College x

Is graduate school the best choice?

The choice of attending a graduate school comes with lots of questions (Image via Youtube)

Today I was walking to my car on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, holding my laptop in one hand and a green smoothie in the other, when a Prius struck me to the ground, reversed enough to maneuver around my body and then drove away.

At first I was angry that someone could be so cruel, absent of humanity and selfish, but then I began to feel sorry for whoever was behind the wheel of the green Prius. They must have been scared and their reaction to fear was to run, to avoid consequences and to flee the scene without making sure I was okay. Google, why do people flee from accidents? “Mostly what you’re looking at is people who blame others for their behaviors.” At such a busy intersection cops were within seconds and multiple witnesses got the license plate number of the driver. What could have been a few moments of making sure I wasn’t hurt and perhaps providing insurance information will likely now be a criminal record, if not time in jail.

I began to think back on my upbringing. My parents always emphasized honesty and trust. My dad said things such as “always finish what you start” and “treat others how you want to be treated.” Although those seem like universal laws, some clearly internalize them more than others.

In high school our motto was “Pursue Your Passion with P.R.I.D.E,” with PRIDE standing for purpose, responsibility, integrity, duty and excellence. We would have projects and rallies to demonstrate these values. It seems as though my youth and young adulthood was all dedicated to ensuring I became a decent person. Google, how do you teach humanity? My search yielded no clear answer.

As I sat in the hospital for several hours after the hit-and-run incident, I started to wonder if I should take this as a sign of my current uncertainty about finishing college. I will be done with my undergraduate work in a few months and I can’t decide whether to go to graduate school right away or find a job. Google, should I go to graduate school? “The only one who can make the choice to work or go to graduate school is you. But you need to be accountable and honest with yourself. Can you afford it? Will it be worth it? Or are you just doing this to avoid getting a job and moving on with your life?” This Forbes article was more straight to the point than I was prepared for, but it was accurate. I think the only reason I want to go straight into more school is to avoid the real world. I know I am good at school, but I don’t know if I’m good at career-ing. What if I fail?

You might be confused how getting hit with a Prius is related to my college choices; really it’s not, but let me attempt to explain the inner workings of my mind. My fear has been whether or not I am prepared for reality and whether or not I am capable of making adult decisions. Upon seeing the poor decision of the Prius driver in what I would consider a very adult situation, I was able not only to rationalize why they might make their decision, but also feel empathy for their lack of integrity. So, in other words, I think I’m ready. Google, am I ready for the real world? First result: 10 Signs You’re Not Ready for a “Real Job.” Reassuring.

Now that I think I might be capable of surviving the brutality of adulthood, I developed a new fear: will I be able to return to college when the time is right? Being a college professor is always something I have aspired to do. Yes, I need to work a nine-to-five and pay off some debt for a few years, but is it possible to go back for grad school and become a professor later on? Google, how many people return to graduate school after taking time off? “While the decision to go back to school is, of course, a personal one – the trend line is clearly demonstrating that this is the choice more and more professionals are making.” Forbes (again).

My search results yield subjectivity and personal choice, an uncertain answer when I am so desperately searching for something more stable. I dive deeper into the shallow depths of Google to find a more concrete answer. Students over age 35, who accounted for 17 percent of all college and graduate students in 2009, are expected to comprise 19 percent of that total by 2020.” This NBC article is closer to what I want to see—grown ups are going back to school, A.K.A. it is possible for me to do.

Now with some reassurance that returning to academia after some time off is possible, I need to stop ignoring that this is a deeply personal and individual decision. I have to do some reflecting on myself and realize what is best for me. I have to make this decision myself.

In freshman year philosophy, my professor would always write “know thyself” on top of the blackboard before each lecture. We didn’t spend too much time on Socrates for it was just a survey course, but this quote was something he referenced every class. It seemed simple and silly. Clearly I know myself…right? I spent most of that semester watching the Santa Barbara waves through the window and thinking about love.

With time I have come to understand what that professor was trying to get at. Knowing thyself is not simple at all. As humans it’s often hard to accept our own flaws and realize our cognitive closures. But it’s possible.

There is still a hospital bracelet around my wrist and an aching in my back, but I know I am better off than my friend in the lime green Prius.

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