I settled on a furniture layout for my apartment. It’s based on a set of furniture that includes pieces I don’t have yet. My thought is I can place the ones I already have and then add the others later without moving everything around again. I have the bedroom set up and a bit of the living room. I’ll need to move a bunch of boxes to finish that room.
After I finish setting up the furniture, I’ll unpack, declutter, and organize at the same time.
Last week was a week for rethinking my life. You need those now and then. Part one of the rethinking made me wonder if grad school should be a last resort for me instead of the default course.
One evening when I got home too late to move furniture, I decided to do some more research on grad school instead. I’d been realizing I didn’t really have a handle on what I’d need to do to apply, so I Googled “how to go to grad school,” and what I found was a lot of articles on deciding whether to go at all.
Several years ago, articles like these had convinced me not to go into philosophy, because there are no academic jobs in the humanities. But this time I ended up questioning the idea of grad school in general. My main inspiration was the blog 100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School. It helped that I’d been thinking a little along these lines anyway, idly wondering if I should plan my next steps around the idea of an AI job rather than a cognitive science degree. But now thanks to these articles, I’m asking a new set of questions:
- Would all the requirements and politics of grad school get in the way of the work I want to do while I’m there?
- Would grad school take much longer than I want?
- Would it create more stress than I want to deal with?
- Would it make me poorer than I expect?
- Is it really necessary for my goals?
So my new plan is to research these and any related questions, especially the last one. The public has a lot of resources these days. I’m curious to see how far I can get on my own and through an industry job (as opposed to an academic one) that’s close to the kind of work that interests me. Eliezer Yudkowsky did it–why not others? And for various reasons the idea of skipping grad school actually feels like a relief to me.
Part two of my life rethinking was more constructive. I want to take another stab at mapping out my goals and projects. Maybe this time I can arrive at something I can post on the site, maybe a diagram, and then some of my readers will feel less lost when they watch my shifting priorities. (Yes, a debate on that issue is what prompted this little project.) It’ll also help my weekly blog updates fulfill their original purpose, to help me align my active projects with my horizons of focus as part of the GTD weekly review I haven’t been doing.
I finished Middlemarch. 5/5. I never thought I’d actually love a classic. I always assumed they were written only to be tolerated, like eating unpleasant vegetables. But Middlemarch kept my interest and sometimes amazed me. The whole way through I felt like George Eliot had dug into the depths of my mind and fanned out my personality in the form of several characters. I got to watch myself deal with major life events as they would’ve taken place in an English provincial town of the late 1820s. If I had to pick a favorite character, I’d say Dorothea, despite some obnoxiousness at the beginning.
The next book I’ll listen to is Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. Especially after enduring a whole July of stress from moving, I’ve been feeling the need to put some spiritual practices in place. Consuming books about spiritual formation is great, but to actually ground and strengthen and orient yourself, you have to do things. So I’ll use this book to organize my thoughts and get me started.
I’ve reworked my audiobook categories a little. I’ve been using three subject categories to schedule my audiobook listening: professional development, personal development, and leisure. I rotate through them, usually in that order, listening to usually one book per category. But sometimes topics come up that don’t fit neatly into my three categories, such as politics.
Now, I could just pick a category for these extra topics. But that would dilute the categories. The purpose of the categories is to feed myself information on these topics on a regular basis so I don’t neglect and lose touch with them and delay the goals I have in those areas. If I make the categories too broad by cramming more distantly related topics into them, the more important topics could easily get pushed aside.
So I’ve added a category for miscellaneous nonfiction and made some others more specific. My new rotation is professional development, spirituality, other nonfiction, and fiction. These categories will probably acquire sub-rotations, such as for the various fiction series I’m working through.
The Minecraft server I’m on was being reset and updated to the latest game version, and I hadn’t played there for many months, so my friend Sumurai8 made me join him on Saturday. We had a nice time caving. This is how you get me to play multiplayer games, by the way. We have to schedule it.
Glad you enjoyed Middlemarch. George Eliot was a great author. In college, we had to read The Mill on the Floss by her.
Interesting, I see Nadia May has a recording of The Mill on the Floss too. Maybe I’ll put that on my list.
On your grad school questions:
1. Not necessarily—it all depends on the program. Some programs are quite flexible in their requirements (a “build your own” approach), and unless you end up somewhere highly toxic (don’t do that, by the way), academic politics probably shouldn’t affect the grad students as much as the faculty (the humanities and the more humanistic social sciences may be different on that point).
2. I think most master’s degree programs are fairly well contained to about two years (unless you take the decelerated approach by switching catalogs—don’t do that again). PhD is a different story. But, you likely only need to do a PhD if you want to be a professor or if its some kind of personal life goal. There are lots of academic-type jobs (even at the university) that don’t require a PhD, particularly in STEM fields.
3. Probably. How much stress are you willing to put up with to reach your goals?
4. Very likely. On the other hand, STEM departments tend to be a bit richer than humanities and social science departments, so you could possibly get a decent (by grad-student standards) financial package.
5. This all depends. What *are* your goals, exactly? Write that article and post it ASAP so that we can pick them apart!
Thanks for your comments, Michael. I was going to interrogate you about grad school when you visited. 🙂
1. I’ll try to avoid toxic places. But I feel like they might hide their toxicity till I’ve invested too much in them. I’m thinking of departments that basically abuse their grad students. The comments on just about any post on the 100 Reasons blog will have examples. Maybe I can track down some students in these prospective programs who will be honest with me.
2. I’m going to switch twice next time. Just kidding. Maybe. Yeah, for the few AI jobs I’ve glanced at, if their qualifications involve grad degrees, they settle for a masters. And looking around the Internet, grad school for computer science isn’t reviled and warned against like it is for other fields.
3. It depends on what the stress comes from. If it’s from extraneous work that hinders me from more relevant work (see the 100 Reasons blog), very little.
4. I’ll have to decide how much poverty I want to put up with as I do more research. One deal breaker would be bad health insurance. My health issues are expensive.
5. Working on it.
I’ve never read George Eliot. Now that you recommended it, I’ll have to check it out. Maybe an audio book?? I’ll have to see if Carol Stream has one to loan. Thanks for the recommendation.
I listened to the Nadia May recording, which was amazing. Based on the samples on Audible, my other top choices would be Maureen O’Brien and Kate Reading. If the Carol Stream library doesn’t have the CD version you want, see if you can use Hoopla. That’s how I listened. A librarian should be able to help you if you aren’t familiar with it.