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2005-09-24 11:06 PM
things that go "phd" in the night
So how is the PhD discernment going, rm?
Pretty darn well, thanks for asking, Contrived Writing Device!
So recently I sent e-mails to two women I greatly enjoy and admire—one, a seminary professor who has been a friend and inspiration for a long time; the other, a pastor here in town who’s always brimming with great stories, laughter and insight. (I think she reads this blog, but I’m not just saying that, she really does rock.) Pastor Friend got back to me quickly and we had lunch last week. Afterward I began to visualize what a long career in ministry might look like for me.
Meanwhile, I’d been trying to reach Prof Friend for awhile, to no avail. Left a couple messages, sent a couple of e-mails, but nothing. What’s up with that? Hey, is this some kind of parable about the all-consuming pressure-cooker that is academia (particularly pre-tenure academia)?
Probably not, rm. Don’t draw hasty generalizations from this.
Yeah all right, CWD, but it also seems to me that in the pastorate, people at least pay lip-service to self-care and a well-rounded life. Academia, mmm, seems to be less so. (And I also recently read What Now’s harrowing tales of the assault on academic freedom at her university. Chilling, truly! I hope that all works out ok, WN! Yeesh!)
Anyway, I also had an interesting realization a few weeks ago, coming back from my aunt’s memorial service. I flew into Baltimore, then took the MARC train down to Union Station, where R picked me up for the drive out to Suburb. As I walked out of Union Station I remembered 11 years ago, when I spent a summer in DC on a journalism internship. At the end of that summer, I basically did the reverse—got a ride to Union Station, caught the MARC to Baltimore, and got on a plane bound for home, and the whole time I was thinking, “I just have to live here again someday.”
So now, here I am, “living here again,” or at least in a suburb of “here.” So why would I want to set a course that absolutely requires that I/we leave, which the PhD would? Despite a few inconveniences and unappealing things (traffic, cost of living, distance from family, the type-A capital of the world) I think it’s a great, vibrant place to be. R’s business is growing roots here, we’re working on getting our house more comfortable, it’s a good presbytery, and I can see this being a place where we stay.
You’re also nesting, getting ready to have a baby, so naturally you’re not wanting to uproot everything at the moment. You might change your mind at some point after the baby comes.
Yes, of course, CWD. This isn’t set in stone. Oh, did I mention that there’s a chance that my mother, whose employment contract expires in December, might look for a job in this area? That would add a neat element into all of this decision-making.
The other interesting piece that I’m ruminating on comes from PPB, blog-friend and official career counselor to the RevGals. In an e-mail that came right after the Baltimore-MARC-Union Station-“maybe I should stay here” thing, she wondered whether I was really called to get a PhD—maybe I was called to get an MFA in creative writing instead. It’s the creative stuff you seem to love, she pointed out. Do you really want to be constrained by having to write academic stuff all the time? Also, you may not have to leave the area to do the MFA, and it might open up some interesting career options.
The more I think about it, the more I like it. The challenge is all my night meetings and how I would fit in a bunch of graduate classes and still see my family. Then another blogger shared that there are low-residential programs all over the place—students go twice a year for a week or so (and isn’t it convenient that pastors receive two weeks a year for study leave!). Then they come home and do their writing independently, submitting their work online to the professor and sometimes a cohort group—while continuing to work, be with their families, whatever.
And there are some cool programs—one outside Asheville, NC, which is near Presbyterian Mecca, and there’s even a program that focuses on writing of a spiritual bent—for “Christians and those of other traditions, who not only want to pursue excellence in the craft of writing but also place their work within the larger context of the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith… This program seeks to extend the tradition of Christian writing in which the highest levels of art, an open-eyed exploration of human experience, and a respect for transcendent mystery are all held in a proper balance” (from the website).
Why do you even need to get a degree at all? Can’t you just work on your writing on your own? What is it with you and school?
I don’t know what it is, CWD! I do well in the structured environment of school, assuming it’s the right program, and I’d really enjoy receiving some support and encouragement as I continue to write. I have no illusions about being “discovered,” or of making writing my primary vocation. But I enjoy it and would like to develop it. And I can see my vocation evolving into some pastoring/teaching/writing hybrid in the coming years. Who knows.
So that’s where I am right now.
Interesting. Keep me posted on all that.
Well, considering you’re a voice in my head, that shouldn’t be a problem.
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