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Language Log

Tuesday, Nov. 07, 2006 - 10:18 a.m.

Well, I got my courage up and went to talk to my Swahili teacher first. My plan was to hit all of the major players: her, my advisor, the chair, and then follow up with emails to others later in the day. I was going to do it!

Then she talked me out of it.

Well, she pointed out that I could ask for an extension on my qualifying paper, and work on it at a leisurely pace, and take a leave for a year or so to try out the jewelry thing. I could work on my proposal some, choose a pleasant, non-ambitious dissertation project, and do it slowly. If my jewelry works out, then great, but I won't have completely cut off any opportunities just in case it doesn't go the way I'm hoping. I can get the degree and not have to take an academic job if I don't want to-- I can indulge my love of language, indulge my desire to try other things, and I don't have to close the door behind me in order to do it.

We J and I knocked the idea around (really-- it was bleeding severely when we were done with it), but its strengths were greater than its weaknesses, and in the end I acknowledged that I just can't come up with a really good argument against it. Nothing stronger than a "But I was just fixin' to...!". Therefor, it wins. I feel vaguely disgruntled about it, but if I do it right it could be the best of both worlds. Utter self-indulgence? That is what I aim for, after all.

It'll only work if I can manage to not feel a constant overwhelming guilt about not making fast progress on the degree. That is what has caused me to grind to an almost complete halt, the constant feeling that I'm not doing enough. Maybe if I can really reconceptualize the endeavor as secondary, it can be fun again.

Decision-making is interesting. When I first had the idea of begging out of this academia thing, J suggested a plan not unlike the one Mwalimu suggested, but I was all like, "NO!!!" What, I asked, was the point of putting all that time and effort in if I wasn't going to get a good job, and probably wouldn't like the job even if I did get a relatively good one? Why not jettison the whole thing once and for all?

Since then, I've broken the idea in, and now I'm ready to realize that I can still do it, but on my own terms (more or less and within relevant limits, of course). Having rethought my goals allows me to reprioritize; having reprioritized so dramatically gives me a sense of self-determination that I was beginning to run a little low on. My "to-do" list that was being written by the requirements of academic success has been erased; I can add new stuff to the top, erase some yucky bits, and keep the parts that I really value.


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