in which I am uneducated

Most days, I consider myself well out of the “quarterlife crisis” stage of my life. My life may not be perfect – or perfectly “adult” – but I like my job, I like my apartment, and I like my relationships. Everything’s great, right?

Sure. Except when it comes to grad school. Slowly but surely I’m becoming the least educated of all my friends. One of my best friends has a masters in organizational development. Another of my best friends is getting a masters in dietetics (she’s already a practicing dietician in the Air Force). Two friends from college, A. and A., both have MSWs. My best friend from elementary school has an MS in psychology. A good friend from study abroad is getting her MBA, and a former coworker just finished his. I can’t tell you how many law students (or recent law graduates) I know. Everywhere I turn, someone is taking the GRE, moving away to school, drowning in graduate-level schoolwork, or throwing a “thank god it’s over” graduation party.

There are a couple ways of looking at this. One is that, as the story goes, a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma. As in, everyone has one and it means nothing more than “you did the bare minimum.” Looking at the people I know who have gone to graduate school, their desire is always based on wanting more. In some cases, it makes perfect sense: you are tired of X career and want to do Y, but Y requires an advanced degree. Of course it makes sense to get one if you’re truly passionate about that career. In other cases, it seems like a band-aid. The old “I hate my job/can’t find a job/want to switch careers so, I know! I’ll just go to grad school!”

And that’s what brings about my other way of looking at this: why fix what isn’t broken? I like my job. I like the path it’s leading me down. I’m learning a lot, I’m making good money, and I’m valued at work. The career I’ve entered into is one that rarely requires a graduate degree, and it’s certainly not something required of me anytime soon. I read things like this and it just makes sense to me. I don’t need to go to grad school. I just feel like I should because it’s what you’re “supposed to do” and it’s what my friends are doing.

I hate that I’m becoming the least educated among my friends. I hate, a little bit, that I’m content with the status quo – instead of pushing myself further, wanting more for myself, I’m happy with things as they are. I hate it a little, but at the same time, how long has it taken me to get here? And for that, I value it. I value knowing what I want (or being able to admit that I don’t know, rather than trying to search desperately for something, anything, to go to school for). I value knowing that I’m doing what’s right for me and seeing things come together (for example, my income has gotten progressively higher over the past two years, solely due to my performance). I value not being in debt, especially for something I’d only be doing because I “should.”

Don’t get me wrong: graduate school and higher education are great things. I’m glad I have access to them if I so choose, but I’m also glad to have the confidence to make the decision that’s right for me and not go that route unless I have a reason to do so. If that makes me the least educated of my friends, then so be it. I hope I make up for it in a different type of success, corporate or personal or otherwise, that would not necessarily be available to me if I added extra schooling into the mix.

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6 thoughts on “in which I am uneducated

  1. I went to a grad school open house a couple of years ago, and one of the professors who spoke said something that stuck with me: “Grad school isn’t the place to find yourself.” And it’s true. The field I was looking at when I went to that open house is something I eventually realized was what I didn’t want to do. And I’m glad I didn’t spend thousands of dollars before I figured that out!

    I think you have a good attitude on grad school. If it’s something you eventually need to get ahead in a job or make a career change, then go for it. But if that’s not where you are now and if you’re happy with where you are, then stick with it!

  2. Oh man, I totally feel you on this one. I went to nursing school but never finished. I’m 30 and don’t have any degree of any kind. But I did manage to have a great job for many years, and move up to a great position in that company. But then I was laid off, now exactly 3 years ago, and I’ve been struggling ever since. Which is why I’m now back in school.

    But it’s going to take me almost 4 years to finish my degree. I want to get married and I want to start having kids before I turn 35. Grad school just doesn’t fit into those plans, and I’m not sure I even want to GO to grad school.

    In my closest circle of friends, there is a Doctor, 2 lawyers, 2 who are currently earning their PhD (one of those friends did his undergrad at Harvard), another friend getting his PhD in something else at Columbia (undergrad at Princeton), and several others who have Masters degrees in their field. And here I am, with no degree, sitting in community college classes with a bunch of 18 year olds. It’s a very strange position to be in.

    I think if you like your job and you can live the lifestyle you want, there is no need to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a graduate degree. But I do think we should always be educating ourselves through other avenues!

  3. Meh.

    I desperately wanted to go to grad school, but life got in the way. Now? I’m so glad I didn’t take that route. I’m free of debt and working just fine.

  4. I agree – I think you have a great attitude about this stuff. Especially after going to law school, I can’t imagine making this kind of time and financial commitment unless I LOVED what I was doing and was really committed to it. It boggles my mind that some people go to grad school/law school just to like…pass the time, or because they think it’s what they should do.

  5. I love this post, and attitude. I have a 28 year old friend in law school that recently suggested my husband quit his job and finish his undergrad degree in a year instead of one class at a time and I got to look at her and bitchily say, “Sorry, we are adults with real obligations, we can’t just quit life to get into a ton of debt for something that isn’t even a sure thing IN THIS ECONOMY” (like she did).

    I don’t know why people act like a graduate degree has a golden key rolled up into it that opens the door to a six figure salary. Even MBAs are working at UPS for the health insurance these days ya’ll.

    Don’t let those jerks make you feel bad, just look at the positive dollar amounts you bring in, and think about the negative dollar amounts they are racking (or have racked) up. High five.

  6. Pingback: things on a wednesday « either eat this soup or jump out of this window

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