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.

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