Lately, I haven’t been writing here because there’s not much I can say. The Flying Buttress still has two potential jobs in the works. What might actually happen with them is becoming more clear. And the more we talk about the possibilities, the more we let go of what we’ve been hoping and imagining for the last few years and think about what’s really in front of us. The decisions seem way more complicated than they were when they were abstract. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen or where we’ll be in a couple of months.
This will all get worked out soon. But it’s interesting to have spent the last year planning and plotting and suddenly realize that I’d been doing that with a specific scenario in mind that might not actually happen. I’ve spent the last year trying so hard to get somewhere, to get back to a place that I lived in for eight years of grad school when I had a clear goal and purpose. I just wanted to have that again, to have a clear path. It’s still possible that I can still carry out the plans I’ve been making. But it’s also possible that I have to start from scratch.
One of the things that I’ve done throughout this process, which has kind of saved my ass. . . and sanity, is to ask myself what there is to learn with each twist or obstacle. This seems particularly relevant right now. I am, after all, a compulsive planner/control freak who has chosen to live my life according to the limitations of another person’s career, at least for now. And given that that career is academia, there’s not a whole lot that either one of us can control. I’m feeling this really acutely right now, as we both wait for things to happen that neither one of us can do anything about. I am trying to let this be a lesson in letting go and seeing what life offers me.
F.B. and I were talking about this earlier today. We both wound up in our grad programs thanks to a bit of luck. My story is that I mixed up the application deadline with the financial aid one. My program was, in all honesty (and I am embarrassed to admit this now), one that I was beyond unexcited about when I was researching programs. I can’t even remember why I decided to apply. And when I realized that I had missed the deadline by three weeks I was just going to forget it. But my then-girlfriend convinced me, embarrassingly enough, to send in my application with a little note attached that started “Due to human error . . . ” I have no idea why they accepted me, but they did and actually recruited me fairly hard. And I waited and waited for an acceptance from any other school I applied for, but they never materialized. So I went to recruitment weekend with the full intention of turning the offer down and reapplying the next year, but of taking advantage of a paid trip to a nice place I’d never been. And I loved it. I may have had doubts about grad school and academia in general, but I have never had doubts about my particular program being the best one for me, despite its flaws. The unusually collegial environment made it the ideal place for me to do my best work as a scholar. I still believe that. And I know that I would have gone to any one of those other programs if I had gotten in. I’m thankful for those rejections and for the incredibly generous admissions committee. I’m thankful for such a clear choice.
I left academia because I realized that at the end of my life I would be more grateful for the relationships I’d managed to cultivate than whatever success I had just for the sake of success. Maybe now I need to remember that big picture, that trying to cram my perfectly made plans in with the unexpected turns that life will take will be much less satisfying than being open to the signs and possibilities that come my way.
(If this post seems overly-dramatic, blame the waiter who I’m convinced mixed up the decaf and regular espresso, and produced the insomnia that makes me write in such ways, especially after a few episodes of Friday Night Lights. For the awkward vagueness of language, I can only blame the tiny world that is academia and my fear of revealing too much. Once decisions are made and papers are signed, that issue should resolve itself.)