Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The age-old icebreaker asks, "Would you rather be an expert in one area, or sort of knowledgable in a lot of areas?"

One only needs to look at the popularity of liberal arts education to figure out how Western culture as a whole would answer this question.  Being a "Renaissance Man/Woman" is a desirable goal... it also seems to be a goal which many believe is within their reach.  This mentality extends beyond the walls of our schools and universities: Surf n' Turf was architected specifically for those who reject having to choose between seafood and beef; Neapolitan ice cream for those stymied by the choice between chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  Michael Scott of The Office famously reflected on whether he'd rather be loved or feared by his employees: "Easy: both.  I want people to be afraid of how much they love me."

One of our rallying cries as not only modern culture, but as humans is "I want it all!"

So when does this mentality become an unhealthy and destructive thing?  Generally speaking, I find my liberal arts background to have been worthwhile.  I've got diverse interests, and reasonably diverse gifts (I say reasonably because there are none from the left side of the brain but many from the right side).  However, what I've come up against recently is a recognition that by trying to accomplish everything, I'm actually damaging my ability to accomplish anything.

Case in point: Trying to figure out my future in Japan.  I want to invest intensive time into learning Japanese, and the best opportunity to do so is during the summer once CAJ's school-year finishes.  I want to do this because I want to stay in Japan long-term, and I strongly value the ability to communicate and understand what's going on around me.

I also want to go back to school to pursue a Master's degree in education.  I feel like I'm running up against the limits of my professional growth with the amount of education that I have.  I deeply desire to learn how to be a better teacher, and to pursue research and studies about how best to establish and maintain a Humanities classroom.  Once again, this is a goal that I must pursue outside of the CAJ school-year.

Recognizing that I wish to stay in Japan, I could look into Master's options that run during summers only, starting from this coming summer: I would travel to the States after CAJ finishes its school year, take classes and then be back in time for the new school year.  This fits in with my goal to stay in Japan long-term and certainly seems appealing from a financial stand-point (paying for something like a Master's degree would be easier with a steady paycheck coming in).

However, it would effectively prevent me from diving into intensive language study for several years, as my summers would be committed already.

So, the other option would be to look into year-round Master's programs.  As I've signed on for another year at CAJ at least, this would put the start date in 2014, and allow me to study Japanese this coming summer.  However, it would mean leaving Japan for likely two years as I pursue my degree.  This does not fit with my goal to stay in Japan long-term, and may even render an intensive summer of language study useless by the time I do return to Japan (and if I were to return to Japan).

As the Japanese would say, "どうしよう".  It's a seeming catch-22, and a direct result of me wanting to accomplish more at once than I can physically accomplish.  It's left me stumped, and in roughly a month of wrestling with this decision, I'm no closer to knowing what I want to do.

Perhaps I need to accept that I cannot do it all, and just accept that I'm going to have to let one thing or the other go right now.  Not that this makes the decision any easier...

1 comment:

  1. Ah, don't be too quick to lump the rest of the world in with America. You'll find that other places, like Australia, people specialise far quicker in their tertiary studies. I'd never heard of a "liberal arts education" before we came to CAJ.