Don’t tell me how to live my life

Since I embarked on this pursuit of self-actualizaton instead of fame and fortune, I’ve been aware of how my unorthodox choices would be frown upon by some people, particularly those “pragmatic” ones. It’s one thing if we’re in a conversation and you ask me about what I wanna do and you get confused when I say I wanna get a PhD, but it’s another when you give me unsolicited advice on how to live my life when it’s uncalled for.

I’ve been talking about getting my PhD for months on my personal Facebook. LITERALLY everyone who has been following me knows how determined I am about this. I wouldn’t have spent so much time studying for varies exams and researching schools and basically mentioned the word PhD every two days if I weren’t serious about it. I’d have given up after my first rounds of rejections, but I just kept trying and trying because I know I won’t be 100% happy without it.

If I have to name four things that I’m most passionate about in life right now, it would be: teaching, writing, PhD and Apple.

Two days ago, I wrote a Facebook status on how I think I’ve a really good chance of getting in to one of of the two schools I’m currently applying to. I read online about how rejections are usually handed three weeks after submissions, and it has been five weeks already. Most of my friends were happy for me, but that night I got a message from a business associate I met on one of my PR projects.  He is a man in his 50s, upper-middle management with an MBA from some no-name university. I remember he once told me I shouldn’t teach because teaching would be  a “waste” of my talent.

In the message, he asked me how getting a PhD would advance my “career” and told me a PhD would make it harder for me to get a job.

I was immediately ticked off. I hate it when people think nothing is worth pursuing other than climbing the corporate ladder. More importantly, I hate it when people think I wouldn’t have researched on what a PhD implicates and entails. It makes me feel like I really am a doe-eyed bimbo who make ill-informed life decisions in their eyes.

I tried to be respectful and told him, “Education is my calling.” Don’t I talk about my students enough already on my Facebook? Why would he have the decency to message me to talk me out of getting a PhD but not read the status right before which talks about how happy I am to be able to inspire my students?

He said, “What about your PR career?”

I wanted to say, “F–k PR.” But I gave a presentable, non confrontation response perfect in the PR sense, “I do many things. Education and the pursue of knowledge are the most important to me.”

Then he told me, “What a girl of many talents. In fact, I’m studying for my PhD as well. My oral defence will be in October. I only want a PhD to better myself and to intimidate my clients.”

The moment I read the line “to intimidate my clients” I just stopped replying. I doubt he is actually getting a legitimate research-based PhD. It sounds more like a DBA to me, probably from some diploma mill. I don’t even wanna continue the conversation and feed to his desire to be this wise, know-it-all mentor to a lost, young woman half his age who doesn’t know what she’s doing. I don’t think he knows what getting a PhD means. PhDs contribute to academia and create knowledge through research and teaching. I know I joke about how I’m dying to be able to call myself Dr. English when I make a dinner reservation one day, but getting a PhD to “intimidate my clients” sounds completely wrong to me.

There are so many diploma mills out there which would just hand you a so-called doctorate as long as you’re willing to pay and submit one of your work projects instead of a legitimate supervised academic dissertation. I’ve actually consulted one of those schools and the person in charge of admission kept telling me how easy it would be to get a doctorate and how I could basically finish three year’s work in one year. That was exactly why I decided a feel-good doctorate is not for me.

It’s not like I don’t ever listen to people. I have a lot of respect for people with life experience, but I’m a woman who knows what she wants, and once I’ve made my decision, nothing could sway me. There’re many instances when I do need advice from others. When I need it, I’d ask, and I choose whom I ask very carefully. If not, just save your unsolicited advice to yourself.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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