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A Matter Of Course

The power went out along my grid, around midday, while I was eating my lunch at home. It was on long enough for me to check my email, but it cut out before I was able to check the location of the Dissertation Preparation Workshop I had pre-registered to attend this afternoon. My laptop has a battery, of course, but the internet doesn't work without power--funny thing, that.

Things that like don't happen, except in my universe.

The elevators were of course out of commission and the generators were busy keeping basic lights on in the halls. I took "STAIRS 2" down a crazy stairwell I never knew existed and ended up underground like Alice in the rabbit hole, wandering and wandering and wondering where and when she was going to end up.

Why people don't understand that traffic intersections work like 4-way stops when the power goes out, I do not know.

I keep a campus map in the back bottom pocket of my backpack because I figure that if I can find my own ass, I can probably operate a map. At least, I can probably locate and open a map.

I found the place in question--and life and my prof were lovely enough that I was able to get out of Classical Japanese an hour early for the workshop--and went to get my hopes dashed.

I think it was supposed to be a pep talk, but it mostly just simultaneously depressed and scared the shit out of me. I think I may have been the only person still in the M.A. program. Everybody else, from all fields of study, was well into working on their doctoral dissertation. I registered for the workshop, in spite of the fact that my own dissertation isn't set to even begin for another two years, because I know how behind I tend to get with things. I can't even keep up with my own laundry, for crying out loud. So it was good that I got a swift kick today.

It was horrible, hearing about all these crazy things I need to do to finish a dissertation. It scared me enough that I have this sudden urge to start working on it now, so I can buy some time. Otherwise, there's no way I'm going to finish it in 5 years.

One of the mini-lectures was about all the things you can cut out of your life, to aid you in completing your dissertation within 5 years: family, friends, hobbies, dating, parties, movies, life, sleep, etc. The message was clear: you will do your dissertation from dawn to dusk for 3-5 years. One speaker was kind enough to point out that your life doesn't start after your dissertation is over: you've stalled your life and relationships for at least 3 years, so what makes you think you can make up for lost time after it's over? The people who may have loved you will be long gone, and you'll be too old to try and find the love of your life after you're done.

That pretty much cinches it. I always knew I was destined to be eternally single, that I wasn't going to have kids, but the thought that I had the potential to be "normal" and follow biological instincts like everybody else was somewhat comforting; to have that blown totally out of the water wasn't pleasant. I've done the math several times, and I know it won't work out. Assuming I go straight through and finish my MA and PhD in 2 and 3 years, respectively, I'll be just shy of 30 when I'm done. Knowing me, I won't be finishing my PhD in only 3 years, which will probably put me closer to 31 or 32. Looking at the fact that I may want to work for a few years after my MA, to save some money and get my foot in the door, that'll add another 2 or so years to the total. Which means that I'll finally be able to have a life again 10 years from now, more or less. It takes me 3 years to tell if a relationship is going to pan out or, more likely, not, which means that I'll be 38 by the time I find Mr. Right, assuming he's the first one I date. Give 4 years for blissful childless marriage time, and I won't start thinking about having kids until I'm 42 which, frankly, is too late (due to complications, such as Downs Syndrome, that can arise in the children of women over 40). So that doesn't look like it's going to work.

It's not that I'm totally averse to this reality, but it seems sort of sad, too. It feels like personal failure. I know my parents would LOVE grandchildren, and I can't give them that. I'm always seeking personal enrichment and improvement, and my parents always said that you never learn to grow up until you have kids, so I always wanted to have children (yes, I admit, solely for the sake of personal growth). But, I have to admit, kids are very cool people. And I would like to have a little version of myself. Someone to entertain me with her questions about the universe. Someone to bend my brain. I've thought about adoption--I know two killer-cool women who are single who have adopted foreign kids--and that might be an option later down the road, but I still have another 15 years before I need to think about that.

I tell you what, though, life comes at you fast. I look at my immediate future and I'm already middle-aged. The media talks about your 20s like it's this wild, awesome time, but it's really just a bunch of hard work to prepare you for even more hard work.

Wild times, my ass. How wild can you get, hauling ass between the library and the computer lab every day for 5 years? Yeah, that's what I thought.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 19th, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC)
Нда.. Неихо так высрался. respect.
Oct. 19th, 2005 08:43 pm (UTC)
To tell you the truth, I was terrified when we were given The Talk during the proseminar course. There are only two other people who have just started their first MA year in my program, and my professors tend to forget that we are not all on doctoral level ^_^; The thing is, we all have to start somewhere, right?
Oct. 19th, 2005 11:32 pm (UTC)
Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. You have no idea how much I fear this. And the fear has gotten ten times worse since Matt and I broke up.

Last Christmas, my mom and little sister gently told me to start thinking about getting married ASAP, because my eggs will soon expire. Check it out:

*I'm going to be just under 30 when I finish law school.
*I have an awesome boyfriend who's probably going to dump me when I go to law school because I'll either be too far away or I'll be too busy studying to be a good girlfriend.
*After Trevor dumps me, I won't date in law school. Again, because I'll be too busy studying to be a good girlfriend.
*IF I'm lucky enough to meet HIM when I'm fresh out of law school (Yeah right, I'll be working 60 billable hours a week), I won't even consider marriage until we've hit the two year mark. I'll be 32 then. That's IF he pops up the day I pass the bar.
*I refuse to procreate until I've been married 5 years. I'm selfish. I want me-and-husband time so we can travel and party and have fun. I'll be 37 then. At least.
*I'll have, at most, 3 years to obsess over ovulation... and then MY EGGS EXPIRE. Game over. My uterus wil shrivel up and die. It will be a sad empty vortex of shame and biological futility.

...and then I'll be one of those aggressive childless women in a business suit who has balls of steel but secretly cries at night for babies.

In reality, Trevor might actually stick around and not ever be a dick and be my HIM. You never know. And you might meet your HIM tomorrow, and he'll be a fellow Ph.D candidate and you'll sit next to each other on your laptops for the next 5 years, silently loving each other until the day you're both DR. so-and-so, and then you'll make gorgeous smart people together. It really really really could happen.
Oct. 20th, 2005 07:46 am (UTC)
Eek, Abby, I'm scared too! I leave Saturday morning for Seattle to visit U of W, and right now I'm just looking at getting a Master's degree and then teaching high school, but there's always this little voice in the back of my mind saying, "Come on, wouldn't you like to be Dr. Payne? And if you're going to stick around for 2 more years, why not stick around for 3 more after that?" So I'll probably end up going for a PhD. But it's such a HUGE commitment, and the thought of living and breathing a dissertation for that long is terrifying. I've seen how the grad students at Vandy struggle with their work load, and it's not cool.

But they do find moments of fun and silliness in between the hours at the library. And they're really into what they're studying, so it doesn't seem to be all bad. I love watching people geek out about Greek verbs. But the thought of having to put anything like having meaningful relationships or starting a family on hold until you're done is scary. I'll be old then! If I start when I'm 22, I'll be done when I'm 27. 27. That's almost 30! This morning I found my first creepy little varicose spidervein on my left thigh and almost had a conniption fit. I feel like I'm going to be so decrepit by the time I finish school (an image of Cryptkeeper me with grey hair and cobwebs in my armpits instantly springs to mind) that no one will want anything to do with me, let alone the husband of my dreams. So I'm destined for a solitary life of academia reading about the exploits of long-dead Romans while having no life of my own.

But that's how I feel when I'm being extremely pessimistic. Chances are that I'll get a lot out of grad school, and still be awesome when I'm almost-30 and I get out, and I know you will. Hell, Jen's right, you might meet someone while you're there! As for kids... I want babies now, and it's driving me up the wall. But more than I want babies, I want to do everything that I want to do for me. So I think you're making the right choice, and maybe you can fit some little Abby-creatures in there somewhere. :)

Good luck, babe. I understand why you're intimidated, but I have the utmost faith in you.
Oct. 21st, 2005 01:04 pm (UTC)
Japanese can get pretty crazy. So can computer labs and the library, I would wager. You never know what will happen!

I think there has to be another way. I've been getting pretty depressed about the "professionalization workshops" we've been having. Most depressing was the one about getting grants and fellowships, because before you can do that, you have to produce something. Yesterday's was about getting a job, and that one was actually not depressing. Two of the new professors talked about how they hate networking (which I also tend to view as fake), and about how there's more than one way to go about a job search. I figure, if there's leeway in that, there has to be more than one approach to getting a Ph.D.

I feel like we shouldn't have to be as busy as we were as undergrads. We should be able to have a life outside of work, study, and dissertation. I've come to view free time as a human right! I refuse to have a stressed-out life, and I can't follow in the steps of the professors who do.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )