For years, I dreamed of going to graduate school.
During my lunch break and—let’s be honest—during the time that I should have been working, I spent a lot of time researching doctoral programs in Women’s Studies, Sociology, African-American Studies, and Creative Writing.
After secretly printing out the schools’ course catalogs and stuffing them quickly into my bag for later review, I would sit there daydreaming about the things I would learn, the interesting people I would meet, and all of the free time I would have to attend to my interests in yoga, veganism, and blogging.
But after years of vacillating as to whether or not to apply to graduate school, I had a realization that was at once sobering and honest and clearly unearthed why I was fantasizing about leaving my job to walk the walls of academia: I was turning to graduate school as the solution to the monotony in my life.
Restless in a Mid-Career Lull
I was looking at graduate school as an out: I wanted an escape from the responsibilities that many working adults have to shoulder—unnecessary meetings, questionable colleagues, routine, and having to think about “what’s next?” I was experiencing a case of what I like to call RSS—or Restless Soul Syndrome—which occurs for many mid-career thirty-somethings experiencing a lull in life.
I was just bored to tears with the monotony and staleness of the work-gym-home-browse-the-internet-sleep-in-on-Saturday treadmill that had become my life after securing all of the education that I really needed to take myself to the top of my career.
Graduate School Won’t (In Itself) Make You Happy
The reality is that many graduate school students hate their lives until they graduate. In my graduate school reverie, I intentionally overlooked the high cost of being a doctoral student, the reduced standard of living, the reading and writing demands, the possible department politics that I would have to navigate throughout my program tenure, and the numerous other financial, social, and emotional inconveniences that come with being a being married student returning to school in her mid-thirties.
When faced with these realities, I had to admit it: I really did not want to be in graduate school.
Options Besides Graduate School
If you’re also suffering from Restless Soul Syndrome and are stuck feeling like graduate school is the only cure, here are seven things that you can do instead to satiate your need for novelty.
Frugal Feministas: What do you think? Are you in need of graduate school or something different?