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I am not old enough for this

November 25, 2009

It’s nearly the end of the first semester of my final undergraduate year. It feels like no time at all since I first moved to uni. And now is the time, we are assured, for those of us interested in going on to Masters’ study to start thinking seriously, since the funding deadline is March 31 and you need to talk to tutors, find referees, get transcripts and write a proposal before then . . .

Today we had a meeting with the English Department’s postgrad tsar (not his real job title, sadly) in which he outlined the following:

1. It’s competitive.
2. It’s expensive.
3. The AHRC are interested in turning out future researchers, so you’ll only likely get funding if you’re definitely going on to a PhD.

Now the thing is, I’m lucky enough to be in a position where none of those are insurmountable. I have good grades. I want to continue in academia. I can pull together the money with a bit of luck. The academic lifestyle suits me down to the ground – I am a square peg in a very square hole. This is fine.

It’s just damn scary having to make these sorts of major life decisions – the MA/PhD combo means committing for somewhere between four and seven years depending – now. The decision I make will directly impact my life for the next ~4 years and have a hugely limiting effect on other bits of my life, like where to live and even, indirectly and in the long term, when (if) I have children.

The whole thing is terrifying, and it feels altogether too much like a turning point; the sort people look back on 20 years later and say “If only . . .”

My boyfriend assures me that everyone feels like this when they hit their first Big Adult Serious Decision ™. All this really does is make me wonder how on earth, as a species, we get anywhere if we spend our adult lives lurching uncertainly from crossroads to crossroads.

It also, I think, explains why people find such comfort in authority structures: they may be restrictive, even repressive, but it is enormously comforting and one hell of a lot easier when someone tells you what the right thing, or the best thing, is to do, and all you have to do is do it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Seamus permalink
    November 26, 2009 1:57 pm

    You don’t have to commit to four years now. Lbh pbhyq whfg ohyyfuvg gur nuep; gurl’er abg tbvat gb gnxr gur zbarl onpx vs lbh punatr lbhe zvaq. V gubhtug V’q orggre chg guvf ovg va pbqr, gubhtu; jr qba’g jnag gurz svaqvat bhg guvf svraqvfu cyna. ( http://personal-computer-tutor.com/rot13.htm ) I think I’m missing the point, though: this kind of situation is horribly unsettling and will remain so for ever.

    “I was frustrated when I reached eighteen and didn’t feel like a grown-up yet. When I turned forty I gave up waiting.” – Elizabeth Geary (my mum)

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