To do a PhD or not?

Of course, it isn’t that simple. I’m no longer in my 20’s… er 30’s. I’m 41. Is it too late to go back for a PhD? Some people would say its never too late for anything. But on the other hand, should I really be spending my children’s college tuition money?

Of course, it depends on what I think I will get out of going back to school. Besides quenching my never-ending thirst for knowledge, will I get a return on my investment? Besides the pleasure of roaming a plush, green campus, and the smell of crisp, new notebooks (do students still use paper?), will getting a PhD give me more clout on the other side? Besides the thrill of new classes, classmates (all 20-plus years younger than me!) and professors (many of whom could be younger than me, too!), will I finally be invited as an expert, an influencer at the table of deciders?

I didn’t mention in my last post, that in addition to having two children (and doing some freelance photography work), I also started a blog. Which turned into a website. Which turned me into an expert in nutrition. Which I had never actually set out to do. Its funny where life takes you.

See, not too long after I was accepted for that PhD (that I deferred and then never went back for), I learned that I had Gluten Sensitivity. This was way back in 2001, when most people had never even heard of the word “gluten”. After my second child was born, I decided to write about my gluten-free experiences, using my blog as a way to showcase my food photography and cooking (two other passions of mine). I started looking at other gluten-free recipes out there, and wondered why there wasn’t already a community site for gluten-free people. So I started one. And I invited recipe bloggers, and experts in gluten-sensitivity and nutrition to be a part of it. And then “gluten-free” exploded on the scene.

But something kept bothering me, as I headed up this gluten-free community website. In fact, I got quite sick right around the time it launched. And remained sick for some time. And that’s a long story. But the short of it is that, I had to figure out, on my own, what was making me sick. And going gluten-free wasn’t enough to make me better. I felt wrong, heading up a website that was supposed to help other gluten-free people, when I myself couldn’t claim the gluten-free diet had helped me (yet).

I conducted research on celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, nutrition, and more. And in the end, I became one of the experts, myself. You could say, I became a modern ethnobotanist – focussing on the culture that surrounds gluten-containing plants (or lack thereof). I learned a lot about health, public policy, and about myself. And I also learned that I LOVED to conduct research. And to write about it. Research and writing are my forte and my passion. And that is really why I want to go back to school. Not to mention, I would like to see all the work I’ve done over the past four years be put to good use. And still, I want to be invited to expert panels because I want to help influence health and health policy.

BUT do I need that PhD behind my name? How much more of an influencer will it make me? I guess that is the big question. There are many influential people out there without a PhD. Gary Taubes comes to mind. Of course his resume is impressive, but he isn’t a PhD. So what could this possibly mean for me? These are the questions I am currently grappling with.


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