This has been an eye-opening week for me. I’ll spare you details (and spare myself the trouble of writing it all), but I feel like I’ve caught a glimpse of what I want from the future. A more concrete and definite glimpse. It’s exciting. It’s inspiring. It’s a bit terrifying. I’m not sure I’m on the right track for getting where I want to go. Or, rather, I’m fairly certain that I’m not on the fastest track. Or, rather rather, I’m fairly certain this track can get me to my destination quickly only if I hit all the green lights.
Here’s the problem: what I’m currently studying and emphasizing in my doctoral program isn’t what I want to do after I graduate. Or, rather rather rather, what I’m currently doing isn’t what I want my main focus to be professionally. I find the stuff I do genuinely interesting, but it doesn’t thrill me to think of spending my entire life doing it. I resigned myself to the idea some time ago, but lately I’ve been struggling with feeling like I’m not really in my element. Competence isn’t the issue. It’s just that I don’t feel as invested in what I’m doing as I wish I did. (This speaks to the “confidence vs. conviction” distinction I’ve addressed previously.)
This week, I’ve gotten distracted by several online articles, interviews, and the like that pertain to something of much greater interest to me than what I am currently studying as a Ph.D. student. I’ll be more forthcoming in future blog entries, but for now, I’ll just say that this week has been a very inspiring one. I feel revitalized. My brain is teeming with ideas and aspirations that I can scarcely wait to pursue. The problem is, they’re not related to anything I’m doing as a doctoral student of philosophy! (Help me, Abby! Yours truly, Flailing in Florida.) Philosophy itself isn’t the problem. In fact, philosophy could lend itself quite nicely to what I want to do. But not the philosophy I’ve been doing. Fortunately, there is some hope of changing your stripes when you’re a philosopher because philosophy is such a broad discipline. It covers anything, really. So, as a philosopher, you can write a dissertation on ancient ethical theories, get a job, and end up specializing in the philosophy of biology without really changing your career. The main obstacle to changing your philosophical emphasis is that you are likely to be hired specifically because of your philosophical emphasis. If I get hired primarily because of my interest in philosophy of mind, they won’t necessarily want me to devote all of my time to ethics. Nobody could stop me from researching whatever I want and trying to get published on it, but I’d be expected to perform in the area for which they originally hired me. Over time you could move on or, perhaps, gradually shift your focus. But the point remains that you can’t just shift gears immediately out of the gate.
Is this a post of hope or a post of despair? I prefer to think of it as the former, although it’s a little bit of both. It’s getting rather late in the game for me to have an epiphany about what I want out of all of this. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back and do things a little bit differently. But there’s no sense in dwelling on that. I’ve learned something about myself, and for now, that’s an opportunity not to be squandered. It can’t change where I’m at, but it can inform my decisions about where I go from here. And that gives my life the little sprinkling of optimism that I sure could use right now.