Monday, October 06, 2008

Things I Seriously Considered Doing But Didn’t

Going for a Ph.D. (continued)

Another problem I found with doing a Ph.D. was that the world is already overrun with English Ph.D.s and it’s quite hard to get a professor job—and even if you do, I hear that entry-level salaries are often in the $30,000 range. In my area of interest of creative writing, I understand that you pretty much have to publish at least one book with a national press before you can get hired, and that’s not easy to do. Still, I found myself wanting to find a way, since a Ph.D. would represent an actual journey with a goal in mind and perhaps new future opportunities, instead of just endlessly treading water to earn a salary, like I've been doing for many years now.

In the latter half of 2003, however, the Ph.D. door slammed shut before I’d even gone so far as to apply anywhere. After five years of infertility, Ann was unexpectedly pregnant! I felt quite disappointed and depressed, I have to admit. While I would never refuse to get a wife pregnant who wanted another baby—I trust women to know what’s right in this area—I’ve never personally wanted kids all that much. So this relapse into fertility sent me for a loop—in fact, it may mark the starting point of the career-related midlife crisis I’m still muddling through, feeling somewhat trapped and purposeless and not really in control of my own life or destiny. Not that I don’t love my kids, of course, but I don’t think I would have missed them if they’d never shown up. (By the way, when Zach surprised us again 18 months after Kimball, it didn't even phase me—I hadn't had time to get used to the idea of a baby-free future and start making other plans.)

We had given up on fertility treatments well before the Kimball pregnancy—we never went beyond artificial insemination, not wanting to go into debt or have Ann take drugs. Inwardly, I had been hoping that Ann would return to the workforce full time when our youngest started school in 2004, and her income would free me to earn a part-time income during a Ph.D. program or some other pursuit. She did go back to work teaching half-day kindergarten in 2005, but that's only a half-time income, of course.

So anyway, I’ve put doing a Ph.D. on the back burner, and frankly I doubt I'll ever do one. Even if Ann were willing to go back to work full time—which she says she isn’t, not even when all the kids are in school—I’m not sure I feel quite passionate and positive enough that a Ph.D. is really the right thing for me. On the other hand, sometimes I can imagine myself really getting into a Ph.D. journey, and I’d love to move to another state for four years and take a break from Utah.

Who knows what the future will bring? Our youngest, final child enters first grade in 2012 and half of my child support ends in 2013, so I suppose I just need to last in MLM until then, if I can survive without getting laid off again. I've been in my current job for four years, and another four years doesn't sound so bad, although I can't fathom staying in this industry for the rest of my career. If Ann is willing to play ball, then maybe I can do something radical in four or five years, like start a Ph.D. or launch some kind of business or start over again in some other field or industry. Heck, sometimes I even think I'd just like to deliver the mail or be a cashier at Costco.

Next in this series: Going through the Navy ROTC program


Alb said...

Play ball? We'll have to talk. I'm all for making my honey happy but not at the expense of our kids. The reason I can't see going full time when everyone is in school is multifaceted and could be negotiated. However, I feel the teenage years are when I need to be home the most when they get home, not the opposite.

bigelow.jk said...

Well, shut down there....