What should I do?

July 15, 2007

I have a big decision to make. And I’m really not sure what to do.

For a while now I have been feeling quite unsettled. When we moved back to Wellington at the end of 2005 it was supposed to be a temporary move while my husband completed his studies and we made some plans for the future. We are still here. To most people this might not seem a major issue. After all, I have a good job with a great organisation, we have a comfortable home and lifestyle, and I know my parents are very happy that we (ie the grand-daughter!) are still here. New Zealand is a great place to live and I do love my country.

But those that know me might understand the problem. I have very itchy feet and a very curious mind. I have always found it difficult to settle, and love to experience new places and to learn new things. Once again I feel ready to move on. And I think I know what I want to do next.

I have this crazy dream of ditching my job, packing up the house and re-enrolling at university to do a PhD. I finished my Masters Degree in Development Studies nearly 18 months ago. This involved a thesis year, and I did the research for the thesis in Honduras. I think I might be completely mad but I would like to do more of this. I have more questions I’d like to try and answer. I actually enjoy the process of planning, researching and writing. I am pretty sure I have the academic ability and determination to do it.

But it is a huge amount of work (3 years minimum) and would be big sacrifice both for myself and for my family. It would involve spending a year at university either here or Australia, a year of fieldwork (most likely in Honduras) and then another year or so to do the writing (80-100 000 words). At the moment I am inclined towards an Australian University for various reasons, which would mean my husband and daughter would have to pack up and come too.

My wonderful, supportive husband says go for it. He has tried to explain to me more than once that as a Latino his idea of a “career” and of life is different. While he has some ideas about what he might like to do in the future, he doesn’t have any plans or goals that he holds tightly to and says he is happy has long as he has his two girls, a house to live in and food in his stomach! But I still feel guilty, dragging him around after my plans, when he has had little enough opportunity in life to pursue his own dreams (this is partly why we are still here, in our 30s, while he finishes his undergraduate degree, something able to do in Honduras).

The benefits of doing this study could be enormous. I would be able to specialise further in an area I am very interested in. It could open doors to teaching, writing and research opportunities in Latin America and here (and elsewhere), a career path I am actually quite excited by. But it could also be unnecessary and even problematic, I could well end up an overqualified, underemployed academic bore. I may just be better off going to Latin America, getting some experience volunteering or working with NGOs and building up a life from there. Do I need another academic qualification to write? To be able to make a contribution to Honduras?

The idea of doing a PhD is actually something I have had in the back of my mind since mid-way through the Masters, but I had always put it off as something I could do in the future, after I had gotten some more experience working in Latin America or elsewhere.  But it occurred to me recently that  because the nature of the study I want to do involves moving around, that it might be better to do it now while my daughter is still small.  Once she starts school, and if my husband gets a good job, then we will need to be more settled.  I have a window of opportunity now and I am very very tempted to take it.  But it would be such a huge undertaking, one that involves sacrifice from my family, and without knowing if it is actually something that will be worthwhile in the end.

So there’s my dilemma.  If you have managed to read through this whole post- thank you.  I really don’t expect answers or advice, just writing this all out has helped to clarify my thoughts a little.  Maybe someday soon I’ll come to some sort of conclusion and be able to post my decision.

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2 Responses to “What should I do?”

  1. Tom Says:

    I too suffer from the “itchy feet”. We have been here in Florida since 1999. For me, it starts with the feeling that there is nothing more, that we’ve done it all.

    You can do the pros and cons ad nauseum, but the gut feeling can’t be ignored. We are researching now and at this stage the whole world is a possibility. I feel excited again for the first time in years.


  2. […] Decision Time.  I have more or less decided I will start a PhD next year.  This has already meant many […]


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