Well… I didn’t have time to read any books for pleasure this month. What did I do instead? I “wrote” a “first chapter” for my “thesis” (yes, the apostrophe marks are necessary). I had my oral boards. Today, I have been trying to think about what I want to do post-May 2008. Basically, all the plans I had set up for myself no longer exist. I am not the kind of person who finds this feeling giddy or exhilarating. Rather, it makes me bite my nails down to a state of raw, ravaged crescents.
It can be pretty stressful trying to plan for the future.
Honestly, I know there’s no point to writing about or worrying about these kinds of things, since they seem to change so sporadically, and obviously life is impossible to plan for in general, but still–that doesn’t seem to stop me. Most of the best decisions of my life have been made impulsively, at the last minute, and sporadically. Nevertheless, that doesn’t prevent me from trying to anxiously plan for—not everything, I suppose, but the next year of life.
I always thought that I was going to apply for Peace Corps after graduating. Not only have I always wanted to do it, having grown up with hearing my parents’ stories about it (the story of how my mum and dad met via a rabid dog in Nepal is one of the many key tales in family lore), but it would also conveniently take care of the iffy question of what exactly I was going to do with the next two years of my life. It would be Done For! Decided! Taken Care Of! However, something came up that I didn’t expect, and which has prevented me from submitting my application: I met someone, and I don’t particularly want to spend two years away from him at this point in our lives. He is going to Ecuador next fall to some research work with fungi, and unless something completely unforeseen and unpredicted comes up, it looks like I am going to go with him.
Which raises the big question for me: what exactly am I going to do with myself, once I’m there? Teach English? Work as a Kiva.org fellow? (If they hire me despite no financial or business experience, and complete computer ignorance, and no money to fund myself) Should I apply to grants in order to fund my trip and do things to make my resume look better–take a computer class, take an econ class at Reed, read the recommended books on microfinance and ending poverty, get an internship—why is my resume blank of internships? Why, oh why? What, oh what did I do with my time as an undergrad, besides fretting about my extremely poisonous relationship with my extremely evil ex-boyfriend? These are the questions I try not to ask myself, if I don’t want to drive myself into an absolute existential frenzy. Chances are, my resume is more than okay, even if I never volunteered with Amnesty International or interned at Mercy Corps.
There was a time when I thought I was going to go to graduate school. That changed pretty much in one day, after the orals for my thesis. Hearing my thesis advisor and my first reader engage in a highly theoretical discussion about the difference between the term “knowledge” vs. “understanding,” I had what is called an epiphany: This is not for me. Existing in a world of such abstract language is not for me. I cannot sit in an office and talk that talk for the rest of my life. I will not enjoy it, it will make me go crazy, and therefore I do not enjoy researching. I enjoy writing, and talking about books. But researching and publishing papers (or even writing papers), I have never really enjoyed.
All of this seems to be pointing to the deeper, more fundamental question. The biggest can of beans, if you will—what exactly is it that I am good at? Well—I’ve done some volunteering abroad. I sure did enjoy my job last summer, working in Tijuana with high schoolers. I enjoy being in an international environment. I enjoyed facilitating an international service-learning social justice-oriented project. I enjoy working with people.
I guess I will meet with the Career Services office about applying for some grants, and about job opportunities period in Ecuador. Search the World Learning site a little more. Maybe get in touch with Reed alumni who lived in Ecuador. Take deep breaths. Things will be okay. I still got time.