Will no longer be a PhD student…?

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First of all, I have good news–I passed my methods qualifying exam! Its been a month since I found out but it still feels good to remember.

The second thing that I want to share is that I have had doubts about staying in my sociology department to get the PhD for many reasons:

  1. I want to help people and I don’t need a PhD for that. 
  2. I’m really disillusioned by higher education and want a break from it.
  3. I’m burned out (been in school for 18 continuous years now!)
  4. I’m realizing that I want more applied research on policies that impact people.
  5. Sociology is too theoretically bound for me–I’m more interested in using research as a way to change policy for the better. Sociology, to an extent, does this but it takes years, sometimes decades, for this to actually happen.

My friends are supportive. My friends who are in graduate school completely understand what I mean and they get me. My friends who aren’t don’t understand it as much, but they are still supportive. My parents are driving me crazy because they are forgetting that I have been able to do fine on my own and that I tend to make things work. The honey is also a little worried but he is supportive nonetheless.

I’m talking to as many people as possible about my decision and trying to figure this out. The reason why my parents are driving me crazy is that they want a plan from me, when I simply don’t have one/and its still in progress. My parents have called me 4-5 times (separately) today (so a total of 8-10 calls) about this. My mom particularly pissed me off today because I had told her about my honey and I’s plans to get married and she said that “it was weird that [my honey] told me when he is proposing to me.” I was really hurt by this because this isn’t the first time I have told her about our marriage plans–its not a surprise. She keeps questioning the validity of my honey’s love and devotion to me and always asks whether I think he loves me or treats me well.  I would have thought that she knows I have good judgment when it comes to people, especially when it comes to my romantic relationships.  I feel that even if we get married, she will think that we will get divorced because we are different. Her comments hurt me and I let her know that it hurt me when she said that.. She admitted that she stepped over a line and that she is sorry, but I still don’t feel like talking to her. Yes, she is a parent, but I am also a responsible adult. Of all her 4 kids, I am the only one who is financially independent and have always been the most responsible. Why is she treating me as if I am like my older sister, who is in her 30’s and is still unemployed/doesn’t have a career.

Don’t get me wrong, my parents have always been supportive of any decision I have made, but this is the first time they are stressing me out about it. Its been a source of tension for us these few days and the honey suggested some space between us so I can take the time to think without their nagging.

I will stay in my department until next spring.. I will finish with a masters and then figure things out from there. The safest option is just to stay on until I get my PhD, but I already know I will be miserable. The most ideal situation for me is that I want is to work for a year on OPT (Optional Practical Training) in a job setting and to get a break from school. From there, I can figure out what jobs I can get that can sponsor me for a visa or if honey and I are married by then, find the real jobs that I actually want that deal with my populations of interest.

So here are my potential plans (after getting a Masters): 

  1. Work for 1 year in a non-academic job to gain experience and insight and find a job that will sponsor me for a work visa.
  2. Marry honey and then work for a few years in orgs that deal with my population of interest.
  3. Work for 1 year and then transfer to a social work PhD program.

I’m not sold on the idea that a PhD guarantees secure employment (just look at the unemployment rates of overall PhD’s). I’m also not sold on the idea that I will lose 3-4 years (or more) of income by staying in my PhD program, suffering through 2 more qualifiers, a dissertation, along with the isolation, misery, poverty, and pains of staying.  Maybe I’m the kind of person who is better suited to do a part-time PhD program while I have a real job.

I love sociology. I’m a sociologist at heart. But I don’t think a sociology PhD is for me right now.

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