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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Soooo...the Big News...

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Soooo...the Big News...

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...is that Bobby and I are going back to school.

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.
  • Oh, wow! Sounds like a lot of fun and a great experience - good luck and enjoy, from one Biology geek to another! :D

    I have to say, I do not envy you at all for having to do Chemistry and Physics modules! For us, Chemistry was optional and choosing a Physics module in first year would have been more of a hindrance than a help in the rest of the degree! The Maths course, on the other hand, was dreadful - hard Maths taught by people who couldn't teach and didn't care. But I survived, thankfully!

    The Behaviour and Ecology bits will be great, I'm sure - I loved them! Do you have to do a research project for your Biology degrees?
    • Most of our schools require a year of general chemisty (with one lab), a year of organic (with two labs), and a half-year of physics. Luckily, I'm done with all of my general chem; Bobby's done half and is probably going to take his second half at the community college in the fall. I'm scared as hell of the organic though!

      I've always been good at maths, lucky for me! And we have only to take behavioral statistics which...well, I am technically a statistician, so that should not be hard! :^P At UMBC, we had to have Calculus, but I'd also had that in high school...but I'd rather have stats.

      I think that to do the Honors level, we will have to do a research project, but I'm not sure. I only glanced at the brochure that Bobby brought from the university, mostly to see what courses were available in our concentration. If we have the opportunity, I'm sure we'll do it.
  • That's very cool Dawn. It will be hard work but I'm sure both of you will get a kick out of it and the outcome will be well worth the work you put in. In the end it will provide a better lifestyle for you both and give you the opportunities you may not have had otherwise.

    I would have taken a guess, as others did, but living with your sister means I would have guessed right and thus spoiled your fun :-P

    I think Sharon has told you, but both of us would like to return to school one day. I intended to take a 'year out' from studying, which is when I started working for the Civil Service, but a year has turned into almost 6 and I'm still here. One day when we're able to make the required sacrifices we shall follow in your footsteps. :-)
    • Yes, Sharon told me about your school plans, and I think that it's awesome! I hope that the opportunity comes for you two sooner rather than later. :) What would you like to study?

      I know all about the "take a year off"...that's what I said when I started at WAU too! Then I was supposed to go back to school for clinical psych, but the money makes it difficult and Bobby and I moved out, got married, and we needed my income. And by then, I'd fallen a bit out of love with clinical psych too; at least, it didn't seem worth it to go back to the life of a starving student, working in a foodservice dive to make ends meet.

      That I'm willing to go back to that now...I don't know if that is more a sign that this current path is that bad or that I really want this other path that badly! :) Maybe a bit of both!
  • Heh, I silently guessed close in your last entry! And good luck with that! It does sound like it will be rewarding. And even just planning to go back to school is exciting. :D
    • Hee! Kudos for silent guessing! We're very excited; we've even taken to reading chemistry books...by choice. Now you know that's excited! :)
  • Congratulations! That'll be lots of hard work, but you're good at getting things done when you put your mind to it. Once you have the second Bachelor's (B.A. or B.S.?), do you plan to go on to grad school with it, or try and get a conservation job?
    • We're not sure yet. We've discussed both options, and we're really going to see how things pan out. The school we've chosen has both study-abroad programs in the Carribean (which aside from being in the Carribean is good for reef studies!) and also internships with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, so maybe one of those things will work out. We're keeping an open mind, so far.

      (And it'll be a BS, btw. I already have a BA in psychology; Bobby has a BS in political science. So he'll be twice the BS as me!)
  • This is great news. There is that wonderful sense of peace, isn't there, when you reach a decision like this?

    Good luck and you know we'll all support you!
    • I know, and thank you! Even Bobby commented on how good he felt after reading the comments I had on this post. He thinks you all are pretty cool for that. ;)

      But there is a sense of peace, you are right! Kind of like "I don't have to pretend anymore." I am not unhappy in my life, but I feel a bit meaningless at times, and I hope that this will start to fix that.
  • Heyhey, we can commiserate about homework! ;)

    Not only do they cater to second-bachelor's students, but they have a concentration in Ecology and Animal Science

    That sounds like an awesome deal. I love my animal (well, equine) science classes! (Though, here it's a major separate from biology).

    Your multi-degree and "sideways" brain kind of sounds like my future "plans". I (foreseeably) will have a BS in Equine Science, an MBA, and sometimes I entertain the thought of applying to the U Texas creative writing graduate program (on my more insane days). I figure that just about covers it right? Art, science, business...:)

    Oh and, if you decide you want to do forestry or something, there's always CSU! We've got lots of Nat'l Parks! ;)
  • Way to go Dawn, as I told you already! I don't think you'll regret it at all. And because you said you are not the social-climbing types, I am sure you and Bobby both will be much happier working in a field that you both will enjoy and consider "life work" rather than putting in 8-hour days in the rat-race business community.

    • Thank you! :) This current existence just really isn't for us, and I can't help but think that if we're frustrated at 25, what's it going to be like at 40, 50, 60? Plus, we love the ocean and we'll be able to work together again, which will be nice as well.
  • I somehow get this Matrix kinda feeling as if the two of you opened up your eyes and decided to step out of the 'ratrace'. It takes courage to do so, because running the ratrace (have a good and brilliant career, house, two cars ect ect), might give you a false sense of security (I was in it once, but I am waaay out of it now). But in life, nothing is certain and well, I rather look back on my life with the idea that I lived it, instead that it was lived for me while you tried to keep up. So go the two of you!!!! I am curious what kind of specialisation within Ecology and Animal Science you guys will take. But that is something we'll love to see!

    Go you! Go Bobby!
    • Thank you so much! It seems that a lot of my flist has had this same experience, and I know that Bobby and I have both taken comfort that we are not alone in this. :) I don't know how it is in Europe, but our education system is so keen on pushing students to decide sooner and sooner "what they want to be," and I don't think that I was qualified at 19 to know that. :^P (Actually, I "decided" at age 13 when I applied to study at a specialized school for math, science, and computers. In some places, there are magnet middle schools now too, which means that kids are deciding around age ten. o.O)

      I am curious what kind of specialisation within Ecology and Animal Science you guys will take.

      So far, we are leaning toward ocean ecology, to hopefully work in ocean conservation. Once we get our SCUBA certification, we are actually hoping to become involved with a Chesapeake Bay restoration project, rebuilding oyster beds and such underwater. The poor Bay is so polluted and yet it is central to our local economy, not to mention a beautiful natural resource. Once we have the education to go with it, hopefully we'll be able to help even more.
  • You've got to do what you really want to do. You get one life, "with no return and no deposit". You need to at least try to do what you really want. Good luck!
    • Thank you! :) I don't want to be 80 years old, looking back at what I've done, and thinking, "Well, I had a good time all those years, surfing the Internet at work...." :^P
  • Bah! I wasn't even close when guessing. I thought something along the lines of you and Bobby moving from where you're living at the moment and going somewhere closer to the ocean. And then, my brain kicked in and I wondered how you're going to do that and have no trouble with the your jobs.

    This is great news and, like Tarion said, we're going to commiserate about schoolwork. I'm thinking about continuing my studies, too and going for the equivalent of and MBA (or at least that's what it think it is), in Strategic Management or something equally pompous sounding. What can I say, I do loves me my Management, though I think that my true calling is sitting around and doing nothing all day. ;)

    When do will you start, this year?

    *sniff* for less writing time, but if you're doing something that makes you happy and gives you a chance to pursue a career that will bring the best out of you, then no sacrifice is too small, least of all pr0n fanfic. ;)

    Good luck and I'm really happy for both of you.

    • Bah! I wasn't even close when guessing. I thought something along the lines of you and Bobby moving from where you're living at the moment and going somewhere closer to the ocean.

      Ah, but you were close because we are motivated by love of the ocean and our work will probably take us there someday! :)

      I'm thinking about continuing my studies, too and going for the equivalent of and MBA (or at least that's what it think it is), in Strategic Management or something equally pompous sounding. What can I say, I do loves me my Management, though I think that my true calling is sitting around and doing nothing all day. ;)

      Lol! Well, not "nothing"...I'd bet that you read some Elf pr0n, write some Elf pr0n, think about some Elf pr0n....

      Hey, that's something! :^D

      But I hope that you get to do what you want and that it does make you happy! And Strategic Management does sound scary.... o.O The closest I've come was foodservice management, and I think that's a bit different! :^P

      When do will you start, this year?

      Bobby's looking into transfer classes because we'd like to take our non-biology classes at community college, where it will be much cheaper and closer to home. If they will accept chemistry classes from the community college, then Bobby will start with General Chemistry this fall. I have finished my General Chemistry, so I will wait for him, and we will hopefully be able to take Organic Chem together in the winter or spring.

      *sniff* for less writing time, but if you're doing something that makes you happy and gives you a chance to pursue a career that will bring the best out of you, then no sacrifice is too small, least of all pr0n fanfic. ;)

      And I will still be able to write. This won't be like my first bachelor's degree, where I had a job where I had to actually *work.* :^P Bobby and I plan on hanging on with our respective jobs for as long as possible because we want to get our debts from our first round of schooling paid off. But this job allows me to write pretty much every day; the only impediment will be that I will be doing a lot of my studying at work too, so writing will have to share time with schoolwork.

      Good luck and I'm really happy for both of you.

      Thank you so much! :)
  • We decided last weekend, at the ocean....

    Letting your inner-Teleri sing at last? ;)

    Congrats to you and Bobby! That's great news.

    • Thank you! :) Yes, I think that I am a blend of Noldo and Teler: The Teler comes from a love for the sea, of course, and the Noldo from my love of art and knowledge and the occasional homicidal muttering.... ;)
  • What exciting news! Congratulations!
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