This one's likely to be long, but not because of any particular problem, just because it's just the results of hashing out a series of thoughts I've been having since I'd seriously thought about undertaking my Master's degree. My thoughts are, in a way, kind of come to completion not with the award ceremony or receiving my degree, but kind of ironically in how I haven't received it in the mail yet and coming at the conclusion of my partner's finishing an Associate's but not yet having gotten the final grades back in yet. For me, it usually seems that even the most major goals or projects end unceremoniously, or else their real endings are marked by something that seems to refute a conventional catharsis.

I didn't have money for my graduation ceremony, so I didn't go, and I genuinely hate that kind of thing anyhow. I didn't have much family in the area and the ceremony for my Bachelor's degree was legitimately one of the most disappointing events in my life. Right now, I'm trying to get my university to mail my diploma to the correct address, as they sent it to one that I had never lived at while simultaneously actually enrolled with them. They want to charge me $13 to print a new one and send it, which seems a little insulting. This is, of course, the end result of all my time, effort, and -the most important element of the equation- money. Money I really didn't (and don't) have. The task, you know, the actual process has ended. The work is done. The essay has met with approval, and I have received at all points the nods and ceremonial ratings that dictate that I should ascend to the ranks of having a degree that thousands and thousands of individuals have before me - neither more or less important than myself, and certainly not special in any meaningful way.

According to the 2012 US Census, about 11% of Americans have a Master's degree of one sort or another. I think how many people you see daily who have one is probably extremely dependant on your location, but you can see there's nothing particularly amazing about it. I have the capacity to go on to a Ph.D, and I was told that I'd be a promising candidate, but that the cost probably wasn't really worth it in this environment. That's true with the Master's as well, I suppose. My goal isn't to be part of a rarified percentage as determined by census data - it was to do something I'd wanted since I was a child. The pursuit of a doctorate isn't out of the question for me, but it's very much a matter of being a personal goal, and I'm unwilling to invest in it in the same way that I was willing to go into the hole for the Master's.

I feel like there's no trouble at this point being as clear in public as I have been with myself and my partner (who I really couldn't, in good conscience, have included in this mess without total honestly about where it would probably lead us materially) - and that is to say that I agree that, financially speaking, going for the Master's degree in English isn't worth it. It's just not. There's no job that I can get with this degree that would pay more than just getting some technical certificates and going into IT. The lowest paying jobs are about on par with a good retail gig, and you don't take retail home with you in the same literal way as you take a bunch of Comp. 102 essays. I could never justify English from the perspective of money alone, and that is the kind of thing that has constantly marked the degree as the kind of thing that the modestly privileged - in terms of class - pursue. I was poor when I started and I am poor now, and both of us in this household gaining employment will push up to the rank of a modest working class household - the kind of income bump that seems like it heralds straight-up paradise to both of us.

This doesn't especially bother me. Or, it does in a systematic way, but it's not as though I'm coming to this in a state of unvarnished shock. I received those exit counseling emails not long after I finished my classes - like, within days. Some probably came in even sooner. I looked at the numbers I owed, since I wasn't able to afford to decline loans, and they're huge. Yes, I have a plan for dealing with it, but let's be honest and I'll tell you that I already knew this. The poor are not supposed to have this education, and everywhere within the structure that I looked, this was indicated. The poor, in theory, are only discussed in theory and not in practice. The professors are in academia, even the less affluent ones. But I will say that there are, among the adjuncts, the working class academics, and that looks to be me, soon. This is what I would refer to as a gathering class consciousness as those with extensive education both practical and theoretical enter into university spaces as workers and not as pure academics - because class issues will also bend one's mind in the service of a practical education, and anything practical is inevitably political.

That is why I entered academia. Because I want to be a writer, and now I am, because I have written. It was always possible for me to grasp some of the tools I needed, but it wasn't not easy to grasp all of them. It was always possible to gain access to some of the spaces I needed provisionally, but with extensive limits. It was possible to spend time to practice, but only in slivers. It was possible to gain access to some of the mentoring, but mostly second hand, at best. It is rarely enough to do it on one's own - I would say that it isn't enough. My colleagues were more blase about the concept of gathering to oneself an intellectual cohort even without academia, but they were also there - so who was more right?

All of this stuff is true for me, and I genuinely feel like I've grown as a person. In order to get my work done, I also had to learn to prioritize and develop better habits. It helped me shake off my funk and develop a new direction for myself. There are doors, small doors, maybe windows, or cracks, or holes, that are open to me that weren't before - that literally could not have been, purely based on the credentials I carry. So that's good, at least. But truly, I consider this one of the best and also most selfish things I've ever done for myself, because none of that was the reason I enrolled. I did it because if I didn't do it now, I never would have and I would have always wondered if I was up to it. I did it because I was less than ten when I told my dad I wanted to go to college and get a degree, and I really don't do these things. I tend to subsume my goals under a deluge of practicality and under the needs of others and, while that's generally good or even virtuous, this was important to me. And I don't care about the rewards or ceremonies hosted by others at all, but the fact that I pulled it off means everything to me.
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