A fork in the road…


I’m having a crisis of sorts at the moment – although perhaps crisis is a slight exaggeration – but I’m at what I consider to be a rather significant fork in the road and I don’t know which path to take.

I have decided to go back to university to pursue a masters, but I don’t know which masters to take. There are two options that I’m considering:

Option 1: MSc in Software Development at Queens University, Belfast

Option 2: MRes in Arts in the Drama department focusing on Gender & Performance at Ulster University, Magee Campus, Derry

The first option leads to a specified career path with clear earning potential, the opportunity to work abroad if desired and the ability to pay back my loans within a few years.

The second option leads to a PhD with the opportunity to further research in the area of gender and performance with a focus on non-binary gender narratives and transgender bodies.

It’s basically a choice between my head and my heart. There are a lot of considerations, such as: where do I want to be in a few years time? Is money important to me? Can I pursue performance around gender outside of academia and if so, is there a benefit to doing this within a university setting?

Other considerations are around funding options and career options, such as: do I want to spend the rest of my life researching gender and performance? Can I obtain funding to do so? Is it more important to have a job I love than a job that pays? Can I love software development? Can I combine the two (e.g. software development with a focus on furthering trans rights?)

There are so many questions and so few answers, so I’ve decided to chat to a few friends who have done or are doing a PhD on similar research topics. I think I’m going to apply for both options anyway and make a decision further down the line (in a few months) but it’s a hard choice. Part of me wants to work towards furthering mainstream understanding of gender outside of the binary, and part of me just wants to live my life and not spend all my time focusing on gender issues.

I know that I’m frustrated with being poor – this was my original motivation for considering the MSc in Software Development. I also know that I have an internal drive to change the world – it’s something that I’ve always had within me from a young age, and my desire for social justice has influenced a lot of my past choices. I decided to pursue media studies for my undergraduate studies because I saw how the media misrepresented minorities and I wanted to change that from within.

But I turn 30 this year. I still have a lot of debts, I don’t have a clear career path at the moment, I have very little earning potential at the moment and I’m so tired of having to fight tooth and nail to get a job to pays the bills. I’m tired of being poor. I have also realised that I really struggle with the requirements for being a freelance worker. Working freelance requires a lot of self-promotion, a lot of initiating contact with potential employers, a lot of uncertainty around future earnings – all the things, in short, that are required to be a good salesperson. And I DETEST sales!!!!! I really, really, REALLY abhor selling myself to people. I enjoy the work of being a video editor, but I cannot hack the pressure of constantly having to put myself out there. I am much more introverted than I appear, and I hate asking people for things.

So here’s the cinch: following my passions will require applying for funding, pitching my projects to strangers, selling myself to others in the hope of being paid to do research. The question is, can I do this? I’m already exhausted from the past year of working freelance – can I continue to go down this path?

If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to leave a comment – all advice is welcomed!

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7 Responses to A fork in the road…

  1. JIllian says:

    I worked a corporate job for 11 years that paid very well for what I did but it was soul sucking. I also loved to garden and started watching videos about conventional food production which got me into Organics. In 2014 I started a small organic farm and quit working for a pay cheque and worked at what I was passionate about. I also came out to my wife as Trans that year thanks to mindfulness weeding garden beds…lol I discovered following my passion doesn’t feel like work (how can digging a garden bed not feel like work?). It’s what I love to do even though I make a fraction of what I did. Finding my true self and doing what I love is all part of my core happiness. Money is helpful but even though it’s cliché, it won’t make you happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wibblebubble says:

    I think it’s the people you’ll potentially be working with that matters the most. Personally, the highest paid job I did was my least favourite. I’ve actually mostly enjoyed volunteering. Wishfully thinking… but I’d be nice if we could do what needs to be done rather than what is required to pay the bills 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  3. amycollins106 says:

    Hey there

    I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days…

    I think describing it as a head or heart decision is a slightly binary way of looking at it. (See what I did there)

    Everyone generally says “follow your heart”, ” do what you love” etc. It is more complex than that… To play devil’s advocate – following the software path could lead to many personally fulfilling and exciting opportunities that could stretch your imagination and creativity. You might find being software person with knowledge of trans / non-binary issues that you could get into a niche consulting for companies that want to design their services to be more user friendy. You might find that the crative challenges that exist through solving problems that are thrown at you. I know that I feel that I think differently to many others around me (left and fight brain)… This is an asset and you might discover the same… The point I make is the computer science route doesn’t just mean paycheck and zero fulfillment.

    Secondly… Transitioning is complex and frustrating when you are dependant on others. I think you know this far better than I ever will. We may be transitioning for the rest of our lives. Money makes it easier… It gives choice. I know that is unfair and crap, but it’s true. Sadly as a non binary person, it’s probably more true. Where the public system may refuse you something at some point in the future because they can’t pidgeon hole your desired physical configuration into a binary box, you will probably find that going private would open those doors for you. So… Chasing the money might end up leading to a different kind of personal fulfillment.

    Finally… Just because you go get a technology career doesn’t make you any less of an advocate or able to pursue you loves and passions. I went to a Women in Technology event the other day. There were multiple use of phrases like “both genders” “either men or women”, whilst at the same time talking privelige… In the Q&A, I raised the issue of using inclusive language and they were ” yes good point “… My point is there’s such an opportunity to be an advocate and inspirational thought leader within the tech industry… Fancy organising a Trans in tech event one day? 🙂

    That being said it’s hard too. I’ve shared some of my obstacles with you…

    Sorry if this was a little one sided… Just trying to offer balance against the general “chase your dreams” popular viewpoint that society has these days.

    Also… One doesn’t preclude the other… I have a colleague that does part time (3 days per week) to allow space to do a PHD in parallel.




  4. Pingback: A life I won’t need to escape from… | Tirnanogender: A Journey to Androgyny

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