The Plan: a PhD on my own terms

by Frost on November 5, 2010

Once you wake up and realize you don’t like the path you’re on, all sorts of hard questions start to pop up. What are my goals? How do I want to spend my precious, limited time alive on this planet? Am I even really free to choose anything? It’s enough to make a life-threatening psilocybin trip seem mild.

I know what I don’t want to be doing. But what do I want to replace it with?

– I could radically change my career path. In other words, swap one cubicle for another.

– I could , uhh, quit my job and devote my life to charity. Any day now.

– I could knuckle down and tough it out, joining the masses in their lives of quiet desperation, outwardly content in their careers and frumpy wives, ignoring the distant screams of their dying souls as they drift off to sleep. Hey, maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Or – and this was the direction I was leaning to in this blog’s early days – I could withdraw my savings from a year of good pay and minimalist living and spend the next five years couchsurfing the world, banging every woman and ingesting every substance put in front of me. Picture a bored, horny, reality-averse Pac-Man with a blog and a backpack. That was my vision.

On reflection though, it doesn’t really appeal to me. I don’t think I could maintain the necessary enthusiasm over five years of pure hedonism. Yes, I want to travel. And of course I want my life to be filled with wine, women and song. But I want the parties, the women and the reckless good times to be a sideshow in my life – not the main event.

I want to leave, and come back a better, smarter person.

So I came up with a plan. Think of it as an Open-Source PhD.

I’m going to create an itinerary of places to visit and subjects to study, spending a few months in each, studying something locally relevant. For example: I want to learn about the pre-Christian classical civilizations, so I’ll live in Athens and Rome. I’ll hop around the Balkans, Italy, Turkey, and North Africa. I’ll spend my nights in Dionysian revelry and days studying the ancients, from Aristophanes to Zeno.

Next up: Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, where I’ll study the histories and texts of the major western religions, and possibly learn Arabic.

Russia and Eastern Europe after that, to study the fallen Soviet Empire and her dissidents’ literature. And of course, the lovely women.

China, Japan and Southeast Asia for… Asian girls?

South America for… Latin American girls?

OK, we’re getting side-tracked. But the idea is a good one and I like it.Think of it as an unrecognized, unaccredited PhD program that’s on a perpetual field trip. And rather than try to publish academic papers that fewer than ten people will read, I’ll record my progress on this blog. Maybe I’ll even be able to finagle some scholarship and grant money? Who knows. My government gives money to bigger jackasses than me.

Maybe – and part of me thinks I should just end this post right here, but why the hell not dream big – I could inspire a few others to join me in saying fuck our depressing, uninspiring post-secondary education system and the TPS Report-littered career opportunities they offer. Maybe instead they’ll go off into the real world to actually learn and experience something, rather than spend half a decade doing meaningless shit for some worthless scraps of paper.

Of course, I’ll have to actually cast off the comfort and security of my current life, and go do it first. Scary? Sure. But every time I think about it, the idea seems to get a bit less so.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

J. Durden January 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

What our generation lacks is purpose. If marriage is impractical and a good family all but impossible to create, what do we have left? The obvious alternative is hedonism, like you outlined. For some, this is enough. For those who want more?

“To build a castle of appropriate size, he will need a great many stones. But what he’s got, now, feels like an acceptable start.”

Good luck.

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