More stirrings from a spring that feels more like summer

April 11, 2007

My internship supervisor is out of town presenting at some conference, so I thought today would be the perfect day to cover up for all of my web slacking of the past two months by uploading the rest of the oral histories I am working on to the library website.  They’ve been ready to go for a long time, I just keep procrastinating the upload so I can pretend I am doing work while I am really reading doctor blogs or journal articles.  Uploading does require using her computer, which is connected to the server side of the website, so normally I have the good excuse of well shucks, I wouldn’t want to make you move from your computer boss.

(By the way, the letter writer in this Since You Asked column is basically me. The tagline, for those of you who are not link inclined, is “I still have a job, but I’ve stopped working.” Well, not completely, but close to it. Every day I get a little closer to the fine line between “making the work last” and just not doing any.)

But, wouldn’t you know that either Microsoft FrontPage or the library web server or both of them in conspiracy have prevented me from doing this by making my supervisor’s computer completely non-usable whenever I try to open one of them. I’m talking like not even Ctrl+Alt+Delete works. So, I’m giving it a rest and pretending that I still have work to do that can be done on my own computer, and using that as a cover for making my first blog post in quite a while.

Where has the blogging gusto gone? Was I once the girl who kept up three? Was I once the blogger who signed on for the bloggers do it daily challenge and generated more Lusciousity that anyone signed up for five classes should technically have the time to? What has changed? Whatever it is, I want it back. I think. Although all bets will be off during fiction workshop this summer, b/c I haven’t finished a short story in years and I think I will need all of my brain to do it.

I’m going to leave those pressing questions unanswered and veer yet again into this stew of choices bubbling in my brain. For the record, I haven’t decided anything. I haven’t registered for summer chemistry, but I have bought plane tickets for various summer travel committments that would still allow me to register for it. I met an awesome young woman at a toy store signing last weekend who, as D said, is kind of the blond haired Romanian (and better dressed, but D didn’t say that, I did) version of me–has an undergrad in sociology, considered a PhD but did some math and realized she was better off signing up for some science classes and pursuing another idea she once had. And she’s doing it. She’s making it happen. And even JLS’s mom (a dentist herself), who admonished me that it was probably too late and I should think twice about how long it was going to take me to become a doctor, said that my background would make me a very competitive med school applicant if somehow I made it through the science and math. I keep telling people that I’m going to do it, and they cheer me on, so I’m still thinking that I will probably still do it. But it does cost like a thousand dollars, so is the fact that I don’t want to let other people see me change my mind a good reason to go forward?

All in all, I haven’t so much gone forward as backward, as one positive experience “presenting a paper” at 4th Tier University’s grad student conference has led me to open that old English PhD box right up again, all of the same economic arguments against it still applying but perhaps more than ever being closer to outweighed by the fact that I just love this shit. I can’t explain it, it offers the world next to no help in dealing with its many urgent problems, it is bass-ackward and moreover isn’t likely to offer me and D much help in dealing with expected urgent problems such as having a place to live and a way to support the children we truly want to have.

How can the pendulum swing so far, so hard, so fast? How can I be sure one minute that I want to leave all of this theoretical and overly self-conscious mumbo jumbo and put my hands in a cadaver and then the next minute say nah, I prefer the mumbo jumbo and there’s nothing I can do about it? Part of me wonders if this is all part of trade-off process, whereby the thing that you’ve said no to  but that you really wanted to do keeps rearing its ugly head back at you, even if you feel like you’ve made the best possible choice you can make. In my case, this choice would be MFA/MLIS with the plan of becoming a librarian rather than throwing my hat into the lottery of working in academia. And I am perfectly comfortable with saying, and believing, I think, that I haven’t lost anything by choosing this path. The potential income is comparable, the job prospects are much better, and the work-life balance potential is more promising. So I don’t know what has started me thinking back down the crazy PhD (if I could get in anywhere) path, and under no circumstances do I want to relive the “everything academic is superior to everything not” phase of my life. The point of the MFA is to get all of my intellectual curiousity out of my system, but of course fostering i.c. usually makes you have more of it, not less. Is it just that I can’t seem to push myself to find the intellectual challenges in librarianship, or that despite my best efforts to get obsessed by programming and web design I’ve retreated into a “just as long as I know I can do it if I have to” stance? Am I just predicting boredom that might not occur once I am an actual librarian, or that might be outweighed by the rocking personal life it will give me time to have?

I think I’ve put a lot of energy into convincing myself that I am nothing special, and that I can be happy doing anything. I’ve been doing this ever since I got serious about D and realized that I never, ever wanted to go long distance again. I do not mean this to say that I regret the decision to get married or get serious in the first place in any way (anyone who knows me knows that, so ‘nuf said). I mean this to say that I’ve consciously taken the word “both” out of my vocabulary of desire for a long time. A career built on my passion for literature and a great marriage seemed too much to ask for, so I picked what I wanted most and that was the right choice. People are more important than jobs and books and everything related to recognition, and when I didn’t believe that I was an unhappy and unwell person. But maybe there’s a way to have both, despite everything. Maybe not for everyone, but maybe for us. Maybe we’ve got what it takes to get through long hauls of work and more work. Maybe all of this indecision comes from an untenable denial of something inside me that is driven, driven even when happy, driven even when it’s not convenient. I relate to Lloyd Dobbler, I’ve always been looking for a dare to be great situation. Of course, there’s plenty of them out there and a good argument to be made that any situation can call for greatness if you find it. But on the other side of that generalization is the idea that while you still do have choices, you should make them. You might be able to find greatness serving coffee at the S-bucks, but should you settle for that if you are hankering for something else and have a shot at making it happen?

Is the thought of becoming a doctor another version of the 350k mortgage? A way to take on the seemingly impossible and avoid the impossible right in front of my nose? All it takes to write the next great American novel is right here, right now, waiting for me to fail better at it. Everything I hear from everyone is that the shorter answer to all of my questions is yes, you can, but that the question I have to ask is do I want to.

The trouble seems to lie in the fact that wants and needs don’t promise to match up once all of this impossible stuff has been accomplished. Even comparing best case scenarios doesn’t make it easier, because the best case scenarios are so wildly different and the same at heart. The difference is basically money and the similiarity is basically personal satisfaction. But along w/ the more money that might come with being a doctor (how am I supposed to know how much malpractice I’m going to have to pay or how much my student loans would end up being or how much giving up the next ten years of my life to being a doctor in training would cost me in the long run of retirement savings and investments?) comes much longer hours and much more stress. And when you ask me, but yes, which kind of work would you rather do, I honestly think I could do either. And a little of both, no matter what way I choose to go. But right now, neither one is going to be an easy path. Then again, I’m pretty much on the easiest possible path already. And look where it is leading me.

As AH tells me, the toughest thing is to live in the uncertainty, so as this post should make abundantly clear, I am trying to do just that for as long as it takes. In the meanwhile, the best plan that I can come up is just to do stuff. Just do some stuff. Less planning, more doing, as I told Frida on Saturday night. Life is bigger than our plans for it, and when I remember to bring the book to work with me I will share with you the Carl Jung quote that I am currently using to remind myself of just that.

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One Response to “More stirrings from a spring that feels more like summer”

  1. Moe Says:

    Sounds like someone has a calling she’s not ready to answer…


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