I love learning. I love sitting in a classroom, mathematics scrawled across the board, my eyes drinking in formulas and my mind questing for more. Seeing connections between A, B, & C. Reading, understanding, interacting. Learning.
And now I’ve stopped learning. I’ve gone corporate and there is no time for learning. I get short courses in technical writing or Excel, and I sit at the front of the class and ask a million questions – yes, I’m that student you always hated in school because she wouldn’t shut up and let the class go on at its rapid fire pace. I stay after class and ask the teacher questions. I am an A-student sponge. That is, if I’m interested in what I’m there for. If not, forget it – I’m daydreaming.
Today I am sitting here in hallowed halls of learning, waiting while DH sits in on a class. He is visiting local graduate schools looking for a PhD program. (He doesn’t want us to be known as Dr. & Mr. anymore.) I can understand to some degree, although to be honest, for about the first 5 years after I had my PhD, I would have told you it was a waste of time and effort. But as I sit here waiting for him, I long for those days.
I tried going to the library but eventually got tired of their squirrely organization system. Why would one floor contain books in the 300s up to 495, then stop and start again with 650? Meanwhile, books in the 500-649 range are on another floor (3 floors away, actually). I’m sure there is some method to this madness, most likely subject grouping, but to the untrained eye, it seems like nonsense.
So I ended up at a coffee shop. It wasn’t a very good one, but it was warm and quiet. But I was just in a coffee shop. I wasn’t transported to that magical land of learning like I am in a university. Even at home, trying to read Stahl’s book on psychopharmacology doesn’t do it for me. Sifting through pub med articles are not enough. School is in my heart. Learning is in soul.
When I was working on my graduate degree, I took nearly every class I could. I took more than was required. My advisor asked me, “why do you keep taking classes? You can just take research credits.” I responded, “because I enjoy it. You’re going to pay for 6 credits regardless and I’m going to do the research anyway, so what’s the harm?” I finally reached some pretty high level theoretical stuff that was my undoing. (A severe bipolar cycle was going on at the same time and I nearly failed the class.) But I climbed pretty high on the intellectual totem pole, and for that I should be proud.
Part of me would love to go back to school. I would study mathematics. Math is solid. There are no judgement calls. It either is or is not. It is cool and structured, powerful and necessary. It is not influenced by my moods or state of mind. It is a silent giant but it requires focus. A focus that I need but have lost over time.
But what I really wonder is do I want to go back to school for the right reasons? I feel like my career has been a series of accidents – some good and some bad – but all of them left wreakage behind. I feel like I should be somewhere in my career by now instead of flip-flopping career paths, leaving a trail of employers in my wake. Has my bipolar been an issue? Of course it has. It cost me one job and is on the verge of costing me another. It was only the one in between that (mostly) wasn’t caused by my illness.
And that was probably the job that meant the most: in academia.