Intellectual Freedom: A Conundrum

 Intellectual Freedom

I’ve seen it written somewhere recently, “what will you do with your one and only life?” Considering some might believe in reincarnation, I suppose this question isn’t as pressing. But there are consequences for living in that belief system, too. I guess, to be fair, it is still stirring to think, “what will you do with this life?”

I recently started yet another graduate program. This time I’m studying library science. I think I’d like to be an archivist. I’d like to wear white gloves, goggles, and handle ancient manuscripts, but, admittedly, I just feel pressured at this point to be working towards a definitive career. Needless to say, it is sucking the life out of me.

This is not to say that I couldn’t be perfectly happy working as an archivist or even in a more traditional library setting. There is comfort in knowing there’s a clear end result of this program, quite different than my other MA degrees, which turned out to be labors of love and student loans.

I’m staring at the topic for this week (already week 5!), and I can’t bring myself to read the lecture notes or slides or articles and I’m just staring at the words “Intellectual Freedom” and finding it ironic. Why you ask? I’ve been working towards, well, I don’t know what, for the past 8 or 9 years now in higher education, waiting for the moment when I could finally have the freedom to read and write what I want. Isn’t that intellectual freedom? Not quite, if you ask my colleagues in library and information science. Regardless, I feel like I just threw my intellectual freedom away. Again.

I defend my thesis for my other MA in two weeks. Wait, what? Yes, I am that insane to overlap master’s degrees. I would never recommend this even to someone with higher mental faculties than my own or with better time management skills. Then again, someone smarter than me would probably never make such a decision in the first place. Anyway, I just mailed three copies of that monstrosity that has taken up nearly three years of my life, and instead of feeling relieved, I feel disappointed with where I am at. I’m back at the drawing board. 

In light of my pity party, I decided to blow off my schoolwork for another day and keep up with the Kardashians instead. You might say I wasted about 5 hours of my life, but what I needed in this case wasn’t just intellectual freedom, but a full-on intellectual time-out.

I think I’ve arrived at the point in my life where I’m struggling to be responsible and level headed and, well, me. I’m aware more than ever how my decisions affect other people and I don’t want to let anyone down. I’ve come to a point now where there are very big decisions to make and I find myself waking up suddenly during the night in a state of panic wondering how to be true to myself and not disappoint people in the process. (Yes, you, Mom and Dad.)

Can I make it through one more degree, just one more year of grad school? Or do I drop out and write the novel that’s been floating around in my head, becoming more and more developed every day, even when I don’t realize I’m thinking about it, dreaming up plot and having these characters walking around in my brain, begging to come to life?

Do I want to commit to a relationship again, knowing that the last one nearly killed me? Do I want to love someone and risk not getting that love back in the way I know I deserve?

Essentially, would I rather be working for a paycheck or waiting to win the lottery? I don’t mean literally. I don’t usually play the lottery. I can be happy alone, but maybe loving someone again will enrich my life in ways I forgot were even possible for me. I can make it through one more year and always have this degree to fall back on, but what if writing this novel turns out to be the best experience of my life and I let it fade from my head without ever reaching paper…

I think we all crave the intellectual freedom that let’s us sort through our options in life. If we’re lucky, these options might be myriad like mine are. I know I’m lucky to get to choose. But when does having too many options, too much freedom of thought and intellect start to feel like a burden? Lately, I’d have to say that happens to me almost every day. And I feel guilty for this.

Maybe if we just thought of decision making in terms of what will make us happiest and not what’s the best financial plan when it comes to a career or the safest bet when we contemplate giving our hearts away, these choices would be easier. That seems like being truer to myself. If I do in fact have this one and only life, I think I should be more willing to compromise certainty–for that is only a myth, anyway–and take some chances. I probably will finish this third master’s degree. But I will also start working on this novel. I will let myself love again when the time comes and be okay knowing it might not work out because I know somewhere inside me that it is worth it no matter what.

Intellectual freedom, as I’ve used the term, may in fact be a blessing or a curse. Quite the conundrum.  Funny part is, you get to decide which one it’s going to be for you. I choose the former. I believe that the head and the heart balance each other out. And so in this one and only life of mine, I will lead with my heart and follow up with my head. I’d rather live with passion than intellect. I guess what it comes down to is the fact that I know I’ve had enough theory; I am ready to move on to practice. 

5 thoughts on “Intellectual Freedom: A Conundrum

  1. it should be what you want to do. But that changes as you say. Who would have known, you’d be on your what, 3rd degree? With each degree you get closer, to the goal.

    OR you can just finish it, and see where it goes. It takes a good person to follow through. And you will.

  2. Don’t worry about Dad. He just wants u to be happy. What ever u decide to do just do it. And do it every day. If ur going to write and do grad work set up time for each and do it every day. Don’t procrastinate! You might want to think about getting masters work out of the way earlier in the week to free up time for creativity. What ever u do don’t leave work for the last minute as this breeds anxiety and panic and will suck all the joy from what u do.

  3. It sounds as though writing that novel is what is in your heart to do. Whether or not that means dropping out of school, would certainly be your call.

    Truly love yourself, and you will never be at risk of not receiving love. There is the commonly held view of love, which is something one gives that needs to be returned or we might suffer. There is another love, which I believe is true, that really is unconditional, and the person who possesses that love gives and receives it freely regardless of the circumstantial response returned by others. It’s a simple truth of the reality I believe we human beings are made of, but rarely understand.

    So, I suppose the question is: what is in your heart to practice?

    I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your post. You’re awesome.

    – Saunsea

  4. Ah, your writing is pulling me in… I think we’re very similar and I can see that we sort of both write to think. At least, that’s my assumption.

    Wow, three MA degrees! Ah, I want to know more!

    I feel like I’ve had more existential crises since going to grad school than ever in my life. I also feel like I question staying or going every single day. It’s a rollercoaster that has left me (and those close to me) dizzy and a little nauseous.

    So, why so much grad school, I am wondering… 🙂 Curious (but not judging!!!)

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