tfw: When You Might Want To Go Back To School But You Don’t Know If You Actually Want To

tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?

“What if I went back to school?” you ask yourself. You think this a lot. You think about how much working isn’t working for you and how much the school life will help you find a work that works for you and then you realize bills and you realize student loan debt and then you realize, “Uhhh, fuck: I can’t go back to school.”

…or can you? You spend handfuls of hours looking at programs. “What if there is something in town?” you weigh. “What if I get a scholarship?” You bookmark and email yourself pages linking to information important for your learning more about financial aid. You email a school counselor or two and wonder if their information will actually be helpful or if they are just chasing your dollars. You are old enough to know how these school systems work: you no longer hang onto the words of educational bureaucrats as easily as you did.

…but they might be telling you some truth? Maybe they did look you up and read your resumé and pull your transcript and really, truly think that you have a chance at going to school and getting that scholarship: maybe it isn’t all a show. You think about it. You tell yourself to stay calm and you talk to people about it, friends who have and have not gone back to school.

You meet with a friend. “What if I,” you tease between bites of salad. “…went back to school? What do you think of that?” You say the words and you immediately regret them because you think they make no sense. Why do you need to go back? “Why?” the friend asks. The friend points out all the people who didn’t go to school. You point back all the people who did. “Well, what would you want to study?” they ask. You shrug. You don’t know. Maybe more of the same, maybe something completely different. You don’t know.

…but that money. You have some—but you can’t afford schooling. You are not in a position to put down another wannabe mortgage down on your fucking education. You look up fellowships and you look up intensive programs. You trace graduate school with your fingertips and touch everything else that is not actually “going back to school.” Does that work? You don’t know. You enroll in classes. You apply for grants. You do all these things that are so school adjacent that you might as well apply to school. You get excited about the idea until you get unexcited.

“Should I go back to school?” you ask. You can’t tell. “Do I want to be successful?” Yes, you do. But are you already? Do you just need to work harder? Is that the solution? You don’t know but you do care and there doesn’t really seem to be anything you can do about it but wait and see what the planet provides you. Is it even higher education? You won’t know until someone literally tells you, “You should go back to school.”

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