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I think the agony you're feeling is completely understandable: there is something wrong with the expectation that permeates our culture that family ties and friendships are not worth as much as a career. And, the fact that you have a home somewhere (it sounds like) and people you care about whose company is valuable to you and whom you'd miss all summer does not mean you don't want the job enough. You're just taking account of yourself as a whole person, a creature way more complex than a piece of the Smithsonian machinery, no matter how much fun that piece of you that wants to be at the Smithsonian will have. I wish our culture would be more honest about how much wreckage this fad for careerism can cause in human relationships.


I wish it were simply a matter of missing my friends if I went away from the summer. Alas, I am used to it by now; it's not even like I see them all that often when we're living in the same area.

There is definitely that aspect of it to consider, but it is more about the money -- money to pay the rent, go to yoga, frequent the yarn store, fly out to visit friends and family for a week or two -- in other words, if I had tons of money to toss around there would be no problem about going at all, emotional or otherwise.

As it is, though, it's a hideous strain on my ability to juggle competing demands for my attention, affections and finances. That's what's driving me batty -- I want it all, and I'm having trouble convincing myself that that one costly thing IS worth putting all the others on hiatus for.


I can think of something positive you want more. To have kids. Why don't you just go ahead and do that? Sure, the financial's situation's not glorious, but it's not like anyone's going to starve.

I realize that a) it's not just your decision and b) it's none of my business, but I have a very strong sense that's what you really want to do.

Being in school, one's surrounded mostly by other kids who've never had to decide "well either I get this or I get that out of this phase of my life, but I don't get both." That's not really high-mindedness, it's just not understanding how the world works.

Take the straight road towards the thing you want most, is my advice. The internship road leads towards trying to work the academic job market again, another year down the road (and it was so much fun the first time!) Or to nothing beyond itself, which is fine, yeah, but you're counting years right now.


I kinda want you to do the internship. But I don’t really know you. It’s just that when you posted about the internship you sounded so excited. And I think there are ways to make things work out. There are costs to pay for dreaming big. But there are costs to pay for not doing the impractical but thrilling thing.
And. I think I just like to be the voice of unreason.


Yeah, I kinda want to do it too. But the excitement has been overwhelmed by the difficulties involved in making the financial and logistical arrangements. *sigh*

I don't do well in situations of financial insecurity, I've discovered.


Rana, I understand your ambivalence about the internship in a way because I faced a similar ambivalence about my book contract that I received several months ago. I was elated when a publisher said "we want to sign you". Then, at the beginning of the year, I began to feel ambivalent about the project's completion primarily because of finances to offset stills, photographs, photocopying, editing, etc.

I received excellent advice from IA and other posters.

For some reason, a few people seem to believe that publishers give advances (and many do), but not mine:) Thanks to some distance and IA's comments, I am back on track. All of this is to say, that I do hope you can make it work financially and logistically. It isn't easy to manuever financially off of an adjunct salary or a salary that pays enough just to keep your head above water, but again I hope you can make it work!


Not doing well in financial insecurity... Yes, that's a familiar one. I hope you'll go regardless and have a great time. In the end one finds the money somehow...


Oh yeah - and I also couldn't do without yoga... :-)


I kind of like Yami's employment suggestion in the comments to your previous post, myself. :) Seriously, though, I also think it's completely understandable for you to have doubts about doing something that doesn't provide enough income to live on. Hm. What do other people do to keep a roof over their heads when they take unpaid internships? It seems like there have to be others who do this kind of thing when they're not right out of college.

Maybe the question is also, what might bring back your sense of passion again? Though the money issue does kind of obscure that question, I'll admit.


Yeah, finding the passion is probably at root more important than finding the money -- not least because one usually leads to the other.

More yoga would help, too.

Unfortunately, I am atypical as far as the usual intern pool goes. As best I can tell, there are sometimes folks like me -- older career changers -- but most of them are either better off financially, or, in the case of people who are either academics or museum professionals already, they can get some institutional funding. Neither applies here. Most interns, though, are students -- either undergraduates who don't have to support themselves or maintain an apartment in their absence or who can get by with a bit of after-hours part-time work (my well-meaning supervisor-to-be, at a bit of a loss as to what to suggest about funding, noted that some of their interns had luck working part-time for Pottery Barn), or graduate students who are eligible for grants and student loans to facilitate their stay. Again, neither applies.

I'm trying to swallow my pride so I can ask my family for help. I hate spending other people's money, though.


You'd make better money babysitting than at pottery barn... But I say, forget pride. Pride is expensive. Ask for money. I don't know if your family will mind or not, but you'll be able to do what you need to do. Or at least think it through without that piece of worry. (And for yoga, there are some really good CDs and tapes to be had for very little on that I use in financially dry periods...)


It might help if you envisage how you think your life would be different in 3 years time if you did or didn't take the internship. You never know, this internship might be a money sucking waste of time or it might open doors to possibilities you haven't considered.


Lil -- I'll consider the yoga tapes. (I will admit to feeling weird watching tv by myself, though.)

Claire -- excellent suggestion. I wish I were better able to imagine the possibilities. Unfortunately, that's part of the problem. I don't know where I'll be even next year, and museum studies is about as tricky to find solid work in as academia. I think the experience of a Smithsonian internship would be a good thing -- I admit that I'm somewhat hoping that it will reignite some of my interest in things beyond my very small daily routine -- but it's so abstract at this point.

dale -- re the children thing -- it's a thought, but the logistics don't work. Two unmarried parents + uncertain job prospects is not an equation that = good environment for a child, in my opinion. I also don't particularly want to contemplate being pregnant and trying to move in the later stages, if D. is lucky enough to get an academic job next year. :P

Re-reading these posts, it's hard to escape the feeling that I'm just being difficult. Stubborn, me is.

Dorothea Salo

Brava for considering the putative *child* in all this. Good show.

I guess I'll add a fiscally (not politically!) conservative voice, since I seem to own the only one in creation. I was far better equipped, externally and internally, to take risks when I got my financial feet under me. I just felt a lot better about myself when I had solid, irrefutable proof that despite crapping out of grad school, I could survive. Passion is a lot easier to come by when you aren't worrying about the mortgage payment.

The internship is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Smithsonian gives internships all the bloody TIME. Even if they don't defer one for you, you can snag another one later. And if they *do* defer it, well, hey! you have something to save for.

That said, I won't blink if you decide to go. It's only an internship. It can't do you *that* much financial harm. I'm just saying that you're not throwing your life over a cliff if you *don't* go. Life is long. We learn even from the boring bits.


I vote with Dorothea on this one. Defer the internship until next summer or apply again if they won't let you do that. And assemble all your cool writings on nature and place and the spaces in between and look into publishing them!


Thanks, folks. It's good to hear from all sides, so I can figure out which one feels best to me.

Susan -- I'm flattered, but doubtful. Who'd publish the darn thing?


Hi Rana,

I also tend to think the internship would be an excelent transition opportunity.

Having left academia myself two years ago, I have some thoughts on this (as well as a link to this post) here


Okay, this time my weblog is posted . . . hopefully still not googleable.

I'm with other posters--
SI internships are easy to get.

Fellowships are hard. Do you qualify for any of those?

I am, granted, the typical age for an intern, and I received help from the university . . . but it was STILL hard to do.

I'm really curious what your field is, etc, now . . .

Oh, and most prospective supervisors are really understanding . . . and if they're not, you may not want to work for them.

Just some things to consider. Like I said in the earlier post, contact me if you want to talk further.


I agree with Susan about collecting your writings and trying to publish them. Though like you, I've no idea where. I have the same problem with my writings. As in, I have no idea where to even start. Sometimes I think the best thing to do would be to start a blog-zine for writers of short pieces. Not very original as ideas go, I know - but it could be a way get exposure and perhaps ideas as to where to go from there.

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