Graduate school, as I have mentioned before, often amounts to an exercise in dream deferral, especially for those of us who have not taken more than a year or two off from school since kindergarten. While many of our peers get married, start families, purchase homes and otherwise establish themselves as adults, I find, most of us exist in a strangely purgatorial zone that is neither youth nor adulthood. We are, I suppose, making our way through a protracted adolescence in which both the student's shoestring budget and graying hair seem at home.
It can get lonely sometimes. It's not always enough to promise oneself that one day things will work out, to spit in the face of doubt and faithfully repeat a personal mantra designed to reassure one of the pleasant life he or she will undoubtably find waiting at the end of the grad school rainbow. Because, after all, there is no guarantee. You might not get a job you like, no matter how hard you try. You might not meet the people that will form the social fabric you need to thrive emotionally and intellectually. You may be left alone with tons of obscure knowledge that makes it difficult for others to understand the way you view the world. And, of course, the "what ifs" come marching in and your doubts mingle with outright panic: what if I never get a job teaching? and what if I never find people with whom I feel a connection? and what if I made the wrong choice and, and, and...
Of course, the remedy for such malaise can only be to remind yourself that the real reason you're in grad school is for the noble -- if selfish -- pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake, that you've embarked on a journey of self-improvement and self-discovery.
Except you could do that outside of grad school, for free, with a library card.
So, at most, that's only a part of it. You're also in grad school because of a dream, a cherished hope for something a bit more concrete than knowledge. You want a good life with a good job and good people with whom to share that existence. No shit, right?
Today, I felt acutely the schism between what I want and what I have. My best friends live in places like Minnesota and Norway and Mississippi and China and the diasporic nature of most graduate programs inevitably means that friends today are often gone tomorrow. Like I said, it can get lonely.
Add to that loneliness the solipsistic existence of the library-dwelling scholar and the painfully thin wallet of the average student and you've got a recipe for frustration. Today, I felt tethered. I wanted to run away from the dissertation, but the rope caught and I slammed to the ground like a dog forgetting his lead is only so long.
Then I remembered that almost everyone feels this way sometimes, grad student or not. So I finished Boyhood and counted my pennies, trying to see if maybe, just maybe I could afford a trip to the Twin Cities.
For tomorrow: Either read an essay, transcribe, work on the bibliography, or read some of Youth.