We have all been thrust into situations that are out of our control; death, job loss, blindsided with divorce. Although we feel like curling into a ball and relinquishing all responsibility to this world, the overwhelming majority of us chose to persevere. We stand up, brush ourselves off and limp along bruised in order to get done what we feel is required of us. Is it fortitude? Pride? Family or social responsibility? I propose that there is no real choice. In that moment there is no questions or complaining, you simply get IT done. But what happens when the life changing situation is under your control and you stare confused into the black abyss of the unknown, terrified?
Over the last two years I’ve spent a significant amount of time assessing the past, present and future plans for my daughter and myself. I’ve written about the journey before and talked about the adventure of the unknown. The excitement of possibilities is euphoric and can draw you into a perpetual cycle of “what might be.” I admit getting drunk on an alternate reality where money sorts itself out, my daughter agrees with me 100% of the time and actions don’t have consequences. I’m not saying the basis of these possibilities are not reality but until I had a choice to actually follow through with one, they were merely academic. Now one is real and unveiling itself as both exciting and frightening in the same emotional space.
I’ve been presented with an opportunity to return to school for a PhD. I began to explore the possibility about a year ago by talking with many faculty, graduate students, friends, family and most importantly my daughter. I applied to my dream program and have wrote several grant applications to help with paying for the degree. Everyone has been very supportive including my daughter. Although, she thinks I’m crazy for actually wanting to return to school! Until this point there were no hard choices. Before now I would say that logically if “x” happened I would choose “y”. But there are many hard choices ahead. It was convenient to ignore them until now. I can hear my late wife saying something she had said many times before, “How did you not see this coming? You succeed at everything you put your mind too. It is why you irritate me and why I love you all at the same time!”
Even though those sentiments bring me comfort I’m still presented with the reality that as a single parent I alone need to make serious decisions that have far reaching consequences. I recognize those consequences are both positive and negative but the unknown ahead lends weight and trepidation to my thoughts. As a father, is it responsible to leave a great job and return my family to poverty to pursue a future career that isn’t currently defined? Should I uproot my daughter from a stable social and educational network? While she endorses the adventure presented to her I do not believe she fully understands the long standing impacts of moving 4,000km away from our friends and family. I’m missing my partner, my co-parent and the person who tells me if I’m being crazy!
There certainly will be challenges but my gut tells me that a PhD would be the right decision. It has always been a goal. The faculty and colleagues at the program I hope to join stimulate thought and bring me a new excitement. I should be clear that I do have sound plans. We can financially make it. There are fantastic and supportive elementary schools for my daughter. There is no specific job at the end but I believe there will be opportunities in academia and industry.
Did you catch that? See how I just rationalize away all of my fears in the paragraph above. I combat this every day within myself; I disregard emotional value amongst logic. The scary part is that I don’t know what those future opportunities are. And here lays the crux – to take a leap into the unknown or not. Leave the certainty of the current path and risk nebulousness for the future. Logically, the ambiguity of the future will be better but it doesn’t negate the emotional toll exacted along the way. I wish I had a definitive answer today. I think I might, but until my logical and emotional selves declare a mutual understanding, I will ponder in excited terror the possibility of a PhD.