Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Its like a "Moral Will"

In the book Glueckl of Hameln the historic Jewish practice of periodically writing up a kind of living moral "will" which details what you have done right and wrong with your life is described.  I'm at a crossroads in my own life and am having to do the same thing--only we call it a "personal statement" to a graduate program.  I've already done this--boy howdy have I done this--since I already have my Ph.D. in Anthropology and went through this process applying to College for my BA and then again to Graduate School for my MA and Ph.D.  And to a certain extent I did it periodically thereafter whenever I wrote another grant proposal.  Searching through my files looking for an actual CV I find myself going back in time to a really different age:  my field notes were written on a manual typewriter with carbon paper--actual carbon paper--to make copies.  The boxes of my old stuff, unopened since the last move 15 years ago--smell of Nepali wood smoke and goat hair as though they were stored in the rafters of the old wattle and daub house I lived in 25 years ago.

There's no copy of my CV. I have only the dimmest memories of when things happened and the exact names of the various fellowships I had or the people I worked with.  I'm afraid of making a mistake--did I ever really "get" my MA? Is it even called that? At Yale they just kind of give you an M.Phil when you pass your orals and go on to the Ph.D.  I think they used to call it the "terminal MA" and perhaps you only got it awarded if they kicked you out?

Meanwhile I'm wrestling with a different problem--how to be a supplicant when I'm not really all that...supple...at this point.  One of the most difficult things about being out of the working world for 17 years is that you just don't know how to take orders, anymore, and you don't usually see the need for kow towing to people.  When I sat in on a (very good) class at BU in the Social Work program it was all I could do to keep from leaping up and giving the damn lecture extempore.  What I would like is to do a Ph.D. in Psychology, combine Social Psychology and Clinical Psychology and Anthropology but without doing another research program. I'm not interested in teaching and research anymore, I've done that.  I'd like to practice but I'd like my practice to be widely informed.  There really doesn't seem to be any such program for someone like myself. The MSW seems like the fastest way to receive a credential, put myself back in a position to sit in on classes that interest me, get into internships in related fields, and emerge back into the working world with a way to account for myself for the last crucial years.  Its not ideal in terms of my interests but I should be able to do my own reading and self education for the things that the MSW doesn't focus on.   But in the meantime, I have to sell myself and my past 17 years, or at least account for them in some palatable way.

Its an interesting experience, to say the least, to construct a workable self which ties together--as one hopes it does in real life--my past life tramping up and down the hills of Nepal and drinking tea with strangers with my 17 year interregnum as a mother with my volunteer work with new families and my politics (how much is hidden in anodyne phrases like "Social Justice"?)  I just want a lisence and a credential so I can apply for jobs where I might stand a good chance of helping people at the bottom of the heap or who are in crisis.  Why is this so hard?


  1. I can't tell you how to market 17 years of actual experience and self-discovery, but I can tell you that I know and work with folks with MSW degrees. They can have an extraordinary impact on people's lives. Sounds like it would be a good fit for your interests and goals. Once you get the degree you can run in a variety of directions with it.

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