I started thinking about graduate school in 1994, when I got a summer job as a research assistant after my freshman year of college.

Now, I’m thinking about throwing that fifteen-year plan in the trash and start over. Just short of half my life. It’s not easy.

If I had written my book, I probably could have stayed here for the rest of my life, in my first job out of graduate school, mixing teaching, research, and admin, following new topics to new courses and new projects. Isn’t that the dream? That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? And now I’m giving that up, washed out by my inability to write my book. Failed.

On the other hand, I’m not confident that was really ever my dream. When I was eight, I said I wanted to teach. I was going to teach fourth grade. In fifth grade, I was going to teach fifth grade. By high school, I was going to teach high school. And when I got to college, and someone said, “hey, why not teach college?” to me, I said “sure, sounds good.” And that’s the path I’ve been on ever since.

I strongly suspect that the mere neatness of this hints at flaws within. It’s too pat, isn’t it? (Isn’t it?)

Moria writes about daydreams, and ardent desire. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way about this profession. (Admittedly, I do tend toward the peaceful over the passionate, in general.)

If I continue to teach, of course, then I’m not throwing it away, just returning to my original plan. I could look for teaching colleges, community colleges, possibly private high schools, that don’t demand published research. I’d still be a professor.

But I don’t know. Do I trust the decision of an eight-year-old who never found anything better? And I know what makes me want to teach. It’s the same instinct that means I give too many driving directions to the point of uselessness, write assignment sheets that are too long, can’t resist guessing at the answer to a question, can’t prevent myself from trying to be helpful if I know something. I’m not sure that’s an instinct that produces the best teachers.

If I could do it over again, I would have gone abroad to teach English directly after college, and not go straight to grad school. That is one clear thing I am sorry I did not do, and one option I will be seriously applying for. It’s a stopgap, but a good one. And I think I might need a stopgap to figure out my dream.

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