As much as I refuse to accept it, as of this writing, I am a second semester junior. My college career is more than halfway done; slowly and steadily (despite my best attempts to avoid it) entry into the “real world” draws closer. Naturally, the question asked ad nauseam at all sorts of social gatherings is some combination of the following: “What are you going to do with that pesky philosophy degree? How good are you at flipping burgers and do you know that the streets of New City get cold during the Winter months? Moreover, do you regret switching from a pre-med track, doctors make so much money…”
I wish I had some response that not only relayed the importance of the humanities but assured whichever well-seeker was bombarding me at the moment not to fret, that I would turn out just alright. Generally however, I’m holding back the immediate response to such questions, namely a couple 4 letter words and eating my problems away (just a joke.. I think). Honestly, I don’t have some perfect answer. I sometimes wish my path were clearer. All my friends going into the world of finance or law know exactly what they need to do: 1 year summer internship here, two years spent clerking for this person, take the LSATs, GMAT, finish up law school/ business school and I’m done. At the very least, they have a clear sense of what the next few steps are. I have however no clue. My chief plan is to get a PhD in Philosophy, and teach at some point. Doing philosophy is undoubtedly my biggest passion, and I can imagine living my happiest life reading, writing, and thinking about philosophy on a daily basis (especially while getting paid to do so). The reality of the situation is not so rosy however, philosophy graduate programs, especially the highest ranked ones, are extraordinarily difficult to get into. Even if you can graduate with a PhD, the job market as noted philosopher Hilary Bok described it to me “is abysmal, and there’s no reason to believe it will get any better.” Not particularly encouraging.
Naturally I have other interests, perhaps I should follow those? I loved working as a dramaturg this past summer, but where how do I follow up on that? Go to dramaturgy school? Intern at a theatre? There are certainly options, options I know I would be happy pursuing but the path forward is definitely not straight, and that can be scary. Law school is also a possibility (one that would make my mother very happy) or even a post-bac program and a return to medicine. But somehow, any route that leads away from philosophy seems almost like a failure. As if by not following the path I know would fulfill me the most, I am failing. There’s also a fear, as naive and pathetic as this may be, of not being good enough. Not being good enough to get into one of those insanely competitive grad schools, not being capable enough to follow my passions. There’s also a confidence rightfully or not that comes with being at one of the top academic institutions in the world. To have that confidence shattered, to realize that truly the world isn’t my oyster and that no matter how hard I work I may not be good enough is absolutely terrifying. I wish I had a more uplifting message to end this post on. I do believe in myself, and feel confident that however things may turn out I will end up doing something that makes me happy. But it would be dishonest to write that this sort of important long-term thinking isn’t entirely, utterly scary. But maybe that’s the point, much needed introspection at a crossroads of life isn’t comforting, but that may be what makes it so important.