I'm currently applying to grad school...again. This time, I'm going for the full-fledged PhD instead of the half-hearted Masters. Last year was half-hearted because I wasn't sure what I wanted to be doing--I'm still not totally sure, but I have a much better idea.
Grad school or industry employment--that was the question, and to some extent still is. I love working and I love learning, but the more I think about it, grad school and industry are both really similar: you work hard and get paid (at least in the sciences). Expectations are different, and so is the kind of work one does, but in the end, it's pretty similar.
And in talking to people about what I want to do with my life, part of me wants to tell folks that what I really want to do is live on a plot of land, grow my own food, raise a variety of livestock, keep bees, bake bread, make cheese, mend and sew clothes, read books, write, paint, play the guitar, sing, work on open-source software, eventually raise children, and be involved in my community--for starters. Sometimes I tell people that, and I can't tell how seriously they take me. (I try to reserve the outburst for people who have a shot of understanding.)
But sometimes people talk (or just think) about being realistic or ambitious, implying that doing all that would be "giving up." Sure, to some extent I would be giving up on the rat-race for money, but when it comes to ambition, I think our living on one income and my doing all of those crazy-wonderful things is truly ambitious. It would be very, very hard, but also incredibly satisfying.
Realistically, I won't be able to be full-fledged independent land-owner without significant capital, so I'm going to need to work in the typical sense in some capacity for a while. I'm incredibly grateful that I'm capable of doing so, that I have opportunities, and that I enjoy what I do. I'm gradeful that I'm not exclusively tied to one world or the other and that I love my life when I'm working for pay and when I'm working as a homemaker.
For now, I've made it a goal to contact local individuals to learn skills that are hard to develop by just reading about them--starting with beekeeping since it's fairly location-independent and minimally time consuming. Maybe I'll learn that I don't enjoy keeping bees, who knows. But maybe I'll learn a skill that I will use when one day I "retire" with my sheep and my ducks and my orchards and gardens. Maybe I'll always live in between. What matters is that for now I'll take whatever opportunities that present themselves and find joy in life all along the way.