Statements of Purpose – The “Bane” of My Existence

Things I am good at:

  • Wasting time on the Internet
  • Baking pumpkin bread
  • Talking about medieval literature and literary criticism/theory
  • Taking naps
  • Being a writing tutor (I think)
  • Writing blog posts in order to proscrastinate (not saying the posts are good, just saying I’m great at using them as self-destructively as possible)
  • A couple other things

Things I am not good at:

  • Writing my statement of purpose for grad school
  • Many other things, but I would like to reemphasize that I’m super not good at writing my statement of purpose. Cool? Cool.
Bane
I am clearly both hilarious and optimistic.

So I’m at the Asia Library again, doing battle with my statement of purpose once more. It’s going better than it did last time, and I feel like I’m actually making progress. Which is good. The problem is, it still isn’t done. And I’m not sure when it will be. Remember how weird it felt to write about yourself, trying to market yourself for this minor? Multiply that times infinity, and then throw in the fact that admission to these schools could very well determine the next forever of your life, and you’ll understand how this feels. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but then again, maybe I’m not. I thought I could knock this thing out the same way I did my undergrad admissions essays: all in one go, while listening to terrible top-40 music on repeat in order to motivate myself to finish faster (thanks again, Boys Like Girls and Taylor Swift!). Obviously, this has not been the case.

It’s funny, the thesis I’m writing, which is supposed to be somewhere between 40 and 6o pages by the middle of March, seems like an infinitely easier task to manage that a few paragraphs about why I’m ready for grad school. How does that work? The obvious answer would be that I legitimately don’t understand my purpose for pursuing graduate studies yet, but that’s not the case; I know exactly why I want my PhD. I want to teach. I have this romantic, horribly cliche’d fantasy of becoming Chaucer Clerk from The Canterbury Tales, locked away in a tower of knowledge-tomes, studying away until I the time comes for me to share my discoveries with others, and hopefully inspiring them to nerd out in much the same ways that I do. “Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche” and all that jazz.

gldly learnin gldly teachin
Chaucer humor + Internet humor = the best/saddest kind of humor. Photo Credit to Vendredi at “Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

To probe the question further, I want to teach because it gives me an opportunity to study things I’m interested regarding literature (non-canonical literatures and genres, medieval English vernacular texts, intersections of digital rhetoric/online ethos and new modes of fiction production) and then discuss why these things might be important to us, as scholars, and perhaps even more widely, to our culture (whatever that word means). As a college professor, you kind of get the privilege of controlling what’s taught, and thus what is (and more importantly, isn’t) learned; you’re an arbiter of the dissemination of Knowledge in a very real way. That’s a lot of power, and I personally feel like it’s being wielded ineffectively in a lot of ways, in a lot of literary scholarship. If I were a professor, I would have the opportunity to open people up students’ eyes to texts, writers, movements, and genres they may not otherwise encounter. That’s important to me, but I think it’s also a rant for another time.

BUT THERE. I SAID IT. HUZZAH. So, why the hell can’t I do that in my statement of purpose?  I have no idea. Oh well, I guess I’ll keep on trucking for now, cross my fingers, hope for inspiration, and then maybe something miraculous will happen. But if all this grad stuff doesn’t go as planned, I guess it isn’t the end of the world. After all, someone has to write pun-riddled titles to movie and tv reviews. Actually, does anyone know how to get an interview for something like that? I may have found my calling.

Josh Kim is an English major at the University of Michigan, where he is steadily losing his mind. 

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