"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it." Henry Thoreau
I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed this before since I seem to have this unending chatter going on in my head about what I’m trading or giving up in life in order to accomplish this or that. The “this or that” I’m currently pondering is more accurately described as a PhD. I’m in my second year of classes – a somewhat critical point for me since I feel like completing another semester or two would mean there’s no turning back. I mean, who in their right mind would spend that much time and energy only to quit just before obtaining the illustrious prize? I realize plenty of people get all the way to the end of course work and never finish a dissertation…it’s actually pretty common. But that’s not gonna be me. The looming dissertation seems like a piece of cake to me. It’s the course work that’s killing me. The sitting in a classroom listening to excruciatingly boring lectures, the reading of chapter after chapter of blah, blah, blah, and the pretending to be impressed or enlightened by any of what I’m hearing or reading. I’m not saying I haven’t learned a lot because I certainly have. I’m just saying I don’t really care all that much about what I’ve learned. I think I’m supposed to be more interested than I am. I think I’m even supposed to be somewhat passionate about what I’m studying, but truth be told - I’m not. And that concerns me for several reasons - not the least of which is the amount of time I’m spending on it all.
Let’s talk about time, shall we?
A couple of weeks ago Bobbie Jo and I took the four nieces to The Great Pumpkin Patch for a day of adventure. It was one of those gorgeous October Saturdays that makes you acutely aware of your surroundings and causes you to remember every other beautiful fall day you’ve ever spent outside in the loveliness. I caught myself daydreaming about childhood afternoons spent crunching around in the leaves with my neighborhood peeps, remembering crazy fun nights at the Alabama State Fair with my high school pals, and reminiscing about autumn evenings sitting on the front steps of Vail dorm making out with my boyfriend when I should have been studying. Certainly you know the kind of stuff I’m talking about. It’s the kind of stuff that makes up our lives – the time spent. Time spent with those we love.
So anyway, we’re at the pumpkin patch and I’m a little overwhelmed by it all. Here are these four beautiful children who are just so open to love and fun and...life! They were just soaking up every minute of it all without even knowing it. And the things they say and do all remind me of the things we all said and did as children. Their laughter, and even their whining, is all too familiar. More than once I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my body and dance around in the pumpkins. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t thinking about a paper that was due tomorrow or a book I was supposed to read in less than a week. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I was just with those children and Bobbie Jo in that moment. It was brief, but it was oh so powerful. Over the last couple of weeks, every time I think about whether or not I should register for spring semester classes, I’m reminded of that afternoon at the pumpkin patch. I’ve wondered why the two were connected, and the only thing I can figure is that what I’m really trying to decide is if the price of a PhD is worth the amount of my life I’m exchanging for it. Is the time I’m spending worth the end result? I wish I could say I’ve had a revelation and I know what I’m going to do, but that’s not the case. I’m stuck. It’s not as simple a decision as I would like for it to be, but nothing ever is with me. (I’m cursed in that way.) Maybe if I were excited about what I’m studying I wouldn’t even stop to wonder if I should go on. Maybe if I knew I could have 10 more afternoons in a pumpkin patch with those girls I would give up the idea of a PhD. I don’t know. I guess that’s the real problem with time, isn’t it? We don’t ever know how much of it is left.
I would be willing to bet, though, that it’s not nearly enough.