Most of us of a certain age know the chorus to Kenny Rogers’ famous tune, The Gambler:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…”

These lyrics came to my mind yesterday, during a conversation with my husband and son. I was explaining that there was a job opening for a librarian at a local university and that I was considering applying but the only thing holding me back was this stipulation: “The incumbent, as part of the tenure requirement, must have made significant progress toward a second graduate degree within five years.”

My son just stared at me and said, “No.” I said, “What?” And he said, “Please do not go back to school.”

First, let me explain that I am not actively looking for a new job, but I do keep my eyes open for interesting opportunities, which is no secret. Our System administrator is aware that I am not completely satisfied being a cataloger, and that while I’m not looking for an escape hatch since there’s a lot to like about my current position and current employer, I have been looking for a position that requires an MLS since I went to the trouble of getting one. Of course this leads to an entirely different discussion about what having a “professional” position really means, but I covered that in a previous post, so I’m not going there today.

Now back to my son’s comment. What he was drawing on was his memory of my two years in graduate school, which I completed in December 2010. I was working full time while enrolled in school carrying a full-time graduate load of 2 classes per semester, including summers. I completed my coursework online, which makes going to school while working and caring for a family more convenient, but not easier. In fact, it is probably more labor intensive to participate in online classroom instruction because it requires a lot of writing and posting to discussion boards. And because I was going to school courtesy of a scholarship, which I explained more fully in this previous post, I was required to complete a full research study, complete with data collection and analysis, outside of the regular curriculum, which of course only added to the burden.

I know without a doubt that I was not a fun person to be around during those two years. Those years took a toll on my health, my personality, and my general demeanor. I was dour-faced much of the time. I felt guilty for neglecting my family and friends. But I don’t think I ever fully understood the toll it took on those closest to me. I mean, I was always appreciative of the sacrifices they made to ensure my success (particularly my husband, who did more than his fair share of everything for two years), and I recognized that they were sometimes suffering too, from my lack of good humor and from a not quite fully present mother and wife, and we talked about the possible negative repercussions before I accepted the scholarship, but I know that once I started down the path, even though I seriously considered throwing in the towel at several points along the way, I could not allow myself to think too much about the ill effects on my family or I would have just quit.

My point (long in the making) is that even though the thought of going back to school to get a second graduate degree is not necessarily unappealing (I like being a student, and I like to learn), sometimes you have to know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run. Even though my kids are older, I have no doubt that my working toward another degree, at least in the near future, would not be the best thing for my family. Life is too short, and there’s too much to miss when you’re too busy being wrapped up in yourself. Being part of a family means balancing what is reasonable against what is not and knowing the difference between the two.

I am grateful and lucky to have a family that is loving, supportive, and encouraging. If I did ever decide to go back to school, they would have my back. But I think I know when to be satisfied with my hand. I’m not a gambler at heart.