Monday, April 11, 2011

Sarah Louise goes to the cafe

Apparently, I am not having luck with the e part of cafe. (Alt +0233 doesn't want to do its magic today.)

Learning, learning. I'm not going to fuss over it now, I'm actually writing this from a national chain cafe that has wireless!

Why, you ask, the exclamation point? Don't you do that all the time, SL?

Why no. This may be my first time...I'm pretty sure it is. We are experiencing Pittsburgh spring, which means 75 F by morning, 45 F by evening, showers with hail somewhere in between. It's why Channel 11 calls their weather forecast "Severe Weather." Since I live in a garret (read: third floor walk-up, attic of a 100 year old house with precious little insulation), the heat is abhorrent and today is NOT the day to be in my apartment, washing dishes. So I must find another occupation.

I've been thinking, as per usual. These days, my favorite subject to obsess over is grad school. Will I be in the Midwest, Texas, or the South? (Texas is South, but also a place unto itself.)

I am not naming school names on purpose, so please don't comment on them if you know where I'm talking about. I really really want to go to the Midwest, as the school in question is highly regarded in research...which is what I want to do.

I play a game with myself when I'm at work on the reference desk and it's quiet. What would it be like to live in x town, going to x school? So I've been researching the professors. What have they published lately, what projects are they interested in. Because apparently that is the most important component in getting into a particular school. Do your research interests match theirs.

All along, I was thinking Midwest, and then my main research interest changed. And then I found out how competitive PhD programs are in general, and this one in particular. And then I got scared and opened to the Southern schools (yes, including Texas.) I am not a warm weather lover, and our family is more a Northeast/Midwest family, so I hadn't really thought I wanted to change that. (A creature of habit, I am.)

The thing is, the more I try on other places, the more I want to go to the Midwest, and the more I am valuing the things studied there.

Learning for learning's sake seems somehow frivolous, to a daughter of a diplomat and a early elementary teacher, who are now both retired and advocating for the conservancy of monarch butterflies. Those are noble professions, with results that can be seen, after a few years, or decades. What is the tangible good of studying St. Nicholas magazine, which hasn't been published since the 1940s? But it is what I want to do. Digging, and digging more, makes me happy, as I find bits here, bits there.

And, I think, if I can get that coveted PhD, get an academic post, maybe my students will be the ones that will do the "practical" jobs. Maybe I will do something that will bear fruit in decades.

Following your bliss is scary.

(Oh, look, it's 11:17!)

Um, SL, yes, do you have to be somewhere?

No, not yet. But the home my parents owned for most of my life was 1117 "something" Avenue. And when ever it was 11:17, one of us would exclaim, it's 11:17! It's a silly thing, but it made us happy.

Outside, the clouds are moving across the sky. The rain isn't posted till the evening, but I can't believe it will wait that long, there feels like weather is in the air. To be prepared, I am not wearing my good shoes, they are inside my boots which are in the front seat of my car.

Back to research. While it seems frivolous, there is a reason why libraries exist, above doing preschool storytime. And if research is what makes me putter like a...puttering person, happy as a lark, and there are places I can do this...and my research will make me a scholar, which will in turn make me able to mold young's a lot to twist your mind around, a girl who saw library school as an opening to a profession, much like going to plumbing school makes you a plumber.

To go to study? That's what undergrads do. That's what my English degree was for. But now I, single and needing to support myself, must find something more practical, which is why I became a librarian. But it turns out that I'd much rather be DOING research than helping others do research (although I enjoy that too.)

I need to bend my brain around the fact that it is possible my dissertation will never be a published book beyond the university library...that it will not aid the cure of Polio, solve an economic crisis, or save an endangered species.

But haven't the women I always admired been women who had doctorates? That's another post...I have somewhere to be, my alarm on my cell phone just went off.

As Kim at All Consuming says, MTC (more to come...)


mila said...

visit me :))

Holly said...

you know what would please me? if we ever turned out to be taking or studying for the GRE at the same time...

Sarah Louise said...

well, Holly, I'm taking it on Sept 27. When are you taking it? I haven't started studying yet, April is focusing on the bridal shower and writing.