Dear Oracle, I am a teacher contemplating going back to school for graduate work because, honestly, this pandemic has made it abundantly clear how broken public education systems are. I'm worried about the lack of income and health insurance. Do your cards off any insight into making these leaps?—Teacher On Fire.
Cards: Lovers/Star, Six of Pentacles reversed, Page of Swords.
Dear Teach, first off, thank you for your service. I'm sure you did not expect this kind of tour of duty when you went into the teaching profession; I hope you get a vaccine as soon as goddamn possible.
I’m actually going to start with the middle card in this spread, the Six of Pentacles reversed. The image in my deck is a benefactor handing out a coin to a beggar, and it sums up my thoughts about going to grad school in general: do it as cheaply as possible and ask for money everywhere.
If you can go to a fully-funded program or get a full ride, aces. If not, apply to FAFSA. Apply to scholarships, both departmental and at the university level. Apply for grants. Exploit every avenue to get money. See if your current job will cover classes (some do!), and go in-state if you can.
Your worry about income and health insurance is well-founded. Unfortunately, the "poor graduate student" cliché exists for a reason. Universities often exploit graduate students as a labor force, and stipends and health insurance are notoriously low. Hell, tuition for my three-year MFA was $6,000 total, and I was still always broke. (Shout out to my folks, Steve and Kathy, for covering my rent!) But a small silver lining is you might be able to get some decent insurance for cheap. Some schools now pay for your Obamacare options, which can allow a little more tailoring of choice.
Now, if I haven't scared you off, I think you should absolutely do it.
We have two major arcana that came out together when I was laying cards down: The Lovers and The Star. Grad school isn't some escapist fantasy for you—it's a passion and a calling. The Star is a card of spiritual nourishment and higher purpose. It can appear when you're a conduit for the divine and heeding that higher call. The Lovers are passion and commitment; you're in it to win it, and paired with The Star, this is a giant wave of determination that can carry you for years.
For the last card, we have the Page of Swords, a curious and eager student. These four cards are hella auspicious.
One final word of advice for you and for everyone starting graduate school: Sometime between the first and sixth week of school, there is a high chance that you will have a crying breakdown and feel like you're an imposter and you don't deserve to be there and that you're drowning academic-wise.
When that happens, remember this: Everyone has this breakdown. You're not an imposter. You have a right to be there. You'll pull through. I promise.
Dear Oracle, I'm having a lot of anxiety surrounding my 30th birthday (coming up in a few short weeks.) Though I truly am happy in my life and do consider myself a reasonably successful, attractive, intelligent woman, I am finding that approaching this milestone as a single person is causing me to feel a lot of… feelings. Although I've had several serious relationships in the past decade, the common theme is I end up the caretaker. To put it kindly, I date losers and try to fix them until I burnout and bail. Is this a pattern that I can expect to fix? Is a healthy adult relationship something I can reasonably continue to hope for? Or should I just focus my energy elsewhere and save myself the heartache?—Thirty, flirty, and disappointed.
Cards: Page of Pentacles, Three of Pentacles reversed, The Hangman reversed.
Dear Thirty, Oh, my darling. I can tell this is weighing on you. Having The Hangman show up reversed means you've been feeling stuck with this pattern for years. The good news is, this isn't an unbreakable pattern.
The middle card is the Three of Pentacles, which shows three people creating a piece of art together. It is a true partnership of equals. Reversed means this is what you're missing right now—you're not dating guys on your level. This could be for a couple of reasons.
One might be that you do get something out of a caretaking role. While it's dysfunctional in this sense, it might be worth exploring with a therapist or journaling what that something is. Do you find caretaking fulfilling? Is it a coping mechanism? An avoidance technique? What are other ways to use this impulse?
The second reason might be that you don't know what a relationship of equals actually looks like. It's reasonable to expect a partner to be open and honest with you, to support you emotionally, and to bring a stable energy into the relationship.
It's also reasonable to expect a partner to not be manipulative or an active addict, or someone who dismisses your needs—even if they are nice/funny/talented.
At age 30, it's OK to exclusively date kind dudes that have their shit together. Plenty of them do! That Page of Pentacles is someone willing to step up and do the work. Relationships should be symbiotic; you should get as much as you give. And if a guy who seemed great turns out to be a total mess, or a jerk, baby-girl, just run. Fuck 'em. He can take care of himself. That isn't your job.
You can break this pattern. The Hangman is only tied by one ankle from a tree—that's not a Houdini-level escape act. You can untie those knots and get yourself a partner who isn't afraid to create a stable relationship with you.
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