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The Return

09 February 201604:01AMlife

in the depths, something stirs

its crusted form shakes off the silt of months

it stretches langourously and, with a twitch of its fingers, makes its way towards the surface

that which has lain fallow and untended will bear life forth once more under the thumb of its master of old

it speaks


it types

"Well, it's been a while. Here's where I'm at."

"My phone - my beloved Nokia - died just after christmas. And, well, I switched to Android. I'm on a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact now, and between the battery life, the waterproofing, and not needing to work around things like not having a banking app, I'm suffering significantly less phone-related anxiety. So that's nice. Nothing to do with the software, mind you, and everything to do with the available hardware. I don't know why you all want such gigantic slabs in your pants, but it's making it real tough for me, okay?"

"I took a week off to go down to Gracetown with Grace and her family. We swam at beaches and went to breweries (where Michael got me on to untappd) but generally just didn't do much. It turns out the south-west is a lot more fun when a) you can drink, and b) you have your own car. It was lovely, except for the bit where I didn't bring a jacket. I wouldn't have thought I'd need one in the middle of January, but there you go."

"Oh yeah, and I turned 23, and had a super chill barbecue down the beach. And..."

At this point, your author turns around. Behind him is an enormous, grey, trunk-wearing beast. It is, indeed, an elephant, and it is in the room with him.

"Oh yeah," he types. "That."

"I think I'm going back to uni."

Let's dispense with the framing narrative, shall we?

Yeah, so I appear to be going back to uni. Specifically, to study a masters in science communication.

You may remember, almost exactly two years ago, that I got a job at Scitech. Almost a year after that, I got a sidegrade to the Planetarium.

While both of these jobs have done an admirable job at both getting me paid and letting me try out this crazy one-foot-in-science-one-foot-in-language thing I seem to be set on, it's not great on the upward mobility front. It's very casual, very operations-centric, and it kind of leaves me too busy just keeping up with my shifts to work on anything that would help me kick that idea into a higher gear.

And, on paper, this degree gets me that. It gets me some background learning in a field I want to be in, a chance to meet other people with the same nuts ideas, and a big ol' project, if I choose, to work on for a year and then be proud of. And I walk out of it all one level higher on the Australian Qualifications Framework, with a wonderfully impressive MSc(comm) to put after my name. I can put the thing on my HECS tab, and with a little bit of help and a little bit of careful budgeting - no thanks to the government - I should be able to stay alive at the same time. Happy, even.

And yet.

Something is nagging at me, and I don't know what it is.

It could be that I've always said I don't want to go back to uni just for the sake of it. That I would never do a thesis unless I found a question I was passionate about. It could be that I've been pretty unimpressed with the quality of teaching and student care that UWA is providing these days, and I don't want to get back into that system. It could be that I felt like I'd finally taken a step into a larger world, and going back to student life feels like a step backwards rather than forwards.

It could be that this is a spur of the moment decision based on a flyer, without the momentum of post-high-school expectations and years of career advice propelling me forward. It could be that this is on me, and me alone, and I'm having difficulty taking responsibility for that decision.

And while all of that is a factor, I think the deep issue is something else.

Because as good as it looks on paper, the thing nagging at me is this: I'm not convinced I actually need the darn thing.

Ultimately, yes - this might qualify me to at least try for a bunch of entry level (with a masters - sheesh) outreach-y communications-y type positions in departments of this and centers for that. Then again, it might also not.

It's two years and a lot of money for something that isn't even close to a sure bet.

Would I be better off trying to spend that time freelancing? Or sinking some R&D-type time into my big long list of ideas? Am I better off trying to develop something cool, and spin that up into its own business? I have no idea.

This is what nags at me. Is it, when it's all over, going to have been worth it? And I just don't know.

So that's what's up with me right now. New phone. Fun camping. 23 years old. Filled with crushing uncertainty about the value of the higher degree I just enrolled in.

How have things been with you?

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