When I graduated college, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I just earned a degree in agricultural sciences from a well known land grant university and I still felt as lost as I did out of high school. Here were some of my ideas for what to do from here:
- Farm Apprenticeship
- Peace Corps
- Professional camp counselor
- +a few more 0s …..Grad School??
Farming was my first option. Some time out in wide open fields felt like a great place to find myself. I spent hours on websites looking up farms that were searching for help in Pennsylvania.
Then I called my parents, who paid for my degree. They didn’t seem to find the same value in the farm experience as I did. At this point, I didn’t care. I had convinced myself and all I wanted to do was spend some time in sunshine surrounded by tomatoes and cows. The search continued.
About a month later I got a call from my mom… “You aren’t going to like this phone call, but Dad has cancer.”
Earlier in the year one of my favorite professors mentioned the idea of graduate school to me after class. I had half heartedly filled out an application but stopped a quarter of the way through. My parents had heard about it and had been bringing it up the entire time I was searching for farm jobs on the internet. My obligations had changed now. I am an only child and, with its perks, also comes responsibilities and strong family ties. I couldn’t go far away from my Dad at this point in time. I wanted to be able to be close to home and have the weekends to visit if I needed. But most of all, I wanted to reduce my Dad’s stress.
If you have ever read anything about Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, you will understand my Dad’s personality type. Very work oriented, hard headed, stubborn, and stingy. You work through pain, heartache, bad days, and you don’t complain or cry about it. There is always something to be done and you do it right the first time. Seeing any emotion sneak out of my father (unless you are one of my white fluffy dogs) is like witnessing a shooting star on a foggy night. The thought of me going to live on some hippie run free-flowing organic farm is just about my dad’s biggest nightmare. Graduate school at his alma-matter that could lead me to better job positions with much more structure? A much more comforting thought.
It has been almost a year since my acceptance into the program. I have a pretty sweet deal, I am not going to lie. Not only do I have just about the coolest, most accomplished, down to earth, well-traveled advisor, I am also fully paid for by the university’s environmental center. I get paid for to go on trips to nature centers and am researching the benefits of spending an entire semester outdoors. Still, I have found myself loosing steam.
This is an awesome gig, but the main point is it is not what I wanted, it is what others wanted for me. Instead of listening to my gut, I followed the directions of the people around me. I debated quitting for a large part of this semester. The thought of writing a thesis to fit the absurd standards of a huge university, that maybe one soul other than my advisor may read, has the ability to drain all the energy out of me at once. Spending hours reading 60 page scholarly articles critiquing other articles and spending 3 hour classes critiquing them makes the whole world seem gloomy. Constantly feeling guilty for reading anything for just pure joy was something I hoped to rid of after my undergraduate years. Focusing all my energy on one specific topic when I see the world as so interconnected is even harder for me, especially when I have not yet gained the vocabulary to capture my ideas in words yet.
What I have come down to is this: although this isn’t what I originally wanted to do, it has so many blessings. They may be well disguised, but there is so much to learn here and so many opportunities have been presented to me just by showing up. I realize that I have amazing people and experts all around me, and tons of knowledge at my fingertips. I have survived a year, one more won’t kill me.
One thing that I love about blogging is sharing ideas and reaching other people. I don’t want to hoard all of the knowledge that I gain here to myself, but nobody wants to/has time to read jargon filled scholarly articles. I also realized through many conversations that I am not alone in my second thoughts and criticisms of graduate school. Creating a blog is my selfish strategy of keeping myself motivated and I hope that it also may reach some others out there that may be in my same shoes, or may be interested in the same topics I am studying. I am by no means the best writer, or an expert of anything really, and I’m just going to throw myself out there!