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Choosing To Opt Out Of The Rat Race

Submitted by Emily S. on June 7, 2010 – 3:21 pmComments

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Now that my graduate school career has come to a close, I’ve been asked the “So, what are you going to do now?” question pretty much on a daily basis. My standard answer, “I dunno. Same thing I do now: drink a lot and think about dudes”, is mostly meant as a joke—I don’t think about dudes that much—but the ubiquity of this question has got me thinking. Of course, education opens many doors, and theoretically, the more of it you have, the more doors you get to choose from. But, what if you choose not to choose? Let me explain: It seems like the most valuable thing I got out of earning my Masters is realizing how important it is to just do what you want. As long as you can pay your bills and buy food, shouldn’t that be enough? Perhaps I’m just used to living like a graduate student.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend from my hometown. He got married last year and now owns a house. “Yeah, I settled for the security of a middle class life,” he said with just a hint of bitterness. And as I looked through the photos of both his lovely new home and lovely new wife, I could understand what he meant, but having a house in the suburbs is no guarantee that your life won’t be complicated.

When I think about my life and the goals that I want to achieve, as well as what satisfies me, I keep coming back to Virginia Woolf’s notion that for a woman to be a successful novelist she needs a room of her own and 500 pounds a year. I have no idea how to transfer that sum into today’s currency, but the sentiment is surely the same: one lives for their art by allowing oneself to live. Now, granted, not everyone is an artist, but it seems like as a society we attach so much of our identity to our jobs and our possessions that we forget there’s more sides to us. If people saw me and just thought “accountant”, that would make me pretty miserable—even if it meant I had a house and a car and a dog.

I guess I’ve just realized that I don’t feel like I have anything to prove anymore. I’m making a choice to say: “This is enough for me,” even if that means waiting tables with a Masters degree. I have my degrees, I have my writing, and I have my life.

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