A Collection of Books

23 Jul

There’s an engraving of a quote by Thomas Carlyle in the Library of Congress that a new friend of mine snapped a picture of while she was in town on business.


In case you can’t read that, it says,

The true university of these days is a collection of books.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote lately. I saw it when I first toured the Library months ago, and then when I saw Nora‘s picture from her trip, I realized why it had been hanging with me. I own a true university. And I also got very comfortable with my library card recently. And I’m realizing that that is the education I want to give myself. Not the overpriced and probably unnecessary Master’s degree I’m supposed to start in 5 weeks. My children’s literature certificate has been a blast, truly a ton of fun and I’ve realized how much I missed school.

But it’s been really hard. Really, really hard, especially this summer. I took two classes to finish my certificate, thinking that summer is notoriously slow in my office and I’d have the time to put in. One of the classes is moving at double time — twelve weeks worth of material packed into six weeks — and it certainly feels like I’m taking three classes right now. That slow summer at work I was counting on? Didn’t happen. Blame it on the BP oil spill, a recession, and an ambitious government, but my summer has been anything but slow.

One thing has become clear to me in the last few months though: I miss my life. I miss reading. I miss blogging. I miss sleep. And I’m getting more and more unsure about this decision to get my Master’s right now. Why just study it when I can actually pursue it??

So with that in mind, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to defer my admission to graduate school for a year. I’ll give myself that year to figure out what I really want to do and to pursue it. That means putting in more work on the blog, learning HTML and Photoshop, and taking a note from Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog and “reading deliberately.” That means taking a significant crack at my Must Read: Classics list and the Gilmore Girls Challenge. It means reading and reviewing only books I’m excited about and think I will enjoy. It means reading more of the amazing non-fiction that I own, but just never seem to pick up. It also means accepting the fact that sometimes, an easy, fun read is EXACTLY what I’m in the mood for.

I’d also like to actually run the marathon I’ve been planning on (and training for). I’d like to travel a little bit.  And maybe I’ll even take up yoga.

The point is this: I don’t want to get a Master’s just for the sake of having a Master’s. And it’s going to sound incredibly cheesy, but isn’t the best education the one you purposely create for yourself? **Cheese warning*** The education of life!

Okay I’m done now.

But really, I’m just making this decision, so I’m a little unsure of what it means for me yet. I have two weeks left until I’m done with classes for the summer. Let’s hope I can hang on until then.


Don’t forget to enter my giveaways! They end this Monday and Tuesday respectively: http://homebetweenpages.com/2010/07/12/giveaways-and-anniversaries/



13 Responses to “A Collection of Books”

  1. Sarah July 23, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Good for you for recognizing the need to step back for a bit and assess where you’re going and where you *want* to go. I hope you have a great year! 🙂

  2. softdrink July 23, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    I think the deferral is a very wise decision. I started a Master’s program in History 5 years ago and lasted 1 quarter before I quit…for the same reasons you listed. I missed my life, and reading for pleasure, and I decided that the money was better spent on books and travel. And I haven’t regretted the decision for a single moment.

  3. Skip July 23, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Unless you had a very specific outcome in mind for your degree (you need it for a certain kind of job you really want), I think a self-created education might suit your needs better. Trust me—an advanced degree doesn’t mean advanced wisdom.

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Montaigne, but I think he might speak to you. In the middle of his life, he decided to hole up in his library and read (and write about his reading and thoughts). The resulting essays (he created the term “essay” by the way, it mean “to try”) are wonderful reads for the bookish and introspective. Best of luck and I look forward to following you here…

  4. Kerry July 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Good for you for taking the time to assess and re-assess your decision. Grad school is a lot of money and a lot of time – definitely worth it if you want it, but if you’re unsure, time is good!

    I love the idea of an education created by ourselves. I feel like I have learned a lot more – as a person, and as a student – since graduating and giving myself the time to read, write and blog more.

  5. Kevin Neilson July 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    I suppose it depends on the Masters degree your getting. My biggest complaint about graduate school is that it extends your adolescence in ways that can be both vexing and downright debilitating, especially if you’re the sensitive sort who worries about jobs, financial independence, and other futurities. Anyhow, for better or worse, degrees and certificates are culturally sanctioned paths that can help you establish your future — and this is coming from an ABD who one fine day ditched his dissertation proposal in the Hudson… Cheers, Kevin

  6. Nora July 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    Coming from someone who is very much in grad school right now, I totally understand the need and desire to take a little bit of time and relax before jumping into graduate school. It is a HUGE commitment and sometimes being a student of life is much more rewarding and fulfilling!

    I’m definitely going to be back to this blog 🙂

  7. In Need of Therapy July 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    I think this is really brave of you. I admire you for stepping back and looking at whether or not you really need to spend the money on the fancy degree. Not very many people do that. They just take the leap and deal with the debt. I’ve kind of been in this place myself, but for more than a year. And the truth is, spending the money on a graduate degree, while it can be very rewarding and exactly what you need or want, will cause you to see your future from a skewed prospective. It’s hard to pursue something other than the thing you paid so much money to study. And what if, in a few years, you want to do something else? Honestly, I know that’s probably not going to be the case for you, as writing and editing are truly a part of you, from everything I know about you. But that’s my own personal struggle.

    And really, more education can never hurt, but it can wait a year. It will still be there when and if you’re ready for it. I suspect you’ll be successful, with or without a Masters degree.

  8. Greg Zimmerman July 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Congrats on your decision – sounds like you’ve made a wise one!

  9. Bookjourney July 26, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Good choice – take your time and breathe trough this. 🙂

  10. Bookjourney July 26, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Good choice – take your time and breathe through this. 🙂

  11. Malnurtured Snay July 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    What is “the Gilmore Girls challenge”?

    • Rachel July 27, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

      Under my Challenges page up top, you can see it, and the Classics list.

  12. citygirlblogs July 27, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    You know what you feel passionate about, and not to sound like an older relative, you have a great head on your shoulders. Congratulations on following your heart, and best wishes as you embark on your next adventure of reading, writing and living! The Master’s program will always be there if you want to go to back to school. Life is too short not to do what you love! xoxo

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