Fantasizing About Graduate School

It’s time. For almost nine years I’ve been in the workforce, far away from academia, exploring a multitude of careers and learning more about myself while saving nearly $300k. What I’ve learned is that in order to be happy, I must have a day job that satisfies much of my fundamental needs:

  1. Enables me to be a SOCIAL, collaborative creature, interacting with the same people on a regular basis, over the course of multiple projects.
  2. Enables me to work on PROJECTS as opposed to ongoing, never-ending, headache-inducing programs. I need a sense of completion. My brain requires the structured chunking of time in order to be most productive and content.
  3. Enables me to APPLY CREATIVITY. I do not want to live a life where creativity is the end goal. The creativity should be a means to accomplish a very clear problem that has been identified via patterns or an examination of problems that are likely to arise in the near-term future.

While I’m still not sure what my dream job is, I do know what it isn’t. And given the industry I work in is not one where you can do your day job 9-5 and go home and live your life, I must accept that either this is my life, or I make some changes. Those changes come with accepting that my goal of having $500k before procreating will not be met, and that I may actually go dramatically backwards in terms of savings in order to achieve my goals. Given I’m rarely satisfied doing the same thing forever, it’s questionable whether this makes any sense at all (especially if there are other ways to get close to these goals via online or evening coursework.)

The reality is, I have a massive skill gap between where I am today and where I want to be. I’m not the best self-taught learner, as I learn much better in collaborative environments. That leads me to desiring a structured graduate program where I can pick up a variety of skills and also enhance my internal discourse on design, interaction, and computing. If I can achieve a level of proficiency in each of these areas, I believe that although my career ahead of me might not be 100% clear, I’d have exactly what I need to obtain a job that would amp up my satisfaction levels substantially.

Yet some of these programs are just incredibly expensive. Clearly there is a market for the programs or else they could not charge so much, but it still causes my innards to twist and rupture with all of my financially savvy being. If I spend $150,000 on two years of graduate school, give or take, that’s HALF of my savings. In other words, that’s a shit ton of money. Yes, I could choose to pay it outright or pay of my loans quickly upon graduation, so I’d save money there, but that’s little to quell the actuary’s daughter, risk-adverse side of my brain.

That said, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a life where my parent’s paid for my undergraduate education, I had $0 in loans upon graduation enabling me to forge the career I’ve had to date, and even though I feel terribly guilty and privileged for the fact of it, why should I hold myself back just because I happen to be lucky? I mean, there are others whose parents would foot the bill for grad school AND a house in the Hamptons. Let’s face it, I’m way more fortunate then most of the people in the free world, but I’m no Kardasian.

The other thing is while I don’t want to think about it or rely on it, there’s a chance there will be some money to pass down to me in the long run from my parents. I actually don’t think it will be a lot (my mom will likely spend most if not all of her savings on shopping) but there probably will be something left over. Meanwhile, my sig other is an only child of the most frugal family who have saved up quite a bit of a nest egg. I’m not marrying him for money at all (if you read my blog you know that my income is greater than his and I pay $400 a month more in our daily rent, so our relationship is not money based, it’s definitely love based) but in the long run I think we should be ok.

Now, it might get a little ugly in the short term if we both go to graduate school, especially grad school in New York where we are both fantasizing about living in two years. This might be my dumbest idea yet – and yet, my heart is running wild. For the first time in a long time I feel excited about a future plan. It’s the right time to do it – if we both go to grad school in fall 2015 I’ll be 31-turning-32 (oy.) We’ll get married that year (maybe before we start school) and I’d be in school from age 31 to 33. Then I really need to start trying to have a kid, so that could put a wrench in this whole plan (ugh, I hate being a woman) but say I have a kid at 34 and one at 36… it sounds somewhat doable (albeit crazy, but at least I’d be on the east coast where my family would be around to help out.)

I don’t know… it’s just a crazy crazy thought. It means giving up $125k+ a salary per year plus paying $150k, so basically… $450k in lost income for graduate school. Maybe I can work part-time through school and make up some of the difference. People DO go to graduate school, and all I want right now is the time to learn the right things for my career. Perhaps an MBA would be wiser with that kind of price-tag, but I want to walk away from my graduate program with a firm understanding of interactive computing. The last 10 years have BEEN my MBA. I’ve learned a ton about business and management. What I need now is the technology and design side. Then I think I’ll be ready, if not rule the world, then at least have the life I really want.

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2 thoughts on “Fantasizing About Graduate School”

  1. It sounds like you’ve got some decisions to make here! Graduate school may give you the opportunity to make considerably more in the future than you are now. And there ought to be something said about the value of learning in and of itself. Good luck in finding the right path for you!

  2. On your death bed, you will not regret having worked too little.

    Downsize. Stuff =/= happiness. Live a life of simplicity and balance, in harmony with nature and God. Our modern society and the pressures associated with it are far removed from the simplistic lifestyles humans have live for thousand of years.

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