Moving on

It finally occurred to me last night, nearly three years after deciding to leave graduate school, that I do not have to keep the books that I only own because they were on the reading list for the preliminary exams that I am never going to take.

I purged hundreds of books from my library before I moved, but few if any of the books from my reading list. I even shoved three boxes of books into the back of the closet at my new home, and only in part because there wasn't enough room on the shelves. There was too much emotional baggage tied to the stuff I was studying shortly before I decided to quit. But I still cared about the subject matter -- I wouldn't have stuck it out so long if I hadn't -- so I thought I might want to have those books in the future, once I had recovered a bit from the relentless years of study.

It made me melancholy to even think about divesting books from my reading list, like that would be what makes it really final that I'm not getting a Ph.D., even more than writing the letter of withdrawal or getting in my car and driving to the other side of the country. I never intended to leave the door open to going back -- I was DONE -- but the books feel like a security blanket of sorts, a way of holding on to what I've left behind.

But I don't even like some of these books. Some of them are tedious and boring. Some of them make my head hurt when I try to understand them. Some of them I only forced myself to read because I had to. And now? I don't have to! I don't have to pretend like I care what they say because someone on my committee thought they're important.

There are plenty of books from my prelim list that I do want to keep, but I'll keep them because I value them for themselves, not because I need to demonstrate expertise in a field where nobody cares whether I have expertise or not.


Jan said...

I find it hard to get rid of books. Good luck!

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