17 December 2008

The Announcement

Wow, I got some good reactions to that hint of an announcement. Why can't people respond more often? I know a lot more people look at my blog than comment.

I am sorry it has taken me so long to get to it. I have been super stressed because I can't find a ride to Switzerland for Christmas. No matter how I arrange the different connections with the online ride service, I just couldn't schaff it because all the cars are full, which made me want to stay alone in my apartment and read novels in bed the whole break. I finally created my own trip, saying that I would rent a car and it looks like everything will work out as I've already had many people email me to ask if they could go with me.

Anyway, I apologize in advance for the length of this post, for my announcement has a history. It is a history of learning about faith--faith that the Lord will help me, faith that my life will be happy even when it doesn't go as I planned it, faith that things will somehow work out. As many of you know, I've learned to understand the Lord's "no" answers to my big decisions because they make me feel so awful--spiritually, mentally, physically. The problem is, I usually understand them after I've already taken a huge step in the wrong direction. In some ways, that's good, because I've learned to care only about what's between me and the Lord. Opinions of others may hurt or help, but they're not what's the most important. I've always hoped that I would eventually learn to recognize the Lord's "yes" answers so that I wouldn't have to make those big missteps. That's what life is about--learning to align my will with His. And yes, I am learning slowly. Very slowly. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to make more steps in the wrong direction.

This is so hard to write about. It's so close to my heart. I've known for years that I wanted to get a doctorate. I've dreamt of the days that I will have my own office where I can discuss books with students and a syllabus that scares the bejeebers out of new freshman. (Okay, so those aren't the only perks.) However, last year I debated doing a few more years of business-type things. Then I remembered the difficulties of my last job and wondered. Next, I applied for a few internships that didn't work out, which is a good thing in hindsight. In the end, I said, "Wahoo, finally a focus on literature, finally a PhD. Wahoo!" and studied like a madwoman (in the attic, ha ha) for the Literature GRE.

Here's where things really got complicated. I looked at hundreds of lists, sent hundreds of emails, spent thousands of hours preparing for PhD apps, but I just couldn't come up with a satisfactory list of schools to apply to. My heart said, "AAAAAH! Don't leave Europe yet! And wouldn't that be cool to have your PhD in three years?" and my mind said, "Those very independent, three-year European PhD programs aren't enough for you. You've still got a ways to go! Plus, if you ever wanted to get a good job in the U.S., schools there will more likely hire you if you've gone to a school they know and that is respected. And you know that you don't want to teach with just your Master's, because you may as well be teaching as a PhD student." So, my list got smaller. And then bigger. And then smaller again til it reached a very comfortable seven. And these schools' professors made me jump up and down with joy because their specialties were perfectly tied to my interests. And their financial support of PhD students made me breathe a sigh of relief.

Several friends generously helped me write my personal statement and revise my sample essays. My professors agreed to write letters of recommendations and get my grades in so that Uni Leipzig would have some kind of transcript to send. I began to fill in the online applications. It was like when I had a full-time job, except that I also had a part-time job and a Master's degree program on the side.

As I simultaneously prepared an essay for a conference, I began to see a lot of things. Like the fact that my essay writing and analysis skills still need a lot of work in comparison to my peers. And the fact that I didn't learn as much as I'd like to about literature in this Master's program as I would have liked to. Or the fact that there are still a lot of things I'd like to do that probably wouldn't happen during those three to eight years required for a PhD.

Things started getting so crazy. I was stressed and unhappy with my mediocrity and questioning if there was anything I could do well and unable to enjoy time with friends and worried about money. This also always played an important role in my other big decisions. In other words, stressed/confused beyond belief is a sign of a "no" answer.

I started wondering what would happen if I didn't get my PhD--debating the opposite choice was always a big step in all my other big decisions. But although while rushing around I dreamt of learning Chinese and/or Spanish, I pictured myself making several trips to continents I haven't yet visited, and I longed for the day that I could sleep in a bit, it wasn't like I could just not do something. Always before, I could either take the step or not, with the "not" leaving things pretty much like they were before. This time, it's different, because I have to do something next year. I can't legally stay here unless I have a job, I'm a student, or I'm married to a German.

So, I decided to marry Mike. That would be like incest, and we would drive each other crazy, so believe me when I say that was a just a joke. Despite having to do something, I began to imagine my ideal situation. Though it might sound insane to many of you, I would love to live alone in a small cabin in the mountains of Switzerland with a Bernese Mountain Dog, where I would write novels that have always been floating in my head and go for hikes or bike rides every day and not talk to anyone for weeks at a time, except to check out books at the nearest library and chat online with friends here and there. But, as we can all see, this isn't a very realistic dream, though some parts of it could become a reality. So, I did what many of you would advise: I took a Sunday to fast and pray about it. As I was in the midst of pondering, I thought, "Maybe I should read the chapters of that new book that Professor Garrett sent me [How to Get a PhD.]" I'd been putting it off a while. Opening the PDF document he'd sent, I began reading. I'm not kidding when I say that I found the following on page 2:

"If what you really want is to write a bestseller, then conducting research for a thesis is NOT the optimum way to go about it."
That sentence was the most shocking to me. The following two were also interesting:
"Perhaps you don't really know what you want to do with the rest of your life and continuing in the university system seems a good way of putting off that decision. If this is so then you have chosen an extremely difficult way of solving your particular problem."
Wow. That was kind of the first wake-up call. But I was still worried because of the lack of a replacement plan, so that night, I prayed a lot about it. Just when I was so tired and frustrated and ready to just go to sleep, my thoughts started to twist into logical shapes. (I don't know how to explain it better.) Something that hadn't occurred to me came to mind. I could apply next year. That way I could focus better on my current program, learn a lot more, re-take the GRE Literature test, improve my PhD applications. Taking a year off wouldn't be wasting time (a big fear of mine, ask my brother-in-law, who has told me before to stop rushing through life), it would be helpful. And maybe I would even find that dream job that would be worth keeping. Or maybe I would even find that dream man who would be worth marrying. As I had all these thoughts, it seemed so clear and I had immediately relief to my stress.

And so, my beloved friends who have read this far, I am not sending in my applications this year. (Aren't you glad I decided this before I paid the $500+ to apply?) And what, you might ask, am I going to do instead, once my Master's program is over?

Some ideas: Take some real organ lessons. Read a book a day like I did when I was eleven. Travel. Learn to sing correctly. Start a new language. Write a book. Play kicker. Go kayaking and hiking. Get an independent, part-time job or get a full-time job, but only if it's really awesome, like in a bakery, or at Google (yes, those two things are comparable in my mind). Go to more appointments with the missionaries.

And now you can see why this is a continuation of my learning about faith. I have no idea where I'll be (the location doesn't really matter at this point, I may just leave the EU every three months), how I'll support myself (living is much more expensive once you're not a student anymore), or what the next year holds (though that final list of schools still excites me, who knows what will happen next December?). But I know things will work out if I follow the promptings of the Lord. Here I go.


  1. Good luck on your quest to be fullfilled in your life. You definitely have gone about it the right way. Sometimes, in our quest, the Lord sends us in a direction we might not consider if given the chance. You know, seems too scary. But having faith in the Lord's wisdom will ultimately give us the happiness and fullfillment we seek.

  2. Yee haw! Look out world, here you come! I'm glad you've figured out what to do. :-)

  3. Watch out! She's a girl with a quarter life crisis!

    And seriously...that's a good thing.

    This is a great time to have fun and learn about what makes you tick. I went through it, too.

    Okay, and if you really want to live in a cabin and write you should consider:
    1) checking out dailycoyote.com (she's doing it in Wyoming)
    2) read We Took to the Woods
    3) Move to Maine--this is the place to do it.

    Can't wait to see where you land next!