It has been a long hiatus for me from this blog, so let me just update you on the horrible vortex of higher ed that we have voluntarily thrown ourselves back into. Our tale has gone something like this:
Go to college at 18. Possibly choose to study something useful or, courtesy of your teenage brain, choose something much less practical but that will totally help you connect with the universe, man.
At 22, realize that your chosen field is not really what you want to do because I mean, really, wtf were you thinking at 18 anyway? Default = grad school.
Grad school = pit into which piles of money (mostly not yours) are thrown. But yay, you'll get a great job when you're done, right? Right?
Enter mind-numbing post grad school job that does not pay what you're worth. Or does it? How worthy can you be if you've made such abysmal decisions? Persistent self-doubt continues.
But wait, what if you could actually do now what you want to do? Forget that you've seen first hand how little higher ed can help these days, and that you're a billion dollars in debt to the federal government and Sallie Mae. Let's go back to undergrad!!!
Well, that last is probably a combination of necessity and a sick addiction to learning. Oh, and don't forget the crazy.
Alas, my husband has reentered the maelstrom. The best part is that this time, when he's 31 and might really be able to make an informed and intelligent decision about what to do with the rest of his life, we've got to pay out of pocket because the loans paid for his expensive philosophy degree. Of course I do realize that, after all, these are arguably "first world" problems -- the problem of having too much education, whining about having to pay tuition when we can just barely afford it. I do realize that millions of people have no education and could never pay the ridiculous costs associated with higher ed in this country. So, I get it. I really do. I just wish that understanding made this easier.
So, having been through it all before, we find ourselves asking the following questions: Is a degree in a practical science worth anything anymore? Can "older" graduates compete with fresh-faced 22-year-olds? Does being a math genius even matter at this point because of the crappy jobs situation? Questions like this make me fully understand what Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, was discussing on "Morning Joe" this week: the American Dream has fundamentally changed. American exceptionalism, already a hazy term, is less associated with the desire to pursue your dreams without prejudice and find a meaningful place in the social construct. Now, people want just one simple thing: a job. Any job. Some kind of money coming in. Enough to keep your head above water, or perhaps the surface in sight.
The problem with people like us is that we really really do just want a job, but we're also still clinging to that intellectual ideal. We're buying in again. It's a little comforting to know that we absolutely cannot afford another academic adventure after this one, so no matter what happens, this is it. Besides, my husband is going to revolutionize the field of physics and we'll have jet packs in no time.