I’ve had a couple of posts talking about the anxiety of being a graduate student lately. While those are certainly true, there are many upsides to being a graduate student as well. Not the least of which is that we get to study things that we find truly interesting. Our time is spent reading (mostly) intelligent thoughts from other scholars, discussing said thoughts, and coming up with new thoughts of our own. How does this work? Why do people do this certain thing? What is it about this one aspect of society that needs to be examined? How do rhetorical decisions affect the outcomes of various situations? While some people might not get excited about any of that (everything from the reading to the abstract thinking), graduate students simply enjoy school. Reading scholarship and having discussions about specialized interests is what really gets many graduate students excited, and as a graduate student you get to do that several times a week.
Although there is a constant and ever-growing pile of work to be completed, as graduate students we have the benefit of a flexible schedule. This means that we can read from 8am-12pm, or from 5pm-9pm. Either way, we’re (hypothetically) getting the same amount of work done. We can take an afternoon off to help a friend move or to have a lunch with someone who is in from out of town. It’s great to be able to have that kind of flexibility. Some things are fixed, like classes and office hours, but it’s more flexible than other 9-5 jobs.
Some students remind us why we enjoy teaching. Whether it’s the student who was able to improve a paper from C level to A level by working with you in office hours, or the student who gets excited at the prospect of one of the writing projects, they are the ones who remind you why you chose this profession in the first place. Seeing students I work with at the tutoring center come back to tell me they did well, or that they found me particularly helpful always puts a smile on my face.
I chose academia because I felt unfulfilled at my office job. I did good work, and I enjoyed my coworkers, but it wasn’t quite enough. Not that I specifically knew what it was that I was looking for. I picked academia because it was something that made sense to me; it seemed to be a place where I could excel. I think that I will, or at least that I have a good start. I’m not naive about the realities of academia or the job market, but sometimes it’s nice to step back and remember why I chose this path in the first place.