For a while now I have been very conflicted about what I want to do after my BA. The two main options on my mind have been on the one hand to (somehow) become a full-time activist for democratic education (or perhaps for human rights), possibly along with some translation and writing to make ends meet; on the other hand, I could continue with my studies and move towards an academic career in linguistics.
For a very long time I’ve wanted to be an academic, but when I decided to start studying it was important for me not to think too far ahead and take things one at a time. I wanted to stay open to other options, some of which, I knew, could not have even occurred to me at the time. As the degree gets closer and closer I know I have to at least decide what the next step will be. There have been times when it was clear to me that a BA was not enough, that I’d need at least an MA to satisfy my curiosity. At other times (in particular when I get annoyed at the university’s structure) I’ve wished to just be done with it as soon as possible and go do something else.
What makes the whole thing more difficult is that I find both fields absolutely fascinating, and both engage me in a way that makes use of my skills. Activism stands out to me as a particularly worthy way of spending one’s time, because activism means working for the greater good (or one’s vision thereof) and would have a clear goal. The goal in linguistics is less clear to me, and I know that the best one can do is create, or help improve, a model that is useful for understanding the phenomena of language — hoping to achieve total understanding would only be a recipe for disappointment. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking and speaking about democratic education since I was thirteen, and I don’t think it’s much good to advocate it as a graduate who hasn’t spent much of their adult life outside the movement.
In the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about one way of seeing things, a way that had occurred to me when I started to study but I somehow forgot about in the meantime. The idea is essentially to make a hobby into a career, and work on something you believe in in your free time. In my case, the hobby-career would be linguistics — a pursuit that is valuable to me simply because it’s fascinating and fun. I could be an activist on my free time, as time allows.
I’m far from done figuring this out, but this approach seems like a good one. Going into a career without any lofty expectations would allow me to spend time on something challenging and enjoyable, while pursuing more lofty goals on my free time would let me continue being part of something I consider really important, something that seems to make a real difference in people’s lives (which, outside of academia, linguistics rarely does).
I’m writing this just because it is on my mind and I feel like writing. I should actually be doing my computer science homework. I’d appreciate thoughts on all this, especially if they come quickly enough to distract me from my homework!