Thursday, February 10, 2011

a look into the past

To finish my graduate program, I have to submit a portfolio that is essentially a snapshot of my work toward the MLA. One of the sections is about why I went to graduate school, and why the MLA. Part of that section requires inclusion of the essay I wrote for my application. It's interesting to look back on that now, so here it is, what I wrote back in June of 2006 on why:

I haven’t written an essay in quite a while, so forgive me if I seem a little rusty. Hopefully, it will be like riding a bike, and it will just come back to me.

So why do I want to go back to school? And why a Masters in Liberal Arts? When you are a child, answers are easy and straightforward. I could just say, “I like school” and be done with it. Or I could say, “because I want to”, and you would just smile and nod your head. Unfortunately, as you get older, reasons become more complex. It’s no longer just one thing. I suppose a part of why is because I simply miss the classroom experience. I miss reading interesting works, instead of technical articles. I miss discussion, real discussion with give and take and an exchange of ideas. It is possible that I even miss writing papers, or at least miss having written them.

Partially, it’s the practical that persuades me. Every year, this fine institution sees fit to give me tuition remission. And every year, I just let it sit, without doing anything with it. The good, blue-collar person inside says “What are you doing? That’s like throwing away money!” When else will I ever get to go to school on someone else’s dime? I occasionally like to do something rational.

I also have a sense that I’ve left something undone. Years ago, I took a few graduate classes in English, with the thought that I would like to be a professor. It turns out that I loved the learning, but was not really cut out for the profession. I still feel like I have work left to do at that level, that perhaps there is a book or two in me after all. Without the school framework, I doubt I would ever write them.

Professionally, I am on shakier ground. I have a decent career as a database analyst and programmer. The addition of an MLA after my name will probably do little or nothing to advance that career. It’s not going to get me a raise or a promotion or open up other opportunities for me. It is true that for some positions , employers want an advanced degree, and don’t care particularly much which flavor it is. But the truth is that I am forty-three years old. I have accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to accomplish from a career standpoint. A bigger job doesn’t interest me.

I have reached a point where I can take some time to do what I want to do. And this is what I want to do.

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