Speaking of Vocation . . .

A short while ago I wrote to my graduate program director to tell him that I would not be continuing with my PhD program.

There are a lot of complex issues involved, financial, changing life circumstances, my naivete and subsequent disappointment with academia, among other things.

I have been unfunded my entire program (being fair to middlin’ in one’s academic work gets you accepted into the program, but doesn’t open up the money truck doors at your doorstep), so I have had to depend upon our own resources, and student loans (mostly student loans).  I sought external funding and had some hopeful possibilities that didn’t pan out.  But with each passing year, graduate programs are run like for-profit businesses and less like, well, institutions of higher learning.

I have also been disappointed with the political bifurcation of the academy and the politicization of knowledge.  And I’m not talking about departmental power grabs.  That’s just a fact of life.  But this is ideological politicization. Academic speech is so calculated anymore, with few being willing to buck “consensus” for pursuit of the truth.  More and more stuff is agenda-driven, with the agenda being some political outcome rather than getting at the core of what’s real (if anyone believes that’s even possible let alone a goal).

And there are just other life-happens sort of things: a growing family, a new job, day-to-day concerns have shifted.  I’m thinking much more long term: my daughter’s college (if they desire), possible weddings, a house, and so on.

I don’t shirk the fact that all of my choices, including the pursuit of a PhD in the first place, have brought me to this point.  And all of those choices are subject to the constraints of prudential wisdom.  If done again, I sure would do things with some significant differences (and much more planning).  But we are here and now, not then and when.  And this is what I am given to decide.

It is still greatly disappointing.  And coupled with the rembrance of the events of last year with my family, and a new rawness with that memory, today is a bit of a struggle.

4 thoughts on “Speaking of Vocation . . .

  1. Glory to God in all things!

    Hope you will hang in there, Benedict Seraphim, and not become to dispirited with your vocation and life-situation.

    It has been a tough year for my family, also. Heretofore, we have been blessed with good health and pregnancies without complication. This year, however, my wife and I have both been in the hospital and had surgery: me for a broken ankle in July, and my wife for a miscarriage in January. My wife has gone back to teaching school this year and, as a result, my life has changed dramatically. It is now my responsibility to wake the three girls, get them dressed and fed and to school, and I pick them up in the afternoon, attend teacher conferences, school plays, and such. To say that this year has been tumultuous, would be an understatement. Monday evening, I came home after having had four court hearings that day, with another important hearing to prepare for the next day and two civil jury trials scheduled to begin the Monday following Thanksgiving. I felt overwhelmed, and consciously decided to myself that if I had one more obligation or crisis, I might have a breakdown. Soon after arriving home, I discovered that a toilet had overflowed and two bedrooms were flooded. We scrambled to mop, sop, and dry-vac the house for four hours until the water receded. I felt like Mickey in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. What’s the moral? I need to rely on God more and me less.

    This, too, shall pass, Benedict. Life will get better, but the changes will be slow and imperceptible. In the meantime, now is the time of our salvation. Let us give thanks to God for all the good things He has provided. His mercies endure forever!

    Peace to you,

  2. You’ve hit a major theme in my life. I was almost ABD in my doctoral work when the Psych dept. required a 9 month internship at basically minimum wage. I had two kids under 5, a committment to my wife staying home with them, an 800.00 a month mortgage (in 1981!) and no ability to qualify for student loans. I ended up in construction having a degree in theology, an MS in counseling and 80+ hours of graduate work. That was 26 years ago. I have 5 kids grown and gone, one left at home and no regrets. Yeah, it has been hard, my body is trashed, I’m self employed with no insurance etc., my wife had a heart attack a few months ago and we’ll be paying for that for a few years….and yeah, we’ve had the toilet thing happen a few times http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/2004/11/sleeping-with-sewage.html

    Welcome to the altar of family! Climb on….

  3. I get asked, now and then, about why I didn’t finish my M.A. in English. First, it was a sacrifice enough to finish my B.A. with no financial aid, a 45 hr/week corporate job, and a growing family. Second, I just couldn’t bear the nihilism of the English dept another day. Third, I realized that I had a 20-30 year “game plan” about my life, not just a 2-5 year myopic focus on career/education. I do miss elements of the academic life…..but family life changes one’s perspective, that is for sure.

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