What Am I Doing Here?

I hope that it is pretty normal for people to have doubts about their graduate school experience. I can say that I don’t think that the time off from school over winter break was sufficient time for me to be reinvigorated. And then, I went ahead and took two classes. One of my arguments to convince myself of this was that I tend to spend the same amount of time on my coursework whether I take one or two classes. So, why not take two? Plus, with two classes, I would be 3/4 of the way done with my coursework at the end of the semester. I couldn’t resist my own arguments.

So, here I find myself feeling very ambivalent about what this all will do for me. When I started the program, I needed to declare a track in the MLS program. I think I somewhat got funnelled into the academic track given that is where my work experience is – and given that this is where I see myself continuing to work. I had thought that maybe I would like to take classes that dealt with other types of libraries – public or special. Part of me thought that taking classes about things I didn’t have experience in would be a better use of my time. I kind of allowed myself to be talked out of this – and here I find myself taking College & University Libraries. Now, I definitely am not an expert – and there are certainly many things that I could learn about the academic library. However,  it is too much. I have a good work background in academic libraries – and think that work experience would mean more than having taken the academic track in library school. The course material isn’t new – and it hits a bit close to home. This was also the case with one of the classes that I took last semester – ILS565-Library Management. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t followed the academic track. I think that my work experience in the academic area would give me sufficient credentials for my resume.

The assignment that was due today required us to visit a couple of academic libraries and compare some specific facilities. Honestly, I find this such a burden. I’m studying online because I don’t have time to commute to a school, – because I don’t have time for a traditional program.  I don’t want to do these kind of assignments (this isn’t a commentary on the value of the assignment, just a personal perspective). I already am struggling to keep things together at work, at home and at school. I have NO time for anything that isn’t dealing with problems at work, writing papers or being a wife. The bottom line is that being a wife comes first, the rest of my family is second, work comes next and then school – way at the bottom. But in reality, school is taking up WAY too much of my time. It is a sacrifice that others don’t necessarily appreciate to the same extent that I do. My husband often gets irritated that I need to do school work (when he thinks I really should be cleaning the house or something more constructive than sitting in front of my laptop). My niece and nephew get very upset that I have to miss family events because I have homework to do (although it is so cute and heartwarming when my five year old niece allows me to be one of the kids and play with her because I am in graduating school). I’m 36 years old – and I get very disgruntled at how much school disrupts my life.

You may have noticed in my priority listing that one important element was missing. What is it you ask? It’s time for me!! My family, my job and school are taking almost everything that I have. Granted, I’m getting to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as my MLS. Yet, the end isn’t close enough. I have at least a year left before I will be able to finish. So, I’m sitting here on a Sunday evening feeling pretty bummed about the assignment that I turned in today and I can’t help wondering if this is all worth it. Am I really getting enough out of my program to justify not only the $16,000 that this will cost me, but also my time? Is this making me better at my job or is actually taking away from what I can give to work? Am I getting tired and if so, is this making me less effective at work? I can say that I think it is a good thing that tomorrow is a holiday. My husband will be working – and I will have the day to myself – no homework and hopefully there will be no problems at work. I’m looking for a day to myself. Maybe things will seem a bit less overwhelming then!

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12 Responses to What Am I Doing Here?

  1. Iris says:

    I’m not sure if these feelings are common or not, but I know I was very, very ambivalent during and after winter break when I was about as far along as you are. I wasn’t quite sure that I’d made the right decision when I moved from my English degree to Library Science, I was profoundly frustrated by my classes, and I was sure I didn’t want to be like the librarians I was working with at the time.

    But a few things kept me going, and I’m so glad they did. My family was incredibly supportive, I got a new job with better librarians, and (and this may have been the clincher) I’m too stubborn to quit something I’ve started.

    You’re so close to the finish line, and then school will stop ruling your life. And between now and then, I hope you have the perfect mixture of really interesting/stimulating/exciting courses and courses that you can kind of let slide.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Iris, thanks for your words of wisdom. I appreciate the information about your own experiences. I have no doubt that I will persevere. I am definitely too far into the program to think about not finishing. And realistically, am getting some good stuff out of it. I admit to just feeling the need to vent. I do wish I had more time to myself – to do the things that I want to do. Balancing school, work and life is a difficult task. My family is supportive, but they will not allow me to ignore them just because I have work to do (rightly so). I do look forward to the day when school doesn’t rule my life. I know it is coming – it just seems like that moment is too far into the future.

  3. No matter how excited I am about school, I always feel this way at some point or another. I long to be a traditional student- one that can focus on school without having to worry about work, too. Alas, I have never been such a student.

    I too, always talk myself into more classes than I should probably take, but I know that in a couple of years I will be glad for it. I hope you get the break you need.

  4. Julian says:

    Three years ago, I asked myself the same question, but at a much earlier point. (I already took up a ton of space here with most of that story a few months ago.) All these years later, I will admit I was doing too much. I took four courses in my first semester (only four months after undergrad) when I only needed to take three. I had two part-time jobs covering 30 hours per week, but one wasn’t enough to cover expenses. I was inconsistent at best that first semester, though I’d say I did horribly. By the middle of the second semester, my mind wasn’t completely in it, and by the end of summer, I was hopeless and on the way out.

    The only reason why I won’t go to school full-time the second time around (should my recent applications not get flatly rejected and/or ceremoniously discarded) is that circumstances won’t allow it. Life gets in the way. Going to graduate school is manageable if every outside factor is mostly taken care of. What I noticed the first time around was that at least half of the students in their mid-20s or younger had assistantships, including almost all the students who had finished undergrad exactly when I did. I don’t think that an assistantship would be enticing to me now because I’d be giving up everything I need to maintain my life as it is right now (more on that later). Some of us can do assistantships or internships (paid or unpaid) as an enhancement; many of us couldn’t make it work. The whole point of that was to say that some sacrifices are too much, given the rewards.

    The one course I took that was “make-or-break” for me was collection development. It was outside of what I had planned to do for a career at the time (music librarianship), but it was there, and I thought it would be interesting. Predictably, I performed horribly. In order to have done better, I would have needed more direct contact with many libraries. Even as a mostly traditional student in a traditional program, my one concern about being in one of those courses that required independently visiting many libraries was being taken seriously as someone who was really in library school. That was almost as much of a concern as having the time to make the visits.

    If I were to give my opinions on certain things in a certain manner, I will get in trouble. So I’ll sum it up like this: some of us who go to library school, even part-time, have more things to worry about than just school. I’ll dig my grave further by saying that not everyone has time in the middle of the day to visit a library for a few hours for an assignment. For the trifecta, not all students in library school can spend much (or even most) their days during the week at the university library studying for school (alone or with other fellow students).

    The one thing that was missing for me as well three years ago was ME. I don’t think that’s a selfish thing to say, even though, relative to the world, I was just a little kid. At the too-young age of 21, I simply hadn’t lived enough yet. Time does help cure all. I don’t regret leaving; I only regret not doing better, but that’s my fault. My greatest concern when I was in library school the first time was being able to support myself once I was no longer in school. I now know that I can (sometimes, seemingly, barely), but not as comfortably as I could if I had gotten more letters next to my name; if I hadn’t moved to such an expensive part of the country; or if I had put up a white flag and moved right back to my home of origin. I got myself into this; I would have done anything but concede defeat. That was my one thing — just like family and existing career are for you. I’ve waited so long to try again just to be sure that being in school on top of what I already have going on wouldn’t kill me.

    I guess I just rambled most of my application essays. Even though I have absolutely no business saying this, I don’t think you’ll have to leave school to make it all work successfully. I think that all of this IS worth it. The occasional day off is therapeutic, but one should never need to spread almost a week of vacation time over every month just to keep things balanced. In closing, always keep the big picture in mind as often as you can.

  5. I think it is very common to get these feelings, and while I’m not sure the certification of the MLS is worth 32000+ u.s., it is more and more necessary for library positions in some states. That said, it is worth something, and it will open doors to some jobs. Trackwise, I don’t know if academic is the way to go, I try to shuttle my students toward Library Media Specialist and Business Librarianship, but this is NYC, and both have good opportunities. My senior colleagues tell me that students feel really busy and disenfranchised around week 6 and week 13, each semester…

  6. kiki says:

    Well, I certainly have my moments of feeling like that! Currently in my fourth semester of taking two classes at a time (and about 3/4 of the way through the program), and I’ve definitely been feeling frustrated. Perhaps it’s partially a case of the end being in sight, but not as close as we’d like?

  7. […] me, this means that there seems to be no real direction to what I’m doing (for more, read my What Am I Doing Here? […]

  8. Jennifer says:

    Julian, thanks for the words of encouragement. I will definitely try and keep the big picture in mind. I do plan to finish, I’m just feeling rather conflicted about the whole school thing right now.

    I will continue to push forward. I made a commitment to school and deep dolwn in side actually believe that it will all be worth it in the end. I do think that part of it may be the end is in sight, but not quite close enough, Kiki. I wish I were closer to the end.

  9. Richard says:

    Wow, I can really relate to what you’re going through. I just graduated from a 2-year Info Science program, which I completed while being a father, husband, full-time student, and working 40 hours a week between 2 jobs! This might sound bad, but from start to finish all I could think about was the end of the program. After it finally came, I got a job fairly quickly (thankfully) and am now working as a full-time public librarian. It was worth it for me in the end, though I gotta say it was extremely painful! Good luck with the rest of your program. When you start to feel frustrated with things, just think to yourself, “This, too, will pass”

  10. Jennifer, maybe it’s very normal to be conflicted over school, home, work, family etc. at this time in your life. I would bet that no matter *what* your were doing, you would find that you didn’t have enough time for everything and still you would not be able to give anything up. That’s just what being in one’s 30’s and 40’s is about. I only have a few years on you, but I can tell you from the future (the 50’s) that it gets a whole lot better as you realize that there are years for putting the pedal to the metal, and there are years for taking the scenic route. I am in school for the third time, getting my 3rd degree and I love every second of it. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. But believe me, when I was in my 30’s in law school getting my second degree, I was so stressed out that I couldn’t imagine a worse life than the one I had. I didn’t quit. I was determined and I did my absolute best, though it cost me a lot. My legal career has been very gratifying, but nothing like the experience I am having now, in a much more relaxed phase of my life. So, don’t be discouraged. It’s just a time when we try to do everything we can. Cherish the energy and drive. And look forward to a very productive career. Who knows, you may have another opportunity to go to school 20 years from now. It could be completely different from what you are experiencing now. Viva la difference.

  11. Just wanted to note that Wil Wheaton has some words for you today on this subject.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Paul, thanks for the link! I do need to learn to let myself take time just for me.

    Georgia, I appreciate your words – and will look forward to the more relaxed times ahead. I do admit to being a little discouraged. However, I will keep at it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!!

    Wow Richard! Now, I might feel bad for complaining about what I have going on in my life 🙂 I know it will all pass – and I know I will make it through, I guess I just needed to complain a little bit!!

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