So, as promised, I will get into the "stressor number 2" I mentioned last week. (Just to clarify, this is the reason I've been absent and erratic from Insistent and Persistent for the last couple weeks--sorting all this out.) After long deliberation, some of which I've shared here, I've decided not to continue grad school in the fall. There are plenty of reasons behind it, some of which include job prospects after graduation (or rather lack thereof), not enjoying being a teaching assistant (which indicates probably not enjoying teaching in the future), and liking my job more than school. I never thought that would happen, but for now, I consider myself lucky.
While I realize I have disappointed many people making this decision (a couple of whom I haven't had a chance to tell yet), being young and knowing myself well enough to make pretty good decisions about things, I had to go with the decision that would lead me in the direction I wanted to go, rather than a direction that other people wanted me to go. Sometimes those two are the same, but this time, they aren't, and I couldn't keep doing something that meant more to other people than it did to me.
So, that's done. It's official. I turned down about 12 grand in financial aid (plus tuition waivers) for nine months of school next year--another thing I never would have thought I could do. Turning down free money is even harder than turning down free food for me. And with that done, I'm down to four weeks of school, not counting finals, of course.
One of the best parts of finally sharing this decision is that everyone has been really supportive. I had been so worried that they would ask all kinds of questions and demand more explanation than I was prepared to give. So, me being the overachiever that I am, I prepared explanations, as in-depth as I could, to explain my reasoning. But no one did demand that kind of explanation. Not yet, anyway. But the people who needed to know most, the school, and certain family members, know now. I still have to tell the teacher that I TA for--and while I can hope she will have the same optimistic and supportive attitude as everyone else so far has had, I still doubt it.
A good outcome of this is that I really don't regret this semester, despite the amount of stress and anxiety it has caused me. I don't think I would have known that I didn't want to be in grad school until I had done it and seen what I have seen and learned what I have learned. I'm a big fan of process of elimination, and doing a semester of grad school has shown me that it needs to be eliminated as a possibility for me and my future job prospects. However, it's not completely eliminated. I may still decide to go back, later on sometime, but if that day comes, I will definitely be applying to a different program. As much as I like philosophy, I never saw myself with a career in it.
Although I never had the idea that the particular job I have currently would be anything more than a temporary place for me to earn money until I got my financial aid to finish graduate school, I'm glad that it has turned into more than that. A place with good people, good opportunities, and satisfying and challenging work. I'm not counting on doing it forever, or being at the same company forever, but in the meantime, I think--and desperately hope--that I've made the right choice. I get to be a grown up for the first time in my life, and for once, the idea doesn't completely terrify me.
Live and learn.