Following your heart in academia, no matter what
I was 20 years old and riding a train to either Versailles or Fontainebleau. At that time in my life, I was a devoted student of art history who waffled between going to graduate school for art history or maybe doing something entirely different and going for something like nursing because as passionate as I have always been about art, I have also always loved taking care of people too.
I sat chatting with my professor about what I wanted to do and to my shock, he flat out told me that I was not cut out for a doctorate in art history. A woman who was older and had come with us as a graduate student overheard the entire exchange and later pulled me aside and gave me the best advice: follow your heart no matter what other people tell you.
20 year old me in Paris, France.
And in the end, I did. I turned down 3 graduate school acceptances for the museum side of art history and went into teaching. In the end I found a way to integrate my background in art with my passion for education and literature. I had no idea I would ever hit that point had you asked me as a 20-something on a train to a former royal residence; however, I think it’s pretty cool that in the end I became that person.
I don’t know what made me think of that little piece of my life today, but I did. I loved that part of my life. I loved living in the art library and days filled with taking art history classes, and memorizing a million slides. Sometimes, like today, when I am thinking of that time in my life, I really do miss it.
I miss the c’est la vie of it all.
Then I look at my almost completed doctoral dissertation… began writing my final chapter today, and I watch my son carry on his living room expeditions and I know I am right where I am supposed to be. Even though I do wish I was able to take more museum trips and I wouldn’t mind another afternoon researching in the art library – maybe that will be my life in a future season.
Katherine Kuzma-Beck Hart is an Adjunct Professor of English at Mercer County Community College. This story was published on February 23, 2019, on Katherine’s blog (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.
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