Sunday, June 6, 2010

On Trauma and Grad School: A Coda


Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:


via my best friend gayle by summer of sam on 6/6/10

At the point during the meeting when my co-chair diagnosed me with the disease of perpetually questioning my own authority, I just nodded my head.  What I really wanted to do is say (very calmly, very sarcastically), "Well, I wonder why I do that.  It's not as if that's a common thing that happens in graduate school or in this department."  To a certain extent, I expect things like that from her, but when she said that I wanted to rip out my own voice box and throw it on the table (implosion, self-destruction--they've trained me so well).  My other co-chair agreed with what she said, but at least he said that my tendency to over-research wasn't uncommon.  I think what I wanted at that point was a little follow-up, some Holyfield.  Something like: Yes, you have problems accepting your own authority, but that's because this university requires that you question everything, especially yourself. 

I don't know.  I need the second part of that compound sentence.  I think I just need someone to acknowledge the nature of this place, and stop pretending that both the benign and malign negligence is just some regular, every day shit--that I'm making this whole thing up.  I don't want a self-esteem award, or a pat on the back.  I just want someone, who doesn't (perpetually) question their own authority to acknowledge the inherently screwed up nature of this process and what it does to people, and stop acting like I'm some sort of freakazoid whose mild procrastination was exacerbated merely by some quirky faults of my own.  I know that would be totally out of character, but at what point, if they're invested in seeing me finish the program, do they break character?    

But back to psycho-fucking myself.

I understand that what I've just said strongly suggests that I have a particular investment in their authority, but my stepdad was a cop.  If the primary authority figure in your life carried a gun, you'd invest, too.  All of this is connected, and if I can fix one problem, I think I can address the other(s).
I forgot to mention something about my tendency to over-research: I never remember anything.  I think because of the anxiety I have around it, I just can't remember anything I read.  As a result, I end up re-reading to the point that it becomes ritualistic.  (I have a tendency towards ritualistic behavior when I feel anxious...and when I eat.  Ask me about how I eat.)  So not only am I not writing, I'm not really being productive because I can't retain the information.  I'll never forget sitting down to my final exams and forgetting any and everything as soon as the first question was asked.  To this day, I know they passed me because our meetings were more successful than the actual exam. 

One more thing: This entire experience has made me especially ambivalent about the discipline.  I just don't think whatever skills I have are conducive to the vocation.  And even if I did decide that this was a career I wanted to pursue, I've spent so much time in isolation, I'm not sure I'd actually get a job.  I keep hearing the refrain that I should become a writer.  Trust, that's exactly what I want to do.  (I am taking any and all advice, help, and/or hookups that will make that happen.)  But I'm going to finish this Ph.D. first.  Perhaps I should've decided to leave school a few years ago, but grad school is sort of like the Mafia: once you're in so deep, you can't/don't really get out.  To add, I'm not sure I could've walked away from graduate school and not think of myself as a quitter.  That's not to say that I think of people who have left graduate school as people who couldn't cut it.  I have a totally different standard for myself than I do for others.  I'm hard on people--which is probably why I tend not to like them--but I'm even more unforgiving of myself.  Whatever my issues, I'm not going to let these people, this institution, this process defeat me.

It's hard to evaluate when you're still in the midst of the process, but if I had to characterize my graduate school experience, I'd say it has been the symbol of everything I've feared coalescing into one little nugget of an epoch.  Personally and professionally, I've been confronted with all (well, maybe most) of my shit--bills, bitches women,  and just general getting grown stuff.  I know this process is tough, but I also know that this entire experience was exacerbated with personal stuff many folks doing this thing didn't have to deal with.  As Saf's sister Robyn would say, 2009, for instance, wasn't no ho.  (I got a story to tell.)  I'm not making excuses, just reflecting.

I've digressed.


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