A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My New Transcendental State

Today is my twenty-fifth birthday, and over the weekend I got a birthday card and present in the mail from one of my dearest friends from high school.

The card read, "Since I can't be there in person, I thought I'd send you the next best thing: books!" (Ah, a woman after my own heart... this is why we understand each other so well.) Then she wrote, "I know you probably won't have time to read them in the midst of grad school, so feel free to shelve them for future rainy days..."

Hmmm, future rainy days... when I've run out of things I need to read for my concentration(s) in Modernist and International Literatures. Future rainy days once I've earned my Ph.D. Future rainy days... seven years from now.

Yes, that's right. Recently I found out that I most likely have six years in a Ph.D. program after I finish my Masters degree this coming spring. That's seven more years of slaving away as a professor--but paid much, much less because I don't yet have that "Ph.D." attached to the end of my name. Seven more years of living in the same apartment--which is cozy and sunny, but is running out of room for books. Seven more years before my husband and I can buy a house, paint the living room turquoise and my office walls the color of warm chocolate brown. Seven more years before I can buy a ten-foot long dining room table where I can make collages and play with play-doh with the kids, or build myself a entire wall of built-in bookcases.

When I found out how long we'd be living in our apartment before we could afford a mortgage, my sweet husband (who knows me so well) said, "Don't worry. When you get into a Ph.D. program, I'll buy you another bookcase." It may not seem romantic to anyone else, but that concession to my habit of book-buying was one of the sweetest comforts he could have given me at that moment.

I had a nice moment today, though, when I realized something: I'm twenty-five and stuck in the midst of an incredible challenge to become qualified to beat out hundreds of other applicants for a university teaching position once I've earned my Ph.D. Yet, I don't have any children that will feel abandoned, my husband and family are very understanding and supportive, and I passionately believe in the value of teaching International Literatures to high school students and young undergraduates during this era of globalization. This is defintely worth my time and effort, and so it's okay if I am career-driven right now. As a kid, the term left a sour taste in my mouth--probably because my own parents were gone so much, and when I did see them, I only saw that they were stressed out by their careers, drained of any passion that they may have had for what they were doing.

Another friend of mine has labeled this my new "transcendental state of being in regards to school," which has been growing on me these past few weeks that we've been back to school. (But I have also had an under-lying fear when I remember that I was fine the first few weeks of school last fall, and then I had a breakdown and remained a slobbering, overwhelmed sop until sometime in February.) Now, on the day of my twenty-fifth birthday, when apparently everyone expects me to have some sort of "I'm getting old" crisis, I feel like I understand this "transcendental state" more fully. It has to do with letting go of the resistance and giving myself fully to a goal, to accepting the grueling pace of my academic life. Of course, at times I'm sure I'll still feel the tears clogging my throat and weighing heavily in my lungs--the feeling that even if I keep working at an unsustainable pace, I'll never be able to finish. Yet, I think that for the most part, I've finally achieved a sense of balance and acceptance.

The birthday card from my friend ended with the admonition to "do something special on your day--no homework allowed." Those words were firmly underlined. And for the record, my husband skipped a meeting to come home and cook dinner for me, and give me presents. (He has also planned a "surprise party" for me in a couple of weeks.) But that firmly underlined instruction came from someone wonderful who clearly has already forgotten what it's like to be in graduate school--there are very few days when I can simply not do any work.

But, I think I'm okay with that. I just hope I don't have to wait seven years to read those books my friend sent me.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Even if it IS seven years before you read either book, at least by then you'll have another bookcase. Let's face it...love isn't love without the offer of a bookcase :-)

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