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why not grad school?

November 22, 2014

Both R’s grad school for an MFA in Creative Writing and T’s grad school for (something like) linguistics and neuroscience are forks in roads that I didn’t arrive at because I did grad school for GIS instead. When I dropped out, I did so partly because I wanted to leave my options for the future open — I knew I might want to attend grad school someday for something that was actually a good fit.

I think my window of opportunity for grad school closed a while back. I’m okay with that — I seem to learn better independently.

Something about this aspect of the second dream, though, is prickling in the back of my mind.

I looked into attending the University of Minnesota, during one of the (several) times that Spouse and I seriously considered moving to Minnesota. I don’t recall now what I thought I might study, but I do remember there were lots of intriguing choices.

If I’d attended Indiana University in Bloomington, there were also lots of intriguing choices. But we lived in Indianapolis, so I attended IUPUI, and made the best of it.

I do regret not trying (at all) to take the geography course that went to Cuba for a week — that probably would’ve been worth the considerable bother.

Maybe grad school as a motif is a stand-in for that pesky concept of community? Two of my grad school classmates were coworkers at the state environmental agency we all worked for. I became friends with both through work, though; I made no friends during grad school (despite lots of effort).

It seemed like all the “cool kids” at our agency, everyone thought to be on a fast track, had gotten graduate degrees . . . in a different applied field. Found that out too late to help me, but I don’t think that major would’ve been any better a fit for me than GIS was.


College seems a lot like high school in that, if you attend a school with lots of resources, in theory, all kinds of opportunities you’ll never have easy access to again are available to you.

I wasn’t able to take advantage of the resources offered by my high school, as they did not match my interests at all. I attended a bunch of colleges as an undergraduate. I never joined any clubs or social groups. I didn’t make any friends.


I’ve recently realized that I love taking online tests, or assessments that books talk about, not just because I love data, especially data about me, but also because . . . I’ve tended to not have friends who can tell me useful stuff about myself that I don’t already know. Just one or two insightful friends, who could actually articulate my strengths to me (rather than focusing on my weaknesses, which I already know plenty about, thanks) would likely be worth their weight in gold. But in the meantime, I have books and other people’s models and online tests.


I thought grad school was going to somehow magically make my parents actually see me. And from there, perhaps, radiate outwards until I was visible to the whole world. It didn’t work like that of course. I remained invisible and overlooked, unless my parents wanted to impress other people with how they had three children who had attended grad school. But my parents didn’t want to hear about my experiences, at all.

I studied and worked in the field of GIS for 10 years, and in all that time, my parents never bothered to remember what GIS stands for, or what it was that I did.

This is all very old stuff, though. I haven’t talked to my parents in 9 years.

What is it about the ‘lost opportunity’ of grad school that is bothering me at 3 a.m. on this November night, in 2014? Why am I still awake right now, thinking about this?

Maybe it’s thinking that grad school would be like the college experience Dr. McCloskey swore I would have, but I didn’t: “you’ll fit in, for the first time. You’ll have friends. You’ll learn amazing things. It’ll be the best time of your life!” What a horrible person he was. I hope he got disbarred, or whatever the equivalent for psychiatrists is.

Wow, my unconscious must really want me to not think about whatever it is I’m not thinking about, if I’m thinking instead about my parents, and then Dr. McCloskey! Yikes.


University of Chicago, to study Assyrian. Art student in Paris. Translator for the UN. Andalucía. Istanbul. Iran. Lithuanian. Portuguese. Swahili. Arabic. Farsi. Maltese.

Bumblebee. Earthworm. Spider. River. Rock. Cloud. Salamander. Mushroom. Rock squirrel.

I’m stumped.

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