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Hi Karen, Thanks a lot for doing this AMA, I have been a long time reader of your blog and continue to read it even though I have been out of academia for 2 years, although I still hold on to some pipe dream of returning. My story is this: I did an MA, and I did it at an institute that wasn't part of any particular faculty at the university, it was kind of its own entity. It was a somewhat prestigious program, however, only accepting 12 students per year, and is well respected amongst a certain school of political theorists/scientists.

Well, as you can imagine, it was the kind of interdisciplinary program that put a lot of stock into their students being able to design their education, thesis etc. I chose a supervisor that I had previous experience with but as time went on she became harder and hard to get appointments with. That said, we would meet at least once a month.

The other part of the story is that I wasn't the most disciplined student, I probably spent more time at the pub than I should have. Yet, I managed to consistently get by by virtue of - not to be a braggart here - always pursuing bold ideas, engaging enthusiastically with dense theory and finding interesting angles to take on it, and interesting ways to apply it to real world examples. I always got better grades in seminars than most of my cohort and received a lot of encouragement from professors I dealt with during the course of completing my MA.

However, I fell like the supervisor just basically let me do whatever I wanted, and would always sign off on it, either trusting that I knew what I was doing or not caring enough to correct the path I was on. When I finished writing my thesis I realized I had basically written a free-wheeling, rambling excursion through a bunch of post-structuralist theory and new geography/spatial analyst stuff in the school of David Harvey and similar thinkers. While this had been a lot of fun for me it didn't really make for an impressive thesis, in my opinion. I feel like I came out the end of the experience being totally unprepared to move on to a PhD and lacking a competitive application package.

So I balked at applying to PhD programs, especially because the area I wanted to pursue - philosophy, essentially, political theory and urban studies more precisely - was exactly the kind of chin-scratching, sitting-around-thinking-big-thoughts-all-day kind of academia that is definitely on its way out as a valued part of The University.

So I'm 28 now and still have this deep-down desire to somehow resurrect my academic career and pursue a useless PhD just for the fun of it - I loved my time doing my MA. Is it reckless to say screw it and spend 4/5 years of your life and perhaps your sanity pursuing a PhD that you know will be useless when you are finished? And what can us philosophy/theory/ just-like-to-sit-around-and-think-big-thoughts-all-day types do outside of academia to find the same kind of satisfaction that we get from scholarly work?