I’m 21 years old and today and I had a mini-breakdown about the future. Mini-breakdown is too strong a word, if anything that starts with “mini” can be too strong, but the point is that there were tears involved. I don’t think what I’m going through is unique. In fact, I’d be surprised to find out that what I’m feeling isn’t the way the majority of current college students feel or have felt at some point in their transition into adulthood. Common as it might be, what happened tonight was still real, and it’s something that’s been building for a while.
I’m on a pretty standard track. I go to a college that I enjoy, I’m doing well enough in classes, and now I’m getting ready to start working on a thesis for my senior year. I’m studying linguistics with a focus on American Sign Language. Everything is fine in the day-to-day, but increasingly I’ve felt this gathering shadow, this sense of something menacing coming up behind me (or, rather, approaching slowly from in front, becoming ever clearer), asking, “What comes next?”
I don’t exactly feel at a loss for choices – or at least, for a choice. For the past few years I’ve been thinking, and saying, that after undergrad, I’ll go to graduate school for linguistics, complete a PhD in however many years that takes me, then become a professor of linguistics and conduct my own ASL linguistics research. The only problem is that that doesn’t excite me. Don’t get me wrong, it excites me a lot more than many other career paths that I know are completely wrong for me, and I know that I’m in a position of privilege to be able to consider such an option. The problem is that it feels like there is some other option that would be a way better fit but that, for some reason, I’m blind to.
My family is made up of higher education professors, and I’ve never really been able to wrap my mind around the idea of teaching the same material to class after class of students for thirty years. I know there’s more to academia than that, and I know that for a lot of people, teaching is really rewarding and enjoyable – and I may be such a person. But I’m afraid to go through a PhD and come out of it five or ten years from now with the realization that I’ve wasted a lot of time and money and I don’t want to do what I thought I would want to do.
So where does this leave me? I know a few things.
- I’ve always loved language and linguistics. Even before I knew the word linguistics, I was a linguist. No matter what else I’m thinking about at any moment, I’m thinking about words.
- I used to love writing, and then I stopped writing.
- I want to write. I want to see my name on something in print. I don’t know if that’s a linguistic research paper, a novel, a textbook, or something like what Oliver Sacks does, but I know that the idea of publishing excites me.
So I’m starting here. I’m chronicling my path starting from today, and it could go a number of different ways. This may fizzle out and become nothing. It may turn into a venting space where I’m writing for myself so completely that it interests no one else. (I’m really going to try not to let that happen.) It may get lost in the shuffle of what are doubtlessly thousands of other quarter-life crisis blogs. (I feel extremely hackneyed as I write all of this.) Ideally, though, what I write here will resonate with some people. Hopefully I’ll be able to produce original stuff and figure out what I really want, what I can really do, and if there’s any overlap between the two. (And hopefully I’ll figure it out before grad school applications are due.) Anyway, it starts here. It starts today. I don’t know what my life will look like down the road, even very shortly down the road, but something will be happening, and I’m going to write about it.