A Moderating Influence

13 Jan

Last night I had the privilege of having a few drinks and talking with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen since the break. This group of people is particularly interesting due to a definite age difference. I wouldn’t call anybody ‘old’ but I am the youngest and it is beneficial to hear different perspectives concerning what we are doing (graduate school & political philosophy) from people who have lived quite a bit longer than I.

I can’t say that any revelatory things were said – but it is important to confirm that one isn’t wasting one’s time. For instance, the oldest is in his late thirties and from what I can tell did well for himself in the ‘real world.’ What I mean by that is, he certainly acquired or came from a family that possessed (or both) a good amount of money. Furthermore, he didn’t waste himself in idleness but certainly has lived an interesting life. I think many people would’ve considered his previous, non-academic, existence stimulating and fulfilling. Thankfully, he undertook philosophy as a Masters student at St. John’s and is now at UD. Another person at the apt., in her thirtieth year, apparently had a sweet job and fancy apartment in NYC but ended up at St. John’s and is now at UD. (Irving, not commensurate with NYC) The other two friends are older, though not by much.

A constant worry of mine, which in turn causes disordered thinking, is that I’m wasting years pursuing something whose fruit (a PhD) I have not tasted and am unclear as to what it means for life. Is the money worth it? Is the time worth it? I have the tendency to want to rush things, well not rush exactly. I’m bent on avoiding the thought, “those were wasted years.” My uncertainty about graduate school combined with my aversion to wasted time created an anxiety last semester that I was acting irresponsibly by spending money and time on school. Enjoying my time here wasn’t a question; but I was anxious over the validity of that enjoyment.

Listening and talking with these friends last night helped allay those anxieties. There were some shared worries but mostly each of us felt committed to our education, including the time and work it involves. Seeing people who started considerably later, and those a few years ahead, share in this commitment confirmed what I guess I would call my hope – that ten years from now I’d be pleased with my former undertaking.

One might object that nobody in the room has truthfully been removed ten years from a PhD, because nobody in the room had obtained it. This objection, while well founded, ought to consider the different view of activities that age brings. For the older folks in the room, this decision to attend UD is far more concrete in its determination of their life. Or it at least feels this way. We are far less likely to take a career decision lightly in our late thirties than our early twenties. There are a number of reasons for this. I’ll leave the recognition of these reasons to you but they are undoubtedly present.

I do think questioning our current undertakings is a healthy exercise and evaluating my time here is something I will surely continue to do. This exercise, though, can ensnare even the most resolute thinker. We are, at least I certainly am, political animals. Thoughts can become over-blown if they are unreflectively pursued and that self-reflection is no easy task. Thank goodness for company and the oft moderating influence it brings.

Well my readers, it is the 13th, which means two very important things: we are nearing the celebration of Lee-Jackson Day and the following day is the beginning of class. I wish you the best of luck if you’ve not, or have already, started class and I encourage you all to pay your respects to the two Southern luminaries, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Until next time, I remain

Faithfully Yours,

Cole Simmons


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: