long was because I didn't know what I wanted to do at the end of the degree, or even what thesis project I wanted to do during the degree. When I found the topic that ended up becoming my thesis, it was very exciting to me - I felt like I had found my purpose, I had found something that I loved and that I could actually DO, and I


had some direction!! So that topic / research direction / career direction is, I think, very associated in my head with that emotional release and relief of knowing that I had FOUND IT. So the thought of letting go of this direction to maybe try out going in a different direction feels a little bit like a betrayal of myself as well, and a little bit like I'd be letting go of any semblance of control or of the power of a previously-made choice about what direction I'm going, and I also REALLY don't want to reenter that "no man's land" of "I don't know what I'm going to do at end of this degree" feeling, because that feels too much to me like "I have no direction in my life or career" and I've already spent enough time feeling that way and was VERY happy to get out of it.

But in talking to my mom the other day about the options for TAships for next year, and the possible future implications of that choice, I realized that my whole view of my future and of Heavenly Father's plan for me might be wrong.

I realized that I've been feeling like there is some GOAL or PLACE or NICHE TO FILL out there in the wide world somewhere for me, and that it is static, and that I have to make sure that I make the "right" choices, find the "right" path, turn to the "correct" page in the "Choose Your Own Adventure" that is my life, so that I can arrive at that specified place.

But what if that's not really how it is??

It might be that this whole "life" thing and this whole "career" is much more freeform than that, that I really do develop it and form it as I go, and that as long as I don't make any morally incorrect choices, and as long as I involve Heavenly Father in my decisions and follow the promptings that I receive, I won't - can't! - make a wrong decision. Maybe it really is that I just choose as I go along, and rather than feeling like I'm struggling or fighting to find the "right" path, I just create it as I go, and whatever I create is fine.

It's kind of a freeing feeling, and kind of a scary feeling, and I'm trying to try it out to see if I like it. And that's not as easy as it sounds.


Amy said...

I think you're brilliant and good. And my personal opinion is that the freeform idea sounds about right.

Here's a thought or two; I think it may be okay now for you to let go of the urge to react against the negative aspects of your Master's experience. I think you needed to hold onto that for a while to help you get over the threshold, into the program, and feeling progressing again. Remember that there are some big differences between your current situation and that one, that aren't going to LET it digress into the same thing: 1- it's a PhD, not a master's. So you're full-time, and the "work" you're doing is a little less work and a little more of an excuse for financial aid than your last job. There's no denying you're hard-core in a program and on track to get OUT of the program on time. The nature of your program is pushing you ahead.

I hope that's comforting. I know I numbered it, but #1 is really all that I have to say, so I'll stop there. :)

It may feel a little strange, esp. after all the "must move myself forward" messages you've been giving yourself, but I think it's probably a good idea to just kind of ride your program for a while. Like (I think) you said--kind of be in the moment and see what about your CURRENT projects you like. And before you let yourself think, "okay, what are the implications of that liking for my future career?" just ENJOY the liking for a while. There will be time to make career decisions later, but like you (probably) said, those options will be better for you the more you really enjoy what you do (and thus do what you enjoy) now. Maybe let go of the destination and enjoy the ride a while.

AND the prize for longest comment EVER goes to: Meeeeee!

Amy said...

Do you like how I said "I'll stop there" and then totally didn't? Excellent.

Rachel said...

Having just seen my personal plan for the day tumble into the chaos of discipline and necessity, I really like the free form idea as well. I think it fits under the heading "It does not matter what you get done, it matters what you become."
Feel free to be ambitious, to get your PhD and move on, but don't feel bad about doing a few things outside of your plan. It may change your plan and your career, it may not. After all, where did you work before you moved to grad school? :)
So, ENJOY YOUR LIFE. One way or another.

Jennifer said...

I'm not sure how this fits into your current schooling/future career/life pondering, but I just wanted to remind you of when we lived together in the big red house and we were talking and you told me of your epiphany of the day and it went something like this "Today, I'll worry about today, and tomorrow I'll worry about tomorrow" and I just want to say that has pulled me through some rough days and hard things, and so I think, even though you are trying to figure things out right now, you happen to be one of the smartest people I know--so somehow I know things will work out for the best for you! Keep your chin up! :)

I sure miss you!

And if Amy gets the prize for the longest post, I get the prize for the longest sentence and worst grammar! :)