Good morning, friends.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for following me, my tiny readership, on this Ph.D. journey. It’s been a bumpy ride, most of which I don’t get a chance to elaborate on in these posts because they end up happening on average less than once a month. But I appreciate your random comments and emails. This blog, unlike my last, is really meant as a communication (venting), and documentation space more than a public display. My last blog got hits in the triple digits; I published it on FB, sent links to friends and family, got lots of comments, etc. Given the nature of academia, this one is a word of mouth blog and has maybe a readership of 10. I’m kind of okay with that. I started it in the fall of 2010 and will likely end it in the spring of 2015, when I finish this journey. Maybe I’ll go more ‘public’ thereafter when I have a ‘real’ (non-student life) again. Maybe I’ll document future children, or a new house, or a new city. I’m not sure yet. But for now, I like things the way they are. I can share and be private at the same time, if that makes any sense.
As the numbers reflect, I’m entering into the fourth year of the doctorate this fall. At the town of G their semester starts later this month. These last three years have tested me in so many ways- intellectually, emotionally, financially. While one does a Ph.D. it turns out that people’s lives roll on as always- babies are born, houses are bought and sold, moves around the country (and world) are made. Although I deeply enjoy what I do (which is basically get paid a meager stipend to research literature and teach), as I transition into my early thirties and am STILL a grad student, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard. For the last two(ish) years, the Swede has also been wrapping up a degree along side me, living also on stipends and scholarships. We’ve been very fortunate to have supportive families and have been very creative with money, but let’s face it; it’s been a challenge on us and our marriage. We stuck it out and he’ll be done this December (can I get a holla!!!! Graduation party in January? Hell yeah!) and will be back working the same month. I’ll be done at the very latest 18 months later in May of 2015. Yes, these milestones are on the horizon and we have to think long term, but I’m also turning 32 this December and there are times in which I look in the mirror and think, ‘will this ever end?’
Our move to Brasília was by far the most challenging thing we’ve done as a married couple and also the hardest thing I’ve done since the Ph.D. started. The city was expensive, hard to navigate, isolating… did I mention expensive? Uniting our stipends and money helped matters a bit, but throw in a touch of travel to surrounding areas, the coast and a conference in Buenos Aires and we had exhausted all of our funds by the time we got back to Brasília from Uruguay. There are few things in life worse than being broke in a foreign country. Maybe being in danger and broke? No, we were never in danger or even close to it. Luckily I’m getting paid here in August a pretty substantial chunk of change, and he gets a payment in September, then I get my last one in October. This is all to say, yes, it’s under control. But what really helps is the fact that we now pay $325 a month for a house literally 3 blocks from the beach. Yes. $325 dollars. All of the sudden our budget has loosened up significantly. It feels good to be able to breathe easy now for a while…(exhale).
To complicate matters, leaving Brasília was also challenging. My advisor there was cold (indicating lack of approval), we were afraid to offend people and there was a certain amount of gossip that arose amongst the student population after I left. Nothing like two foreigners departing your city to create a buzz and some bitterness. I’ve realized one thing about gossip. You should never be privy to it. No matter how curious you may be, never ask. It doesn’t do you any good and tends to linger around in your head, even after you are a non-existent topic. For that matter, I’ve also come to learn throughout the years that participating in gossip is also for the birds. People always remember those who steer away from participating in gossip and have the courage and dignity to desist. Gossip is like a huge snowball; it often starts small but then spirals out of control quickly when generated in groups. One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 will be to not participate in gossip (or try my darndest to be aware of when I may be letting it creep in).
But what wasn’t as challenging was coming here. It’s been such a blissful arrival. The air here is sea air, we have a HOUSE for the first time in seven-year stint together. We have sunshine, space and peace. I’m getting my work done in peace, recently met a Brazilian author for a two hour interview in a city nearby, we have a pool right outside our house which we share with two other people and we are in a safe, “gated community” (as much as I dislike that term- pile on the cheese). Everything is cheap here, the food, the public transport (which is close and frequent, albeit crowded). People are nicer here, more peaceful and joke with us. We like that. I have a long-term friend close by who has helped us a great deal. Our last four months will be spent in a way that our first five never could be. In peace. With Brazil, with ourselves, with the journey we are on together. I informed my advisors at the town of g (of course there was a little fear about the reactions to the move from them) and the first comment was, “sounds great!” Yep, it is pretty much just that. Great. Maybe all those years of fighting for every inch, for every dime, for every moment of solitude during the Ph.D., are being paid back to me retroactively here in Paraíba, one walk on the beach at a time.
So this is all to say the obvious. If you have a choice, CHOOSE happy. Everything else will fall in line, people will forget about you as yesterday’s gossip, your heart will thank you for it a thousand times over. Be rational, be calculative, weigh your risks and don’t be impulsive. But if the risks are low and you have a choice, don’t choose status-quo, don’t choose fear, CHOOSE happy. No one else will do it for you.
With a sprinkle of happiness thrown your way,