I get a lot of inquiries (especially this time of year) about what the hell I’m doing about grad school that started lo so many years ago, and if I’m any closer to finishing.
If you’ve ever asked me about this, you’ve probably noticed that I dodge or deflect the subject, and try to move on to something else. I don’t particularly like to talk about it. It might seem strange to you (in fact, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that you, my friends and family who ask me, are routinely confused by this) that I want to avoid the subject. Well, the truth is that I literally spend hours every day trying not to think about it.
There is no single greater regret that I carry around than the state of affairs related to the clusterfuck that is my post-bachelor’s college career. Believe me when I tell you: I think about it every day when I wake up in the morning. I think about it every day when I get in the car to drive to work. I think about it every day when I sit down at my desk, when I go to lunch, when I drive back home, when I go to bed, and I have nightmares about it while I sleep.
Let me admit a few other things to you now, about where I’m at with this process:
• I haven’t written anything in months; not since about May 1
• I haven’t read anything that wasn’t on the Internet since before that
• I transferred my credits from Montana State to UWO, which means that the “clock” on my time to complete the master’s degree started ticking in Sept 2002, and over 7 years have passed since then
• This means that, even if I were to try to finish, I would need to start re-taking classes from early in my studies
• I only assume the statement immediately above, which I inferred from all the documents I’ve read pertaining to candidacy for completing the degree; I will probably never find out the complete and accurate truth, because I am too embarassed and ashamed of myself to ask anyone
• Even if I could still complete this degree, I have spent so much of the past 6+ years feeling ashamed about my failure, the thesis that I was writing is not even enjoyable to me to at this point. My mind has turned it into a symbol of my pathetic failure, and to even think about it makes me hate myself.
I regret ever leaving Bozeman early, when I was offered a teaching position less than 60 hours before I was heading back to Wisconsin. I hate how fucking stupid I was when I was 23 or 24 years old. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t called up my old boss at the Financial Aid Office looking for work after I moved back to Oshkosh in 2003. I constantly think about how in the course of 7-and-a-half combined years of college, I thoughtlessly borrowed over 70 thousand dollars, and I will spend the majority of the rest of my life paying it back, with barely a thing to show for it. I think about what I could have done differently, or what questions I could I have asked, what guidance I should have sought.
But then I also realize that this particular series of events isn’t significantly different from anything else that I’ve worked on or failed at elsewhere in my life. It occurs to me that my waning days of college (round one) were fraught with hurried, poorly-executed assignments, half-baked ideas that were never concluded, and finally, a rush to apply for grad school, because I was too scared to leave college. I continued on this path of higher ed for all the wrong reasons, and now I owe so much money, I can never afford to leave a job that I don’t *quite* hate.
I have never known what I want to do with myself or my life. I have just bounded from one stray thought to another, one ideal notion of how things could be to the next, and the one constant through all of this has been my failure to finish anything. The only things I have claimed to be striving for for more than a couple weeks at a time were simply impossible to reach, so I could easily keep talking about them. Maybe this is why I sit here fucking around with a computer more than half the time; because this is something that is NEVER finished, it’s always a work in progress, and I don’t have to be reminded about how I’m not accomplishing anything.
So what does this have to do with you? I have constructed a convincing facade, but make no mistake: I am telling you the truth when I say that this is what makes me hate myself every single day. I am haunted by this epic, expensive failure that I see no solution to. My only hope on a day-to-day basis is to try to distract myself enough from these thoughts that I can make it through until it’s time for sleep again. When you ask me about it (innocently enough, I understand), it just serves to remind me that not only do I see myself as a failure, but you probably notice the same thing. That’s why I don’t want to talk about it. That’s why I haven’t finished, and, let’s be honest, I probably won’t.
I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say.