Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Anyone who's read this weblog for any length of time knows one of the recurring topics is my angst over being stuck in the middle of a Ph.D. program. I've finished all the coursework. For the past two (!!) years I've been (not) working on finishing the next stage of the program: three papers (40 pages each) that are required to be completed before taking comprehensive exams and then writing a dissertation.

I've done many other things during the past two years—worked part-time at a corporate job, as a substitute musician for the past seven months, and as a research assistant; TA'd a class; traveled; wrote a few book notes and a book review (though I need to finish the one that's currently overdue); maintained this weblog and spent (quite a bit of) time online; did some knitting; took care of household stuff; etc.

I've often thought about quitting the program. While I've invested a lot of time into it and forfeited a lot of income by working only part-time, I don't feel the time devoted to studying has been wasted at all. However, I feel I have wasted much time NOT studying and obsessing about not studying.

So I am trying to listen to what's going on and decide what to do. Do I just finish it and not worry how I might or might not "use" the degree when I'm done? Do I quit now and be content with what I've learned, both academically and personally, and move onto something else? Do I quit now and accept certain limitations of having only an M.A. and not a Ph.D.?

I'm still trying to figure out how to go about making a decision. I've been asking advice from trusted people and need to talk to a few more (like my advisor, to whom I owe an overdue book review...). I've been reading what other people have written about the choices they've made. Susie has written eloquently and perceptively about her choice to leave Ph.D. studies. John O. Andersen chose not to embark on a Ph.D. program but rather to take up "blue collar" work, which gives him time and mental space to pursue a variety of intellectual interests.

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