The Logical Philosopher

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The quagmire of the 598

In a perfect world I would be a student forever. Yes, the pay isn’t great but I love the hours, the freedom of choosing my knowledge intake for the semester, compounded by the reality that I get to learn and create cool stuff almost every day. In fact every time, almost without fail, when I go onto campus I get that feeling like it’s Christmas day and there’s a boat load of presents under the tree just waiting for me. I was on campus last week and got that very feeling…tingly all over.

Why are there people like me that actually enjoy grad school? Well consider this - the utopian academic environment is neatly sliced into 13 week segments with at least 3 weeks of holiday before starting all over again. This gives ample free time to hang with friends and other students while consistently indulging in Starbucks in a bohemian style fashion. How cool is that.

However, as we move from student life to professional life, things change. We move to the realization of being gainfully employed by “the man” and actually having to be at work from 9 to 5 every day. No more “cutting work” if we are up too late having a good time and, my personal disappointment, no more hypothetical and esoteric discussions in a clean, quasi-orgasmic intellectual environment on how we would solve the world’s problem of the day. I always enjoyed solving a complex business problem and presenting it in four neat slides to the class – without actually having to implement the plan. In real life the plan’s good, but those details will kill you. Yes, there is a reason I took 18 months longer than the rest of my class to graduate.

And just so you didn’t think I’m the only person dragging out things, I give you with a story of my friend Sandrita. Starting another graduate program similar to mine Sandrita was also required to do a final thesis – but the catch here is that I stated my program 2 years after her and Sandrita had all her coursework done by the time I started, leaving only her thesis to complete.

“Do you know how much your paper is stressing me out?” her father used to say as she would come home on the weekends where a considerable effort was put into her moving her research forward. "Stressing you out? What about me!" was the usual reply.

Yes, she worked full time, but so did I so there was no excuse she could have on me. Four long years later I stand graduated whereas Sandrita, still is no closer to her goal. I also had 2 kids while doing my school, and her none.

So far Logical Philosopher = 2, Sandrita= big fat zero.

The somewhat funny part is that her research paper was (is?) a study on a school program and a few months ago we were discussing that she was in the perfect position to do a longitudinal study on her topic and hit the deadline to defend. “Great,” was her reply “the only issue is that the program has actually closed down!”. Whoops…I guess researching the effectiveness of a program that you know closes down kinda kills the punch-line at your defense. And despite the fact that her advisor actually published an ENTIRE BOOK in the time she has been working on her topic, she still says she will finish it.

So where does this leave me? I graduated this month, after prolonging my thesis 18 months past the finish date of the rest of my classmates. Although I had the excuse of working full time, there were other ulterior motives such as more tax deductions, a free bus pass and the ability to keep doing research on my topic, which I actually enjoyed. However, right now I am on a leave from work for at least another 4 months, and having graduated I find myself caught between the semi-professional and student lifestyle – like the freedom do continue my research but without the financial tenure and prestige of an endowment chair.

So what will I do? Well, blog of course. This is my once in a lifetime sabbatical so I hope you enjoy it. Maybe if I blog enough coherent and innovative thoughts, Sandrita can compile it and do an analysis of them for her thesis.

What do you say Sandrita?