On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay 'round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel
"Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."
"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine-logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine
When we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather.
"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, good my page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shall find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."
In his master's step he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye, who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
On Christmas Eve, some friends and I gathered to exchange gifts with a couple glasses of wine, as we've done since before any of us could remember. In year's past,s the event has been characterized with awful corny jokes, puns, catty jests, while making fun of the over the top-ness of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Special. This year, however, we found ourselves at an en passe: we could either talk about the new Star Wars film, or talk about politics. Not wanting to kill the mood, we decided to talk about The Last Jedi only to find that we all had very different, and very passionate opposing takes. We reverted back to something we could all agree on: Donald Trump, Congress, and the Tax "Reform." We talked at length about how much our ambitions and desires have felt like they are hanging in the balance, and about how unfair it all is.
In my last post, I thought about the recent changes in my goals and the state of the world that I live in. In the transition of my goals away from ordination and toward anthropology, I've kept an active realization that, despite anthropology's versatility, there isn't much I can do with a bachelor's. To my surprise, several of my professors have encouraged me to consider and apply for PhD programs after I graduate this fall. Luckily, one of my professors suggested the brilliant blog and now book The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job by Karen Kelsky which has answered questions I never knew I had about going on in academia. To be honest, it's gotten me excited and scared shitless; and if I've learned anything the past 3 years, that combination is usually a good indicator to keep moving on. In essence, I've found myself in a completely new phase of my life, one where the world is my oyster. On the one hand, my options are almost limitless. On the other, I also find myself looking for a career outside the church, and I have no idea how to go about that.
The biggest challenges at the moment are the "to what ends" I want to pursue a professional degree, and how to even begin writing a Statement of Purpose for grad schools with out knowing exactly what it is I want to do. PhDs are a lot of work too. And, ever since the recession, tenure track jobs are becoming incredibly rare, and if you want to work on your own research (and be funded), being a tenured professor is pretty much mandatory. However, even though I think I'd be a good teacher, I don't want to be an Ivory Tower Anthropologist who did his fieldwork and only publishes (even though I also have a writing career lurking in the back of my mind). And, even though no one says it out loud, the "to what end" of getting a Phd is to have a good career and have economic stability. And this heavily implies that no debt should be taken while in such a program. This poses another challenge. With the Tax Reform coming and potentially effecting PhD students who receive a teaching stipend I am thinking this might not be the best time.
So, in figuring out what my options are, I can, apply to as many Master's and PhD programs as I can and see what happens (generally if you get into a PhD program, you're financially covered), or I can pay for a Master's program out of pocket and discern a PhD when things have calmed down economically (which could take awhile). Both of these options of course imply that I make it into a program somewhere. And, I have to acknowledge that it might not happen. It was my mentor who actually told me to have a Plan B just in case that sadly happens. Applications are due in December of 2018. I have this year to take (and maybe retake) the GREs and get my statements and rec letters ready. Then, I will be in limbo for a good chunk of 2019 as I wouldn't find out where I was accepted until that April and wouldn't attend until that Fall. I imagine in that interim period I would be looking for employment outside of the theatre. My friend's husband said he would be willing to take me on informally at his job in learning how to do participant-observation in user experience and even apply my statistical skills to some of their collected data. Honestly, this is kind of like selling your soul for a paycheck-but those checks are nice and the Bay Area is expensive. Anyway, going into tech is an option. The other option, still in its infant formation, is a move to Portland. Jacob has a chance to start what would probably be the first atelier in Portland. Portland isn't gentrified yet, and is a heck of a lot cheaper, and it mostly meets my urban weather and population requirements of 70 degrees and over 500,000. Jacob would need a book keeper/assistant for the first year, giving me something to do while I figure out what would be next. Going to school up there after I have residency would be an option too. However, this isn't happening any time in the immediate future, but it is an option. As well, as long I keep the cello up and fresh, there's always the gig economy.
Truthfully, I am more scared than excited in regards to the future. This tax change honestly has my stomach in knots. And as much as what I want to do with my life is saturated and motivated by spiritual purposes, I know I have to think both practically and pragmatically as possible in terms of finance and economy. Yet, I think about the journey this year that has gotten me to this predicament. It was at a Taize retreat in St. Louis this last May, where I read Dorothy Day's word about how God will supply you with what you need to live this life when you orientate yourself towards helping and bringing justice to those who need it most. Besides that I'm lazy yet oddly able to accomplish goals successfully, I've learned that I really don't need much. Thankfully, Jacob doesn't either. In fact, both of us are minimalists in nature. Needless to say, those who think religion is a "crutch" need to take a second look at what it means to be religious or spiritual. I know that no matter what, I will be taking one or several leaps of faith into the darkness hoping that ground is still there. It's just I don't know where the jump point is. And I fear the hardest challenge this year will be to let the concerns and "what ifs" go and let myself be led to that jumping point all for something that isn't going to bring me the money or possessions that the status quo say I need. Luckily, I've been watching Jacob do that this year, and he's agnostic. Maybe I should take a page from his portfolio.