Monday, December 25, 2006

The Brakes

Most of my posts are pretty impersonal, but this one won't be - the last few months have brought some big changes for Val and I, and while some of them I'm not sure I'll ever be able to properly frame with words, I'm at least able to describe the ways that my own direction has changed.

First of all, I have to say, I have always been a fan of brakes. Sounds strange, I know, but most people are, even if they don't know it - no matter how quickly you need to get somewhere, you still need to slow down sometimes along the way. Most who know me know that I enjoy reflection and quiet more than almost anything, and those things are hard to come by without braking at least a little. We just usually don't like being slowed down against our will, as anyone who has driven in Chicago rush hour traffic can attest: and there is always someone in the left lane who really does believe that five over the speed limit entitles him to a space in the fast lane.

Right now is one of those times that I really appreciate my ability to slow down, or to follow my obvious metaphor, to apply the brakes. Val and I have been leaning on the accelerator in the last few months, speeding through grad school and law school at top speed, trying to negotiate all the obstacles, moving as quickly as possible toward our respective advanced degrees.

Well - not quite anymore for me. My semester of philosophy was a marvelous experience, one which I don't regret in the least, not least because it taught me that I would not be pursuing philosophy as a career, if perhaps a hobby. I might enjoy thinking about subjects at that level of subtlety, and might even be able to make some minimal contributions to the field, but I learned that it's not something that I will WANT to do, not forever. It's clear that subjects which have been discussed for more than 2500 years will not find an answer, so I'm realizing that I'm more inclined toward framing the problems better rather than trying to find answers, a task that I would say requires some skill with philosophy as well as some intuitive talents that perhaps aren't as logical.

So I'm back to square one. I wouldn't mind pursuing a master's degree in philosophy, but it won't be as a primary career, so I'm willing to take a lot more time with it. I feel lucky to have stumbled upon a financial aid job at Northwestern University - they offer great tuition breaks and a decent-sized pool of courses one can take after hours - it will give me some time to step back and really look at what I want to pursue. I honestly don't know, even if I have a lot of ideas, but my semester has at the very least sharpened my writing and my reasoning, and working on a degree at NW certainly couldn't hurt.

It's a very difficult thing to step back and see that you've made a mistake about a long term goal, but that is precisely what I've been forced to do. The general goals might have remained the same, but my means of arriving at them will have to change. I'm not entirely unhappy about where I am at the moment, however - I have some time while working to take in all my options and pick something different.

So without going into much more detail, that's where I stand. Val is waiting to receive her first semester's grades, and mine weren't too bad (though they could have been better). We made it through at top speed and she'll be continuing on with my support. Now I have some time to rethink how I might work my way into a field and find the thing I really want to study, or if not study, then pursue as a career. As long as I'm allowed some room to innovate, an active life is not something I would mind living, though I believe the contemplative part of me will have to be well-satisfied with whatever it is if I'm going to enjoy that career. There are such things out there, so I hear.

And I should tell you, while sitting quietly at the end of my first Christmas out of school: the roses do smell very nice.


At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Amy I just wanted to say Hi and glad you two made it home ok.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Meesh said...

I know this comment is a bit late, but I know how you feel about having to change long-term goals! After spending a year at Bradley pursuing a career in engineering, now being at ISU and not sure if I want to be a teacher, I understand that it's rough trying to determine what you're going to do with the rest of your life!!


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