It Happened to Me…I am 31 and Still in School

And I don’t mean: “I took time off to have a family, run a corporation and now I am back.” I mean: “ I have been doing nothing but school since I was 3 years old.”
Publish date:
March 9, 2012
education, school

I have never been one to half ass anything. When I was a kid and a teacher told me that I didn’t have good hand-eye coordination, I became a national level rhythmic gymnast. When I got to the highest level I could for myself in that sport, I took up soccer. I was made an alternate my first year ever playing the sport and the next year I was captain and playing on three different teams.

When I signed up for a half -marathon training clinic, I signed up for the full marathon race. When a high-school teacher told me I couldn’t write, and I should stick to math (which I got near perfect scores in) I took up English as my university major. You get my point.

Every time there is some sort of barrier I clench my teeth bear down and destroy that motherfucking obstacle. Now, near the eve of my 31st birthday, I realize that my life has been validated by a series of goals and rewards.

Like Pavlov’s dog, my eyes grow wide and my ears perk up at the sound of the words “Mohanty” “Derrida” and “Marx.” Every time I get a new university degree (I am currently on my 4th -- 5th if you count my double major BA as two), I feel a rush of euphoria like I have just satiated a 50-year -old hunger.

Lasting roughly 3.75 hours, the euphoria subsides and I sink into starvation again. At that point, I decide to tackle a new degree! A new subject! Ah, the possibilities.

I’d like say I have become a collector of degrees (kind of like stamps only these pieces of paper I paid a lot more for) but in truth I’ve become more of a junkie. One Google search on symptoms of addiction reveals just how deeply dependent on school I really am.

For example, take the first few symptoms of addiction “Your life revolves around your addiction” Obviously! I am never not in a state of studying or worrying about the fact I am not studying.

Second, “You take risks you wouldn’t normally take because of your addiction.” Sadly, yes. I once went on a research trip to a volatile country without much of a plan. I landed in the middle of the night, without a ride from the airport to the dorm I was staying in. Luckily (?) I met a nice man on the plane who offered his friend to drive me to my dorm an hour away. I guess I really wanted that Master’s degree.

And thirdly (although I could go on) “Your addiction is causing problems in your relationships.” Check! This addiction has led me to move to six different cities, moving over two dozen times. It’s no wonder I am never invited to weddings or baby showers or any other significant life moments in my “friends” lives. I don’t really have any friends! (Not entirely true; see below).

The average person has a circle of friends they have known for years and years. I have, honestly, five friends that I am able to keep in touch with (“keep in touch” is relative people!). Five friends who, if I don’t call for 9 months don’t freak out that I hate them or that I don’t care about them. Five friends that understand my problem.

The truth is, I think of my friends all the time but just wish they would all come to the dark side and be a grad student junkie with me. We could sit in a library, in silence and quietly slip into our academic minds. Ahhh bliss.

I have tried hard to quit. There were two separate years I took off between degrees where I worked at a pantyhose and socks store. It was called Sox. (Yes, seriously).

And then another year where worked as unpaid intern (how is that even legal?!). Once under a complete asinine moron, who really sucked at his job and another time under a pretty awesome woman who, incidentally, also likes to wrack up degrees! (Yay!)

However, as the months wore on I found myself huddled in the bathroom at lunch times looking up different schools on my Blackberry and reading brochures from different graduate departments on my coffee breaks. I knew I was getting sucked back in.

Now I know I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about my age and still being in school but really, I am 31 and still in school! And I don’t mean: “I took time off to have a family, run a corporation and now I am back.” I mean: “ I have been doing nothing but school (save 2 separate years off) but school since I was 3 years old.”

I have seen "Intervention," where they tell you an addict must hit rock bottom before he/she will want to overcome the addiction, but I am not sure there every will be one. I thought I had a moment in my first Master’s, but turns out that every (first) Master’s is the worst time of your life (They should write that in the brochure). So, here I am, in the second year of my PhD (they take 4-6 years to complete) and I am already thinking “What next?”

I AM NOT EVEN ABD* and this hunger is back: Law school? That math degree I always wanted? The truth is at 31 I am sick of begging the government for funding, wearing pants I bought when I was 19 and deciding on whether I can eat all the cucumber that will expire in two days because it’s cheaper than buying the ones that expire in seven**.

The truth is I need to find my rock bottom. I feel like it might be coming soon but looking at the cemetery across the road I think: I truly hope I find it before I hit the actual rock bottom.

*All But Dissertation

**First World Problems, I know!