Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Grad School Postmortem

Okay. I dropped out of graduate school. I was really sick of working on my thesis (seriously. I would get stomachaches and things). I was to the point where I was worrying about it all the time and procrastinating all the time and then when I did work on it it felt like I wasn't going anywhere. I thought about it a bit, and I decided that for the things I think would be really awesome to do in my life (be a video game journalist, make a video game, be a freelancer, be a mom), I don't need an MA. I would need an MA to teach composition, and I don't like teaching composition. It was a good experience to finish all the coursework for the degree--learning about feminism and aesthetics has been really helpful to how I criticize books and video games. But in the end I don't really need a master's degree in English.

So I'd like to do a postmortem kind of thing and maybe if you ever write a thesis you can avoid the mistakes I made.

Mistakes I Made:

-I was distracted with taking Japanese my last year in coursework. I liked studying Japanese a lot more than working on my thesis, which maybe says something about what I should have gotten a degree in.

-I sat on drafts. Early on in the drafting I pestered my adviser too much and he chastised me. Ever since, I was worried that I was bothering him. I would finish the things he told me to do and then try to anticipate what the next revision would be, instead of sending him back a draft quickly and waiting for a response. I should have worried less about being a bother and more about getting my tuition money's worth of feedback.

-I chose a professor on my committee who I had never worked with before, and she turned out to be kind of scary and have more sway over my other two professors than I thought she would. I wish I had had a professor on my committee that I felt better friends with--someone that I could have complained to a little but would also have been able to explain the weirdness of thesis-dom. I also would have liked someone on my committee who had read either House of Leaves or Portal. As it was, I felt like I could say anything about the works and no one would care whether or not my analysis rang true.

Frustrations with my Adviser (who is a nice person and a scholar and this isn't meant in a mean way, more as a retrospective, "I wish this had been different" way):

-Sometimes I would meet with him and he wouldn't have looked at my latest draft. Once he told me to make changes I had already made. This combined with my habit of sitting on drafts was frustrating.

-He had a vision for my thesis revision procedure that he didn't share with me from the beginning. Each time he gave me feedback, I was thinking "I'll do this and then it will be done," whilst he was thinking something like "after she reorganizes it, I'll tell her to reintegrate secondary criticism." When I found this out I was upset that our communication hadn't been clearer.

It was bad enough writing papers for one professor, but writing one for three was too much for my politically-anxious mind. I probably could have gone on and graduated, but I feel a lot better now for having made this decision. I feel like I can focus on what I want to do and not what I have to do. I have a plan for dinner every day this week and a cleaning schedule. I want to learn CSS and Javascript. Life is just better now.


Uffish Thought said...

Hey, congratulations! Re-evaluating your priorities and finding you can stop being so stressed and unhappy is marvelous. High fives all around!

Amber said...

Thank you for this. Every so often (and more often than I'd like) I have dreams about going back to school for a masters degree. I wake up and my life is exactly what I'd always wanted it to be, and would not be any better if I had another degree, but the dreams still bother me. I would also like to take some programming classes someday. I wish we lived closer together (although perhaps not quite as close as we once did?)

Genuine Draft said...

Good for you!

Andrea said...

Yay, I bet that feels good. I enjoyed your thesis, anyway -- hopefully you'll post it on your video game blog or something so that the world can enjoy it, too. :-) Have fun doing what you really want!

krebscout said...

this is a bittersweet post. You're a good person.

Whistler said...

Thanks friends! I like you all. :-)