Opting Out

I opted out of my archaeology course today.

Bereft would be too strong a word, but I certainly feel sad about it. It’s a course I started back in 2007, and it’s been a fairly comforting presence in my life since then. Anytime I felt things were too slow and boring, any time my life was too stagnant, all I had to do was to sign up for another module.

So why opt out now?

Well, these courses have rules and this one had a rule that said you can only take so many breaks in the duration of the course. It’s actually a four-year (part time; two years if you do it full time) diploma programme and they had allowed me to extend it all the way till the end of next year, which would make it about seven years. But I have to complete it by then. And in order to complete it by then, I have to take up the next four modules without a break, which is tough. I have to let a lot of things slip when I’m working on these modules and it’s ok only because each module lasts only 12 weeks. If I have to let a lot of things slip for a year and a half, I’m worried that something will fall and break and that might not be good.

These courses are demanding. The first six modules that I completed went towards earning a Certificate. The next two – one that I’ve completed and the other that I’m doing right now – are towards a Diploma, but they are tougher than the first set of modules. The investment in time and effort is high, the investment of money even higher. It’s not even justifiable, given that there is no conceivable way I can use this knowledge professionally. The amount of money I’ve spent on this course so far could possibly have bought me a small car. I can’t even estimate the amount of time and energy I’ve spent.

It’s interesting, that’s the only justification I can offer. It’s something I’ve wanted to study for ages. And it feels good to know that even at this stage of life and career, I’m still studying something, still learning, not yet stagnating. Any kind of learning is learning, after all, even if it is of no use professionally. It’s still something I’m happy to be role modeling to my kids.

So I had a long, hard battle with myself. My heart said – keep at it, it’s just a matter of a year or so. I’ve done extremely well on all the modules so far, why lose momentum. University rules prohibit me (or at least make it quite difficult for me) to resume this course at a later date. It will be more expensive and may require taking extra modules. And it’s always more difficult to get back to something once you lose the momentum (however relaxed the momentum might have been).

But the common sense part of me said, I can’t. It’s too tough, putting everything else on hold for so long. It’s too expensive. And, after all, I’ve taken up the most interesting modules already, so after this am I pursuing it just for the sake of the diploma, or just for the sake of completing it? That’s not a strong enough reason. There are so many other things that I could be spending my time doing.

In the end, the common sense part of me won and I wrote to the university saying, in effect, so long and thanks for all the fish. I might come back for seconds. And then we went into the complexities of how I may or may not be allowed to resume the course later on and all that. But it didn’t change my decision – for now, I’m done.

I know it’s the right decision, made for the right reasons, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a tough decision and a sad one. If I had decided to keep at it, it would have been a tougher decision (which normally makes it the defacto right decision, right?), but a happier one. This course of study, this format, this particular university and its staff and its teaching methodology, all have been companions of mine for quite a long time. It’s not easy saying goodbye, or even adieu. But it’s the right thing to do right now.

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