Friday, April 14, 2006

Self-indulgently thinking out loud.

I mentioned yesterday that I passed the comps for my second master's degree. The test was the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination, and I didn't study (more on that later). Aside from teaching science to 8th-graders, I'm a clinical intern at a community mental health agency. I don't talk about it very much because of the whole ethics thing. This summer will be devoted to the final requirement: a 30+ page paper on applied theory. Linae's work is more labor intensive than mine (hence, her Ph.D). My thesis will is a theoretical paper on how a combination of existential and behavioral interventions, primarily exercise, to address learned helplessness and change external and uncontrollable attributions. That's a nerdly way of saying that I believe being active can give a depressed person meaning in their life and a feeling of accomplishment. There is a lot of research that suggests that regular exercise is more effective than drugs in treating depression.

I like school and classes. They're easy for me. There, I said it. I don't get much sense of accomplishment from all of it because it is easy. The reason triathlon has been so rewarding is that all of it, particularly running, has been really, really hard. It doesn't really matter how smart I am, or how well I shmooze, know the jargon, or who I know. There are no short cuts. Every success or failure is purely mine, and I know that if I do well it's because I worked my butt off. Thus, I find it all very satisfying, even if I am ssllloooowwwww.

Once I thought I'd really, really like to get a Ph.D, and I started it in 2002 but then stopped it and went for a second MA instead, at a closer school. I just couldn't think of logical reason to get my doctorate. I don't want to be a researcher, or professor, or work anywhere other than in schools where I'll always be a teacher or a guidance counselor, because I love working with teenagers. As such, a Ph.D. will give no extra pay or special priveledges in that sense, making it a very expensive and time-intensive embellishment on a desk sign in my classroom or office, and perhaps the warm and fuzzy feeling of being called "Dr.". Rationally speaking, there is no reason for me to get one. But lately I've been rethinking this.

What if getting a Ph.D. is like running in an Ironman event? Would it be so bad if I did it without any logical reason for doing it? After all, what would an IM do to improve my life? Other than the immense sense of accomplishment and possible tattoo, there's nothing that finishing an IM will add to my life. It's an expensive endevor that may hurt me. Yet I want to do it. I want to know that I can go the distance.

So, I think I want to devote the next 18 months or so to training for IM Florida (2007). After that, I'll see how I feel about a future Ph.D.


  1. Go for the PhD. Honestly, I could work as a field biologist without a PhD but I wanted the intellectual pursuit. To know that I hold the terminal degree in my subject area. To contribute to my field of research. The job doesn't require a PhD, I wanted one.

    You have time to consider your prject and find a good advisor with whom you communicate well. Those are the toughies.

    You can do both, you know. Study for a PhD and do IM Florida.

  2. I used to think school was easy too.... then I started at Bastyr. It's been an awakening. I think I still have an easier time than most, but I didn't even used to study and still pulled down 4.0s.

    IMFL '07. Suh-weet. Go for it! With my schedule, I don't see an IM in my future before '08.


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 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...