Saturday, April 28, 2012

Salutations from Limbo

Part of me dares not write this.  Part of me secretly fears that the very moment I click "publish" and this post whizzes away into the vortex of cyberspace, that my phone will ring and I will answer it and I will suddenly be thrust out of this not entirely unpleasant state of limbo and into the stark and trenchant realm of reality.   And I'd really rather not.  Limbo's just too damn cozy.

As I am sure all nine of my followers are well aware, I have been awaiting a slightly overdue and not so slightly monumental decision from my prospective PhD program.

The trouble is that I have had a good month or two to truly reflect on all my various options and map out (at least vaguely) all of the various trajectories of my life and what once seemed like such an unflinching certainty has slowly wiggled and loosened and eventually unbuckled from a yes to a maybe-yes to a maybe to a maybe-no.

There are several reasons for this, which, for the sake of my sanity, it would very much help me to itemize here:

1. The process of applying to PhD programs has left me...not bitter exactly...perhaps bitter's less sneering cousin?  Even now, I can't quite find the precise words to phrase how I felt, suffice it to say,  I knew what I felt didn't feel good or just or any of those things we typically associate with positive experiences.  Why, then, would I want to be part of a system that, for one, does not wholeheartedly embrace me for my clever albeit slightly idiosyncratic kangarooness, and perhaps more importantly, for which being the best and the brightest is not enough.  So much of who gets in and when relies on sheer happenstance, which is incredibly frustrating and patently unfair.  But perhaps I'm wrong.  Perhaps it's not as unfair as I think.  Perhaps I have just been rejected from 10+ schools because I wasn't bright enough.  I don't know.  Do you see what this is doing to me?  I might as well be a teenager who locks herself in her room and mopes about how her parents don't understand her while listening to her favorite Avril Lavigne CD...

2.  As I have gotten older, I have come to realize more and more just how much pivots upon the rivets of time. (And you're welcome for the adorable rhyme.)  Doing a PhD immediately after undergrad wouldn't have worked.  I didn't have a clear enough idea of what it is that I wanted to study (besides something that involved Virginia Woolf) and the process of applying demanded too much of me during my senior year (at the time, I was working nearly full time, taking three graduate seminars, and reading approx. 1000+ pages a week.)  Doing a PhD after I moved to LA wouldn't have worked either.  There were only a handful of schools that logistically could  have worked and I knew that I didn't want to add an additional five to seven years to my time here.  (No offense to LA lovers.)  Doing a PhD would mean another five to seven years of being overworked and underpaid. (Do I have that in me?)  It would also mean another five to seven years of trying to reconcile all of my desires--trying to intercede in this constant conflict between inner feminist and yielder to traditional gender norms.  It would also mean another five to seven years of negotiating between all these unwieldy things only to spill out into the already flooded estuary of unemployed English doctorates, with the only available positions the same positions that I am qualified for now.   But more than all of this or because of all of this, the timing feels wrong.  I no longer feel felicitous in my imaginings of my life in academia--I feel flighty, dissatisfied, and burdened.

3.  If you were to ask me a year or even six months ago to categorize myself within my discipline, I would have said: scholar first, teacher second, and writer third.  And because I am so shamefully elitist, the idea of being a scholar first has been hard to let go of--the idea of having a "Dr." on my credit card and junk mail has been hard to let go of--the vision of having one of those rosy offices in Goldwin Smith with mahogany bookcases brimming with old copies of Ulysses and Paradise Lost has been hard to let go of.  But that's not what I love, not really.  That is the haughty fantasy that I entertain on dull evenings when I think I should be more than I am--that prestige is what ultimately will lead me to happiness--until I realize that I am perfectly happy sitting in my subsidized apartment, reading Harry Potter, writing poems on the backs of my notes on Chaucer and commenting on my students reading journals about the correct use of a semi-colon.

I'm not saying that I won't ever go back to wanting to get a PhD--there is certainly an appeal there and it's something that I definitely think I could be wondrously happy doing but I find that it's not something I want right now.  What I want right now is to curl up next to Moses, sip my iced coffee, and enjoy the sunlight and soft southern Californian breeze.  Yes, that is what I want.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

And if forgetting, recollecting, how near I had forgot.

I was chatting with my sister on facebook the other day, complaining about the foul mood that I have been in for the past four(+) months, and, in an effort to cheer me up (as it seems I need increasingly more and more of that these days), she reminded me of the Bunny and Bear Show.  I had not thought of Bunny and Bear since...since probably the last time my sister and I had begged our dad to perform it.

Once upon a time, when my sister and I were very young, we had two puppets: a scraggly looking bear and a bunny in a pink plaid jumper.  One night, when my mom was at her League of Woman Voters Meeting--which was the one thing that she did for herself (as you can tell, my mother is VERY self-indulgent)--my sister and I became upset, so, to calm us down, our dad took the puppets, threw a blanket over railing to our stair case, hide behind it, and put on the Bunny and Bear show.  And it worked!    My sister and I laughed and laughed and gasped for breath.  It was by far the funniest thing that I have ever seen; although, I can't remember any of the punchlines.

Thinking about the Bunny and Bear Show made me unbelievably nostalgic.  And it made me miss my sister.  So here, in no discernible order, is a collection of some of my fondest (randomest) memories of the two of us:

1. Once, at my grandparents farm, I convinced my sister that I was going to curl her hair...using a brush.  It got so tangled that my parents thought that they were going to have to cut it out but then my grandfather, ever patient and composed, worked at it for an hour or two and got it loose.

2. My sister and I were always playing pretend but one  particular afternoon, we imagined that we were pioneers on the Oregon Trail.  We put on our bonnets (yes, we owned bonnets) and we sat together on top of the 1970s gold colored hamper at the end of our hallway.  We played this well into the evening and didn't quarrel once.

3.  My mom used to go make copies on occasion--I can't remember what for--and she would take me and my sister with her.  The place that she went to was in the basement of an old building in downtown Ithaca.  They were really nice there; they used to give me and my sister scrap paper (and nothing was or is quite as awesome as different kinds of colored and textured paper).  Sometimes, my sister and I would sit on the stairs down to the shop and wait for my mom.  The antique railings of the staircase were black and intricately detailed.  There was a small hole in one of the post and my sister used to amuse us with narratives of where the hole came from and what lived in there (I seem to recall it having to do with a mouse).

4.  I once went with my mother to pick out a birthday present for my sister.  My mom explained to me that what we got her was meant to be a surprise; I understood but upon arriving home, I was so excited for her that I blurted out: "Genny, guess what we got you for your birthday: socks with unicorns on them!"  I'm glad that if I had to ruin a present, that it was socks.

5.  When I was in high school and my sister was in college, we went to a Charles Dickens Christmas Festival together in Pennsylvania.  It was 30 degrees outside and I had forgotten my coat.  We spent the majority of the festival hunting for hot chocolate and ducking into stores for me to get warm.

6.  My sister once saved me from drowning.  I was swimming in the pond by our house and went out too far into the deep end.  My sister, who must have been no older than eight, saw me, ran into the water and pulled me to the shallow end. Only then did the lifeguard spot us. He picked both of us up  and brought us to shore and saying something perfectly idiotic like: "Thank God I saved you both."  Yeah, whatever dude.

7.  My sister and I watched the Ang Lee film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility during a particularly tempestuous time in our relationship.  We had rented it from Wegmans, our grocery store's video place and upon watching it, we realized: holy shit, that's US.  My sister was the sensible Eleanor and I was the impulsive Marianne.  We quickly took to calling each other "dearest" and took the first step in embracing each other's differences.

8.  In keeping with movies, my sister and I went to go see Titanic in the theater.  We saw it again in our hotel room on some family vacation.  We also went to go see The Patriot starring Mel Gibson in the theaters on the fourth of July.  I'm not sure why all that is memorable, but it is.

9.  There is a video of my sister and I, when we were very young, one Christmas and we are at our Polish grandparent's house.  My grandmother had bought our family a crystal bell and Genny says: "Grandma, do you know how crystals form?"  She goes on to describe the chemical process in impressive detail.  My grandmother, who barely speaks English, stands dumbfounded for a moment and then Genny asks: "Well Grandma, did you know that?"  I saw this video again a few years ago and I nearly died laughing.  That is CLASSIC Genny.

10. Because it's almost Easter, I will end this series of reminiscent vignettes with this final one:  My sister and I got Easter hats and dresses every year; we picked them out at Sears.  One year, for Easter, in addition to our usual chocolate goodies, we got these large inflatable bunnies (as big as we were at the time).  My sister and I sat on the kitchen floor, in our Easter dresses, playing with these inflatable bunnies ALL DAY.  It was so adorable that our dad immortalized it in a comic.  The comic ends with us mischievously searching for scissors and glue.