Soooo...the Big News...
I've enjoyed reading y'alls' guesses, but no one *quite* got it. We decided last weekend, at the ocean, that we are going to go back to school, to finish our degrees in Biology. Bobby and I both started our academic careers as Biology majors, actually. At our nerdy high school for math, science, and computers, we were two of three recipients of awards in Biology, so once upon a time, someone thought we had some promise in it. And we did: We were good at it, and we loved it.
But we ended up leaving the major. I went to Psychology and Bobby went to Political Science. Why? There were a lot of reasons. I can't speak for Bobby, but I have always had the problem of having my brain in sideways. As you hear of people who are left- or right-brained...well, mine is in sideways. I can't make up my mind whether I like to be geeky and analytical or geeky and creative.
I graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore County. I love my alma mater and value my degree from there; it is one of the best up-and-coming research universities. But what that meant for me, as a Biology major, was that I was stuck in classes of two-hundred-plus students, where it was no secret that the professors taught one class only each semester to keep with the university and continue to receive research funding. One of my biopsych professors once told a struggling student who went to him for help to quit his job (which afforded his food and housing) if he wanted to do better in the class and sent the student from his office, refusing to help him further. There was very little outlet for my creativity there. We didn't write essays or work on projects or have discussions. We took four or five multiple-guess exams a semester, and our grades were based solely off of that. The program is one of the best in Maryland, and it was competitive, and no one liked to talk to the person next to them, who might benefit from the conversation somehow and one day usurp one's place in medical school.
UMBC is a school largely for right-brained geeks. As I said, I love the school, and I was in many ways a right-brained geek, but I also need to be creative, to tie my work in with the real world, to interact with other human beings, share ideas and inspirations. So I suffered in my Biology major to the degree that I gave it up.
(And actually, I was one of five students chosen to compete for a full research scholarship in Biology in my freshman year, and I got one of the two places. When I changed majors that summer, I had to give that up...but I did it. And no, I do not regret it. I would not have survived in that major at the time, and my education in Psychology--though far from lucrative--has been valuable nonetheless.)
Bobby battled his own demons and ended up in Political Science, and we were both very happy. I learned the hard truth though, upon graduation, that a BA in Psychology isn't going to get one anywhere near a job in psychology. We also had the luck to graduate during the worst year for the job market in the United States. I had all intentions of continuing on to study Clinical Psychology in graduate school, and my top school accepted 10% of its Clinical Psych applicants; with a near-4.0 GPA and more internships than one could shake a stick at, I was guaranteed that. But in the massive unemployment that year, students who would have gone straight to a career opted for graduate school instead and--that coupled with cut funding for higher education (thanks, Bush)--dropped acceptance rates at my grad school to 1%. And I wasn't quite <i>that</i> good, in part because my sideways brain had me wasting my time tutoring in the city and editing for the literary magazine instead of focusing entirely on clinical psychology, as good little right-brained geeks are supposed to do.
And that's how I ended up running stats for a warrant unit, if anyone is wondering.
Bobby was lucky to have graduated at the top of his class in Political Science, and he got a very nice deal working as a geek with US Customs and Border Protection, doing very important work. His job really meant something...but bureaucracy being what it is, it means something no longer, and he is also disillusioned, working more to advance the careers of his superiors than protecting the country.
We have both been at a loss lately. My job could be done by a monkey, and my only joy is that I have managed to improve myself considerably as a writer. Bobby's job is no longer important, snarled as it is with DC bureaucracy. At one time, we wished for good pay and prestigious-sounding titles; those things mean so little, though, we have learned. We are not happy with our work; the only thing that keeps us happy is each other and the various recreational things that we do, which we find more meaningful than our so-called "careers."
As we have gone back to the environment, through hiking and diving, we have realized again our love for the natural world and the passion that we both feel for protecting it. A bit older and wiser, we have realized that making enough money to live in central Maryland is not all that there is, and we are ready to try again.
And so we have decided to go back to school.
I am actually fairly far along in my Biology major. I have half of my chemisty (all I need is organic...eek!) and a significant number of my core classes as well. I still need physics and behavioral stats, since I doubt that my Experimental Psychology class--which was behavioral stats cloaked in less-scary terms--will count. We are not going back to UMBC because--UMBC being what it is--each professor in the department teaches only one class at whatever hours are most convenient for him/her, and obviously, we need more flexibility than that. Instead, we are going to Towson University, Bobby's alma mater. Not only do they cater to second-bachelor's students, but they have a concentration in Ecology and Animal Science, whereas UMBC has a single core track of a few very boring classes and that is it, only one of which is Ecology, iirc. (And I had that already, got an A, and learned absolutely nothing.)
I do not kid myself that it is going to be hard, but it is something that we both want and need to do. We are simple folk, and this rat-race lifestyle that is expected of people living in this area is not for us. People here get meaning from their paychecks and how many "things"--big houses, expensive cars--they own and can thus brag about. Nine days in Puerto Rico really awakened us to how rude and self-important people around here are, and if I am disillusioned now--still not twenty-five years old--then how will I be after thirty years of paying twice as much for everything, only to say that I live in "Howard County" and measuring my worth in dollars and cents?
Bobby has been in contact with the chairperson of the Biology department, and with our GPAs, he assures us that there will be places for both of us. Living with this idea for the last week, it is something of a consolation, and I get a thrill whenever I think of it. Yesterday, on my way to work, I was nearly killed--per usual--by some idiot who thinks his schedule more important than the lives of others on the road, in a hurry to get nowhere. Lately, this has been unbearable to me, to witness this, and driving is at time terrifying, but the idea that we are doing something to get away from here made it so I smiled in his wake as he sped down the road, passing on the shoulder and making a general ass of himself, and knew that I do not have to be like him.
So when people guessed that our life-changing decision had to do with the ocean, you were very close. We hope to do conservation work; we hope to one day combine our degrees and our dive training (which begins in September) in order to work in a world far-removed and much more important than stupid Howard County and Washington, DC. And if this means that our Friday-night dates take us back to Taco Bell rather than La Palapa, like the good ol' days, then so be it. This is a sacrifice that we are willing to make.
There will be other sacrifices too, of course. I have to put off my business, for the moment. I will continue to make candy for family and friends, so if anyone on my flist wants customized confections, you know where to find me. But I can't take the chance of having a business boom, trying to complete a degree, and working fulltime as well. And I will have less time for writing.
But I think that it will be more rewarding, to finish what we have started, and to work together toward something, as we have not for a long time. And something with meaning beyond facilitating the arrest of a guy who dared to call his agent a bitch but did nothing else wrong (as I did the other day) or spending hours on a PowerPoint presentation that could be done by a seven-year-old to make some bureaucrat look impressive at a brief (as Bobby does some days.) So I am very hopeful and excited right now about my work, for the first time in years.