A new direction

For the past year or so, I’ve been struggling with a clichéd but still profound question: what to do with my life. When I was in college this wasn’t an issue; I was sure (well, let’s put it at 85%) that I wanted to be a journalist, and I doggedly pursued a strategy of applying (and applying and applying…) for internships at newspapers, getting my first job at a small daily out West, and moving up to a midsize paper in Connecticut about two years ago. Unfortunately, I began to realize that it wasn’t for me; while I love reporting and writing, I didn’t love doing it on a daily deadline, I didn’t love writing about school board and planning department meetings, and I didn’t love being treated like a child by misogynistic municipal officials. So I decided to return to a desire I had previously pushed to the side: going back to school to get a literature Ph.D. and eventually (if I’m really lucky) become a college professor.

The problem was, I had so long set myself in favor of journalism and against academia that I had trouble convincing myself, and my skeptical boyfriend, that this was really what I wanted. A few days before I’m due to start my Ph.D. program I’m still having trouble committing to the concept. For one thing, I’m feeling a somewhat irrational guilt at leaving the journalism profession. When you make a decision to enter a dying field (no matter how many times you tell yourself it isn’t dying), you have to have a pretty firm conviction that there are good reasons for doing so. Entering the Ivory Tower now makes me feel a little bit like Lord Jim, jumping into the lifeboat and leaving the rest to drown. I also struggle with what I guess you could call a utilitarian question: whether what I’m doing has any “use.” Although not all of the stories I wrote as a journalist were earth shattering, I never doubted that what I was doing served a purpose. And while I won’t miss the nasty phone calls and e-mails (it’s hard to top, “You make your living off the pain and suffering of other people”), it was sometimes nice having that direct connection with readers. In many ways, I feel like I’m about to spend the next part of my life looking ever further inward. Which, funnily enough, is a good way to describe this blog: so far mainly used as an archive of my journalism work, it has a readership of roughly 1 ½ people. So while I think there are good reasons for doing what I’m doing now, I’m certainly going to still be questioning myself for some time to come. Probably a good thing, any way you look at it.

Things I’m looking forward to: Talking about books I love with other people who love them as much as I do; learning lower Manhattan; riding my bike to school (all the way from 103rd and Bway!)
Things I’m not looking forward to: Living all the way at Columbia; not having any money; that vague sense that I (still) don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

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