Friday, January 31, 2014

Should I go to grad school?

The UC Irvine campus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing the thought in the previous post, one of the things I could do with my life now is earn a master’s degree.

As of 2012, 30.94% of Americans 25 and over have achieved at least a bachelor’s degree. That means I am still in a privileged minority – but I still feel shame that I’m not one of the 8.05% that has earned a master’s degree or above.


I think a master’s degree is something I should have. It would help me become more employable. And it is a tangible achievement. It’s like a mountain...I want to climb it because I want to be able to say I did.

If I were to earn a master’s degree, though, it would need to be in a subject that a. I genuinely care about and thus would have motivation, and b. is realistic for me given my background. That subject would be creative writing.

It would be good for me personally to have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing.


Unlike a teaching credential or a medical school degree, I don’t need that piece of paper to write. Many successful authors do not have that MFA, and some don’t even have a bachelor’s degree. Why wait two years to earn that degree when I can start writing now?


It will cost thousands of dollars. Over $60,000, if I attend the well-regarded program at UC Irvine. That is money we don’t have right now.

Going to grad school would mean going into debt. Again.

I have been in five-figure debt. It is not a pleasant place to be. At all. It takes over nearly everything in your life, eating you alive with worry and fear and shame. Debt gets in the way of life.

Needless to say, I really like the feeling of being totally debt-free. Perhaps more than having a master’s degree.

Perhaps it is better to just write a book, and bring in $60,000 (or more), than go $60,000 in the red before the book is even finished.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Here comes the new year, same as the old year (?)

New years, according to the popular media, are supposed to bring new beginnings. January is the month for us to overhaul our mindsets and finally do what we have to do to get to where we want to go.

In order to do that, though, we have to know where we want to go in the first place.

I don’t.


I’m starting out 2014 the same way I ended 2013 – lost, unfocused, not sure of exactly where the hell I am going.

To be honest, I’ve felt this way for several years now.

I don’t know what I want to be yet – decades after most other people my age have not only answered that question, but are living it.

(Please don’t suggest that I volunteer. I haven’t changed my mind about that.)

I do know what I don’t want: a full-time job in an office building.

I want to earn money, of course, enough money to take care of my needs and a few special wants. But I have been working outside the 9-to-5 routine for so long that returning to it would make me feel like an ex-prisoner being dragged back to jail.

I have not looked for or applied for a full-time office job for quite some time now. Only freelance, temp, or part-time.

Strictly speaking, I don’t need a full-time office job right now. Money is tight for Two Dogs and me, but for now we’re hanging on. (Our neighbor pays us to help him out with laundry, doctor’s appointments, etc., and that is a boon to us.)

But I do feel guilty.

I feel guilty about not looking, and I feel guilty about not wanting something that most adults take as a given of responsibility. I think I’m a lazy bum sometimes (even though in fact I almost never “laze around” during the day). I ask myself, am I doing right by myself by not earning as much as I can before I get old? Am I doing right by my spouse by not bringing in more of the bacon? (My freelance income for 2013 was about $2100. For the whole year.)

What is wrong with me?

Possibly nothing, in fact.

It may be that as I become more definite in what I don’t want, what I do want will become clearer.

I guess what I really want is to make a living doing something that I enjoy (most of the time), that I feel is important, and that will have impact beyond myself. I like to see myself with my laptop in the coffeehouse or library, sometimes doing things for others, sometimes in Word writing the fiction which is breaking out of me. That is a happy Meandering Mouse.

Maybe we shouldn’t think of January as now-or-never for goals. Maybe we should see that it is an ongoing process, subject to change of mind. It could be that in June I’ll discover an office job that I’ll jump to apply for.

I will keep in mind this quote from psychiatrist M. Scott Peck:

Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.