Happiness over Education

Apr 13, 2013 by

          Remember those decisions I have looming over my head like a nagging, anxiety-inducing rain cloud? I have three days left to make one of them. I thought I had until the end of the month. Au contraire, after two weeks and two days of avoiding a few important letters like the plague, I opened them to find that my deadline is two weeks sooner than I had expected. Oh, the consequences of procrastination. At least I didn’t wait until next week to open them, like I had planned. (Although, part of me not-so-secretly wishes I had, so time could have made my decision for me by default of mistakenly missing my deadline. Now, I get to take responsibility for my decision. Yay!)

          What are these letters? Acceptance letters. (Well, except for one unsurprising rejection letter [I bombed my interview], which I’m stupidly grateful for. One less program to choose from! I really hate choosing.) Ugh, I feel like a hypocrite just writing this. I mock people who go back to school after a year or two of getting nowhere from completing their first degree. It’s so logical: my first degree got me nowhere, so I’ll get a second degree to continue on the path to nowhere! Oops, I meant illogical.

          In my own defense, I applied for a program that would lead to a professional designation; not a Master of Anthropology or some other impractical ridiculousness. (I can say this because my Bachelor’s degree is “of Arts” and is unfortunately in a social science.) In other words, this time around, I had a plan that would lead to a career, whereas 17-year-old me did not when she embarked on the post-secondary road.

          While I applied to these programs with every intention of accepting an offer this month, I have finally decided that I will be declining every offer that I received. Believe me, after spending more than one month’s rent on application fees (FYI: universities are stealing from the poor) and feeling as though I was making a positive change in my professional life since clicking “submit application,” this is not the verdict that I expected the competing thoughts in my head to come to. However, my reasons for this choice mainly lie within The Happiness Experiment.

          More than anything, I want to travel. Going to school this September would prolong me from traveling further than I already have. Not only would it prevent me from beginning to save the money for an extended trip, it would also require me to take on thousands more in debt. I’ve learned from my first lap around academia that debt is a mean thing to do to Future Maria. On a financial level, one-year-from-now me will thank present-day me.

          Speaking of money, I don’t have any. Therefore, I am not in a financial position to take on the burden of tuition and I am not willing to indebt myself to another financial aider (cue eye rolling at the irony of “aider”). Did I mention that some employers in the career field that I’d be entering have recently instated hiring freezes expected to last years, making me question my debt repayment abilities? Even if I was willing to take on thousands more in debt to take my chances in a risky job market, I do not have the luxury of working anything less than full time hours while in school. I have a life to pay for, which preferably includes a roof.

          One of the many reasons that I’m unhappy lies in the fact that I often choose to do things that I should do (school is a “should do”), even if I can’t handle them. People say that the first step is admitting that you have a problem. I have a problem: I take on too much. For a brief time nearing the end of my undergraduate life, I did the full time school and full time work thing. It wasn’t easy, but I did it, often using my textbooks as an impromptu bed. Despite that, at this time in my life, full time school and full time work would be a lot for me to handle, leaving me with little time to focus on being happy. Since I know it would be too much, I’m not going to subject myself to it right now. The inevitable pressure can only lead to more unhappiness. I want to practice having balance in my life, and understanding my limits is necessary to attaining that balance.

          Though going back to school is not the best option for me at this time, given my present priority (happiness) and financial circumstance, I’m not saying that I will not go back eventually (nor am I saying that I will). I can always apply again if I want to. As if on signal, that contradictory voice is erupting in my head: What if I don’t get in again? I’ve countered that voice with: What if I spend yet another year unhappy? What would I regret more: not going to school or not trying to be happy? The potential consequences of not striving for happiness are worse for me than those of not going to school this year. Lawyered! Happiness it is.

          Of course, I’m disappointed to be declining these offers. Still, I feel that it’s better than taking this route: accept an offer, freak out for the next four months about how I’m going to pay for my tuition, go further into student debt, try to work full time and go to school full time, burnout, quit something, and cry in front of an empty fridge because I’m school poor again. All of these predicted events are very possible non-exaggerations, based on the pleasurable experience of earning my undergraduate degree. The best I can do from here is devise a financial plan to ensure that Future Maria is in better financial shape to take advantage of her desired opportunities than I am.

 
Previous: My Incredibly Cool Dad Next: Declining Opportunity
 

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