notes from a creative writing PhD candidate
It’s been half a year since I last posted on my blog–far too long, really, and I can’t believe I’ve fallen into such a rut in regards to posting on Marginalia. It’s obvious to say that I’ve been busy, but I’ve also undergone some pretty big life changes in the past few months.
If you recall, I left my (horrible, stressful, unfulfilling) job with a “wealth management” firm last August and went back to college-level teaching. In the Fall 2014 semester I worked as an adjunct, but I’m now a one-semester Term Assistant Professor–for the next few weeks, anyway. I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the fact that I must reapply every semester or year for the exact same job I had just months before. I still don’t have benefits–I know, ridiculous, but thank you, Obamacare–and it’s nerve-wracking not to know if you will be rehired by the same people who hired you before. I have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) which is a terminal degree in my field (it allows me to teach college-level classes, which is exactly what I want to do professionally) but if a PhD candidate applied for the same position, it’s likely that they’d swoop in and take the classes I’ve been teaching for the past few years because they have the higher degree.
Which leads me to the reason I’ve been AWOL recently, but I now can finally get back to writing and reading and posting. I’ve been accepted into a PhD program, and as of August this year I’ll be, yet again, a graduate student. (Hey, what’s another five years of higher education, right? I’ve already got seven under my belt.)
I spent the fall months working and reworking my personal statement, editing and revising my writing samples, hunting down faculty for recommendation letters, and trying not to have a nervous breakdown all while teaching three courses and tutoring on the side and taking random editing jobs so that I didn’t have to eat ramen every day. (Being an adjunct is really no fun.) And then came the waiting game. I applied to five programs all over the country, the majority of which are in the midwest, and was accepted into two of them. After visiting the school where I’ll be studying for the next half decade, I knew it was the right fit for me. Am I scared to leave my “full-time” job and move halfway across the country where I know absolutely no one? You bet I am. But in the scheme of things, pursuing the higher degree seems like the next logical step.
Soon I’ll be doing more in-depth posts about the PhD application process. But at this point in my life, wondering whether or not I’ll have a job next semester or if I will end up teaching the same two composition classes over and over again for eternity just isn’t cutting it. I’m 28, and I am lucky and in a perfect situation (financially and life-wise) to make a big change. I’m a creative writer, and nowadays I hardly have time to write with 88 upperclass students and a never-ending influx of emails. And what I teach now is not what I do in my real life; I’d rather be designing courses in nonfiction creative writing or women’s literature or food studies.
All my faculty mentors asked me repeatedly if this is what I really want to do. “A PhD doesn’t guarantee you a job,” they constantly reminded me. And it’s true–the faculty job market is terrible, there are no tenure-track teaching jobs, and I very well may finish my doctorate and find myself teaching the exact same classes that I’m teaching now. But it’s a risk I’m willing, and eager, to take. Five more years to study, grow, think, and write–yes, I really want to actually write my own work and not just comment on student research papers–sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Plus, I get to be a Doctor. “You’re not going to be a real doctor,” my dad says. “You can’t, like, prescribe drugs or anything. All you can do is…read stuff.”
I’m okay with that.