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First world problems - Tactical Ninja

Nov. 10th, 2014

08:58 am - First world problems

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I received my offer of study from Victoria last week. Yay.

Normally I'd have accepted it immediately. This time? I've let it sit there for several days already, while experiencing a shitload of anxiety around it. On the upside, I don't have to accept it till January. On the downside, the longer I take to decide the more stress I'll put on myself.


I have to do it, I know that.

Well, that's not entirely true. I have to do it if I want to continue down the path I started all those years ago, the one where I want to make the world a better place in my own special way, and still get passionate about it when the topic comes up in conversation. I don't *have* to do it at all. I could just forget about that goal, call it good, and be happy with my shelf full of books and my bit of paper and being the first in my family to get a degree.

But I feel like I have to do it. The problem is, to do it I have to sacrifice stuff. Well duh.

The question I can't answer is, will what I achieve be worth the sacrifice?

My experience so far of changing the world is that it's like banging your head on a wall made out of broken glass, while the majority of people throw rotten shit at you and tell you you're stupid for trying and you're wrong anyway. And nothing actually changes. Instead, your fellow countryfolk vote in governments that stand for everything you abhor, and call you a loony for wanting something different.

This is not conducive to me wanting to sacrifice any more than I already have for the sake of others' wellbeing.

Meanwhile, in the world of my own wellbeing, I'm told that it's a good thing to have three hobbies: one that keeps you fit, one that keeps your mind active, and one that makes you money.

I would not call my work a hobby. It finances my lifestyle, that's it. The academic stuff *might* lead to being a paid hobby, but not until I've spent another (approximately) $30,000 in fees and about 7 years having it *not* be a paid hobby, but instead being something I have to sacrifice my other hobbies for - the ones that stimulate my mind and body.

University eats your brain and your free time. As someone who works full time, I value my free time very highly. Consequently, what I feel I will have to give up for this is of extremely high value in my life - my main interests, my free time, and a bunch of money.

And somewhere along the road to my degree, I lost my faith that I can actually change anything.

So I'm struggling to justify it to myself as anything other than "I said I'd do it and I do what I say I'll do so now I have to do it."

Which isn't exactly the most compelling reason I could have. Don't get me wrong, I've achieved a lot in my life based on feeling like I have to, but there's a drudgery in doing your duty that I've been relatively free from for the last couple of years, that brings on a sinking feeling in my stomach when I think about it.

Dr Wheel, who is awesomeness personified, has come up with several solutions which would allow me to study full time, but of course each of them come with their inherent sacrifice, and of course going ahead with that would require him to be dragged into the sacrificing as well. And even if he's doing it willingly, I would still be painfully aware of what other people are sacrificing so that I can chase a dream that I have no idea whether it'll come to fruition.

Only one of the people I know who have a PhD is actually doing the thing they got their PhD in. That's not high odds that after the next 7+ years of sacrifice and not-having-money (and the opportunity cost that goes with that), I'll actually be any better off.


And then there's the bit where the thought of writing any more academic essays makes me go "OHGODNO!" I realise this is partly because my last year of university was a mess of juggling topics so that I could get the major I needed to do postgrad, and thus I ended up doing topics that I had zero interest in, that made my brain melt.

It may not be like that in Honours, I realise. But it's my basis of experience and it's offputting.

Aren't I just a little ray of sunshine? There's a reason for that, but that's another post. I'm sure if I drag myself out of this mental hole I'll feel more positively towards study.

I have till January. Wish me luck.

Comments:

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From:fbhjr
Date:November 9th, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC)
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You certainly have my wishes of luck.

I can't give you any assurances of changing the world. But, I do admire folks who try.
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From:crsg
Date:November 9th, 2014 10:40 pm (UTC)
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I've never both worked full-time and studied before, but I feel your pain. It's been over two years and I'm still feeling burnt out.
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From:warriorsavant
Date:November 10th, 2014 01:14 am (UTC)
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The word is what it is, and is partly the product of everyone's input. You will not Change The World, and it's a bit egotistical to expect that you can, but you might, however, effect changes in the world.

That having been said, for those of us who got to the conversation late (or perhaps weren't paying attention), what are the thinking of getting your degree in, and how do you think that will help you impact the world.
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From:tatjna
Date:November 10th, 2014 01:29 am (UTC)
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It's not a degree, I already have one of those. It's a PhD. Technically in Criminology, I want to create an educational framework for a world in which recreational drug use is no longer illegal, by talking with current successful drug users about what they do. Personally I think it fits better in Social Policy, but my uni doesn't have a SocPol dept, and while they are still illegal, drugs are in Crim.

By definition, PhDs change the world, by introducing new knowledge to it. I do take your point, but there's a reason I've dedicated so much time to this topic already, and it's because it's a world-changing one.
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From:warriorsavant
Date:November 10th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
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Understood you meant PhD, was using "degree" in its broadest sense, including all levels. Don't know if it is used in that sense in NZ.

Can't agree with your definition in your last paragraph. Have known too many people with advanced degrees to be impressed by the degree itself. Some PhD's introduce new knowledge; many engage in mental masturbation. Knowing you even the little bit that I do, I suspect you will be in the former group.

That having been said, not sure I see the correlation between means and end. You wish to talk to successful (criminal) recreational drug users toward what end? "Hi world, look at all these people who have used drugs and are successful?" (Not bating you, actually asking.)

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From:tatjna
Date:November 10th, 2014 04:00 am (UTC)
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It's a good thing impressing you isn't one of my goals. ;-)

And no, the research that demonstrates that the majority of illegal recreational drug users don't ever get in trouble has already been done. Depending on who you read and what their method was, the figure is anywhere between 85% and 97%. And the only reason these people are criminals are because the law says they are. They hold down jobs, raise children, and are productive members of society.

Yet there's this perception that drug users are losers, criminals, lowlifes, people with psychological issues, and the education people currently receive around drugs and their use and misuse is based in this perception. I want, as I said in my previous comment, to create an educational framework that works in a world where the War on Drugs is over. Because we're heading that way already, and the current framework is sadly lacking in "Here's how to incorporate this type of behaviour into your life without affecting it adversely."

The vast majority of research into the behaviour of drug users has been focused on the minority that do have problems. There's very very little that looks at the characteristics of successful recreational drug users, and that's where I want to focus, because these people are clearly doing something right and their knowledge is worth making use of.
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From:warriorsavant
Date:November 10th, 2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
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Well clearly you need to rethink, realign, and upgrade your goals.

Didn't say you were or were not impressing me, just that having degree per se doesn't impress me.

Interesting goal. Sounds like you are looking for a cross-blend of criminology and education. Does your uni allow cross-discipline studies?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 10th, 2014 07:48 pm (UTC)
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It's actually the perfect topic for Social Policy, because education-that-is-not-actually-teaching can often be brought under that umbrella, and drugs should really be a health issue not a criminal one anyway. I like that academia recognises that (to an extent).

My degree is a double major in Social Policy and Criminology. Victoria only has a Criminology department (no SocPol at postgrad level), but because my field in general is drug policy, I'm able to do my research within the Crim department.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:November 10th, 2014 01:45 am (UTC)
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Knowledge is awesome, more knowledge is even more awesome. But working full time while you get it sums.

So I wish you al, the luck but I hope you don't lose your passion!
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From:caycos
Date:November 10th, 2014 05:56 am (UTC)
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Hmm hmm. Both my sisters are currently doing phd study and I'm doing a masters. Me and one of the PhDs are studying part time while working, the other is studying fulltime. I am currently taking the summer 'off' as a bit of a break for my brain, as it got very very full. And I don't think I realised quite how full it got until I stopped and am now 'just' working.

For me, the reason I'm studying is to further my knowledge, and particularly my theoretical knowledge, of my field. What that field is keeps wavering somewhat, but I'm finding the study interesting enough to keep pursuing it partly for its own sake. Which becomes quite an expensive hobby (this year I paid over $7000 in fees, of which work gave me $2000 as a study grant). Paying that much myself has led me to think more about the value of what I'm doing. I'm not convinced that it's worth it - but then I'm also not convinced that it's not, and so I'm planning to enrol for semester 1 next year.

One of my sisters is doing her phd very much in her field, although the actual topic of her phd is not really what she spends most of her work time building up expertise in. But then I suspect that the fact that all three of us are doing postgrad study at the same time (more or less) in our lives says something about our inherent nature as much as anything.

Wanting to change the world is a big goal - it's hardly surprising you're anxious about whether this is the right way to do it. For my courses at least, you can withdraw and get a fee refund up until 2 weeks into term so I don't think that's a problem. For you it sounds like the biggest issue is whether 7 years (!!) of studying will be worth the payoff, both during those years and once it's done. TBH I imagine it might be slightly more than 7 years, because surely it's not humanly possible to keep slogging away that long without a break once or twice?

I have this nagging feeling that you're putting a lot of your hypothetical eggs all in one basket, and I wonder if there's another way to do it. It's a big financial, time and personal commitment, and if you're giving up a lot of the things that make you "you" for that period of time, will there be enough you left at the end to actually start the 'what comes next' bit?

That's all very rambly and a lot is actually about me not you - make of it what you will..

(sorry just realised I was posting anonymously - feel free to delete the screened version)

Edited at 2014-11-10 05:57 am (UTC)
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From:dreadbeard
Date:November 10th, 2014 06:59 am (UTC)
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"But the price of getting what you want, is getting what you once wanted." - Neil Gaiman / Sandman
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From:meathiel
Date:November 10th, 2014 01:56 pm (UTC)
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I can totally understand your reasonings. I won't tell you what to do - but I know what I decided. And I know what my friends with a PhD do now ... oh well ...
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From:tieke
Date:November 10th, 2014 06:32 pm (UTC)
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If you won a million dollars, would it change the equation? Would you go 'fuck yeah, now I'm going to quit work and study full time? Or would you still be struggling to figure out if it's worth it?
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From:tatjna
Date:November 10th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
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I would definitely go "Fuck yeah, now I'm going to quit work."

And I'd probably also study, but I still don't know if it'd be full time. It probably would, but it wouldn't involve fistpumping excitement or anything.

I don't know what that signifies, if anything.
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From:tieke
Date:November 11th, 2014 04:39 am (UTC)
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I was wondering why would happen if you took resource scarcity out of the equation. From your response it seems that it's a factor bit there's also a level of meh that is unrelated to that. If you really wanted to study full time, then I would question the values that make you resistant to letting others provide for you temporarily.
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:November 10th, 2014 07:42 pm (UTC)
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i didn't go for the PhD because i wanted to do the work itself, not just research or write about it. you can get away with being an excellent canine behavioral consultant without big degrees so i could work without getting a PhD. i don't even need to have my MA in psych. it's nice to have a few more letters behind my name, though. i don't know if you can get the work you want done in your field without the PhD.

so, this quote, which is from 'angel', the spinoff of 'buffy the vampire slayer', (despite the pop culture origin) is a really solid concept... "If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today." as an atheist (or whatever), that's pretty much summing things up.

my sister got her PsyD and she seems pleased with it, but the clinical knowlegde kind of gets things a bit stilted. she is finally doing the work, and she seems pretty happy. i can't make the choice for you, obv, but it's about whether you can do the work without the PhD, or you need it to do the work.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:November 10th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
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My mother-in-law got her PhD because she's an RN and wanted to teach other RNs about entrepreneurship. She did it while teaching full-time, and now she's teaching the kind of classes she wants. Maybe it won't change the whole world, but it's slowly helping to change the perception of what being a nurse means.

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From:ecosopher
Date:November 10th, 2014 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I have something to say about this. I will be back to do so later.

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From:ecosopher
Date:November 11th, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
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Right, anyway. It's good that you posted, actually, because I was wondering how things were going with you. I didn't know if it were just because I'd not been on LJ enough or what. Anyway. Just thought you'd like to know I have you in mind, in a kind of stalkery haven't-heard-from-you-lately kind way.

The expense and the huge investment in time is a big thing. The problem I found when I was doing my MA is that I never felt like I could have time off. I did it part time, while I worked part time, and at the end, I worked part time, studied another degree full time and continued the thesis part time. Yeah, that was kind of crazy and stupid.

If I were to do a PhD now, I'd be a lot more disciplined in when I could study/research/write. I think I'd compartmentalise more. But in the end, I'd choose to do a PhD just because I really wanted to do it... regardless of whether it led to better career prospects. I guess as with anything like this, it's such a major time commitment that you have to do it for yourself, first. Would it be enough, to want to just do it for you, and then accept that what you're doing is, in some way, going to make a difference in the area you're studying?
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From:meri_sielu
Date:November 11th, 2014 10:35 pm (UTC)
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You have all of my luck <3
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:November 12th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
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So first of all you have my sympathies for everything that's been going on... despite your frequent protestations that you aren't looking for any and maybe don't deserve any. So with my powers of LiveJournal time travel, I will go back in time to this post to give you a virtual hug and a bunch of sympathy. Hang in there and take care of yourself.

As for the PhD and the world saving, it sounds to me like you need to find yourself a mentor or several to talk with. Some people who actually did advanced study, who are actually changing the world, who's literal or metaphorical footsteps you are following.

After all, you're not going to get any good advice or insight from me, who never proceeded past my basic degree and who's never wanted to change the world outside my little circle. But there are people who have direct experience with this, who can talk to the nature of motivation and keeping energy up in the face of adversity. Who can tell you what it's like to do that kind of public policy advocacy day after day.
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