If quarter life crisis was a thing, is this what it would look like? Or maybe it’s just an academic burnout?
I’ve just started my Masters degree (graduate school, for those in America) one month ago and I seem unable to enjoy any, or much, of my studies so far. The weirdest part for me is that I’m not studying geography. While in all of my previous studies, all of the emphasis was placed on space, place, and geography, now all we seem to talk about is objects. It’s a big jump to make. From space to these tiny little things that, to me, seem to have no intrinsic value, but only that in relation to the wider context surrounding them. Of course, context is what we study – people’s relationships to objects, social relationships that produce and are reproduced through objects – but it’s just not geographical enough for me. It seems very limiting, and I feel very limited. I feel like I can’t think of any topic to write my assignments about that would satisfy my audience, i.e. my lecturers (maybe with one exception) and the other students in my course (as we do presentations as part of our assessment, too).
Besides, we’ve been working through topics that we’ve already worked through in my geography course two or three years ago. Gender, globalisation, it all feels so boring that I can’t pay attention in class. I can’t stop wondering whether this is the first time other students are hearing about the topic. They mostly come from fashion design backgrounds, and I really feel odd and out of place in this company. Apparently, and I didn’t know that, the course used to revolve around fashion and textile, until some of the former students demanded it be changed to “History of Design and Material Culture”.
Now, whenever I read that course title, fashion and textiles never come to my mind. I always think of stuff that we buy (that is definitely not wearable!) and the places we live in – after all, they’re all designed and material. Material-culture. Culture’s expressed through our homes and workplaces at least as much as through whatever they might say we express ourselves with – hats, saris, whatever
There’s also extremely large focus placed on the expression of the individual. Now, I’m totally not interested in that. I’m interested in how we relate to everything else but the individual. The overt focus on individuality is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why we are where we are – in the midst of an environmental crisis. We can’t put an end to that if we don’t do that in the upper lodges of higher education.
So, I don’t really know if I’m in the right place, I miss Edinburgh and wish I hadn’t begun to take it for granted all over again (that happened after coronavirus started and I was bound to my room in the coop – maybe coronavirus is to blame, after all? maybe it wasn’t as innocent as I thought it to be?), and I question whether I made the right choice ‘escaping’ Edinburgh once again – perhaps if I decided to do a Masters in geography or architectural history at the University of Edinburgh, I would feel much more in my place and like I’m doing the right thing, not doing this weird thing at the other end of the island. But it’s not the undergraduate years anymore and I can’t just jump up and decide I don’t want to do this anymore because a lot more money is to be lost, and I’d have to wait another year all over again because there’s no way I could switch all of a sudden to another postgraduate degree at the end of October. That’s a real shame. No wonder people have commitment issues!
Next thing I want to read about is what ‘material literacy’ is. If you know anything on that topic, feel free to give me a 101 in the comments or email.