A dystopia of letters

Much of this academic wunderland is converted into a dystopia of letters and cups on coffee gone cold due to long stretches of pondering. I see the city now before me, stretching down Wisconsin Avenue to the Potomac, dabbled with the all of the major monuments one could imagine in the Capital. I feel both incredibly lucky and melancholic all at once. Shame for relaying this to you all, dear readers, I, who is now a scholar in the Bright of Fulls. Who am I, indeed, to complain of the long hours of reading? The apathy felt when wanting to push the brain waves to spontaneously connect with each other, instead of resigning myself to the truth, that ideas are meant to resonate and marinate. I feel terrible for complaining; bashful about the cyclical plundering into low thoughts, just two itsy, bitsy weeks before the end of the semester, the final semester in a decade since beginning classes, on a journey that would span across three continents, leading me to this glorious view across Washington.


On days like Friday, when I meet one Hudson take-away in the morning in DuPont, then a London take-away for lunch, and end the afternoon transcribing a 16th century French text in the special collections library, I am re-struck, paralyzed and stupefied by the greatness of these Ph.D. years, their freedom in contrast to the imprisonment of the cubicle.  Other moments, like today, I wake up with a stretch of 1,000 pages before me and feel like calling a good friend. I feel ashamed that I need a pep talk after all of the things that have gone so terribly, and remarkably ‘right.’ How can I complain? One thing that five long years does to anyone, regardless of accolades or accomplishments, is keep you incredibly humble. Humble by your own smallness, your own insignificance in juxtaposition with the task at hand. Humbled by endless critiques, feelings of fear of failure, your undeniable lack of knowledge in the face of expertise at every turn. The red pen on all papers, the difficulty of publishing, the fear of inadequacy, and the guilt. The incredible guilt of ‘not-doing’ which is more disabling than empowering, as all guilt is.


In grad school you spend the bulk of your days feeling guilty about not having done what you set out to. There is no reprieve, no ‘free days,’ no blissful weekends of reality TV marathons, followed by lunch with the girls on the town. You get doses of all of that, but the stretches are short, breaking up the days rather than defining them. You get glimpses of normalcy when the semester comes to a close and you take three days off, only to be marched right back to the library by your culpable conscious. My husband says he misses me.. that I am not present when I am here. That my mind is elsewhere and that he sees me only from behind a book or a computer screen. He asks if the reading will subside when I am ‘done’ and I say that I need to probably publish something and work towards tenure. He shrugs, looks away, down-trodden. I wonder how relationships last in such an egotistical profession as this one. Then he wraps me into warm bear hug. He assures me that he signed up for all of this, even the mountain of books that I fell into two years ago. I hope he’s right. I pray more for his stamina than for my own.


At any rate, dear ones. I have dinner to attend to. Closing the book now, and the laptop screen. Sending you love and hugs from this muse in a bit of a down spell, on the heels of a tremendous high which was the Bright of Fulls. It’s seems these last two posts are representative of the ebb and flow of grad school— and life.  



Mrs. M. 


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