Last Call

There’s a small bar on my commute home. I found it a few weeks after I started working at GCC and getting used to my new route. They used to serve a really cool line of liquors by a distillery called Art in the Age. They had some really great ones, including Sage, Root, Snap, and Rhubarb. Unfortunately, the distiller discontinued this line, becoming a small reminder that even things we love come to an end.

Today was my last day of teaching at Glendale Community College. It’s a job I’ve come to love, feeling very much part of this community. I met a lot of really good people, and had the privilege of of working at a campus that supported me and brought me in front of a diverse group of young learners, at a period in their academic careers I was in not long ago. I’m going to miss waking up to the best job on the planet- teaching students to think critically. Some days, it was a miracle if one student asked a question; other days, I left home feeling hope for this generation, so sharp and witty but also empathetic and tapped into the concerns of the world, in a way I couldn’t comprehend at their age. I’m never going to know if I made a difference. My only hope is that they left my class a bit more as thinkers, and not afraid to be honest, or to try something new. I wish nothing but the best for them now, whether I have a part in it or not.

My music selections finally come on in the jukebox. The song Destroyed By Hippie Powers by Car Seat Headrest starts to play.

I am freaking out in my mind
In a house that isn’t mine
My end goal isn’t clear
Should not have had that last beer

It’s more than what you bargained for,
but it’s a little less than what you paid for
My bowtie’s come undone,
my microphone hangs
limp on the mic stand

Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers
Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers

This next step is not a loss; this job is a chapter which must come to a close if I wish to continue on this new career path, no matter how I feel. Indifference, however, has never been my strong suite. I’m drinking a Manhattan with Woodford Reserve Bourbon. One of the first times I had this was at my first out-of-state conference. It reminds me about how long it took to get here. All the years of studying, writing, holding on to something I care about. And now it’s here. It’s time for my next step.

“Hurry up, please. It’s time”, the bartender says.

I take one last swig, get my tab, and slide off of the stool. My Lyft is waiting outside. A small voice says to cancel it, and to stay as long as possible. I step in and lean back on the headrest. We’re on the way home, with highways crossing overhead in a million directions.

Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers
Tell my mother I’m going home,
I have been destroyed by hippie powers

Guess what…..?

I GOT IN!!!!! I am writing this post after receiving my letter of admission, meeting the faculty and campus, and attending the Open House for incoming Grad Students in the Fall. Ladies and Gentleman….

I will be attending Ohio State University in the Fall as a PhD Candidate.

(Go Buckeyes!!!)

My New Campus

I cannot begin to express how all of this feels. A goal I have worked for ten years in the making is now coming into fruition. Every doubt that ever crept into my thoughts, every day that I told myself it was futile , every voice that told me to stick to what comes easy to me- all of these naysay moments have now been silenced. About five years ago, while I was working on my undergraduate degree, I was working at a local bar, and someone vomited near the back entrance. It took about half an hour to clean up. That night, on the way home, I asked myself, Is this career path worth it?

Yes, young Rolando Rubalcava- I can definitively say that it is.

I’ve been waiting so long to wear a badge like this.

Last weekend, I met the OSU English Department faculty and a few other incoming graduate students. (I guess they’re part of my cohort?) They were so supportive, and made the experience really special. My Department Chair and Graduate Advisor were very affable people, making me feel acclimated. It was a flurry of new experiences, and I took it all in, every moment, every face, every gesture that made me feel welcomed. I’m constantly asking myself if this is actually happening. A part of me genuinely doesn’t believe this is happening. During one of the days of the Open House, snow began to fall- I reached out my hand and real snow fell on my palm. It landed in my hand, melted, passing its coldness unto me, and for the first time, I felt snow fall on my skin. Yes- this is happening.

Life, up in the air, at approximately 30,000 ft.

In a few weeks, I will select the courses I will take and make the move. I guess that means I have to find a place to live. Wait- do I move all of my things? What about my job? Will I just quit and that be that? How will I get around? Where do my buy my groceries? Will I be ready to live in Columbus, Ohio by the time I move? Do I keep this blog going? I guess what I’m asking is…..

now what?

Acknowledgments

I am still elated about the news: I’m going to attend Ohio State University for my PhD!! This is really exciting news and I am still trying to process it all. While I was applying, I knew that while it was me writing my essays and sending my applications, it wasn’t a solo venture. It quite literally took a village. A lot of great people helped me get to this point and I wanted to write a post dedicated to them. Here are the people that helped me get here: Continue reading

Proverbs

You got this.

This year, I applied to doctoral programs in American Literature. There was a time when this phrase was frightening, or distant, or inspirational; today, it is a fact. I’m writing this at the close of my last application. All applications are in- all twelve. This process wasn’t easy, and I didn’t come out of it unscathed. But it’s done, and I’m happy to state that.

My cat, telling me to finally step away from my computer

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Midnight Postscript  

Hello readers! I’m writing this micro-post at about Midnight on a Monday in December. Santa Ana winds are stampeding through my neighborhood, and the cold snap of December is kicking in. I’m currently at a bar, finishing up my first drink, in the thick application submission. I submitted my first application this morning, wondering all day if there was anything I missed. I ask myself, Is this one going to be it? I don’t have an answer. My intuition sees it as misplaced will. It’s done, and there’s no going back. I also took the GRE exam today. Once the gatekeeper of my fate, I now see it for what it is- a formality. It’s just one part of this process, and whether I’m good at it or not, I have to do it. I did my best, and I owe this exam nothing. What matters is that it’s not deterring me from applying. Not again. Now, we wait.

I spent the last few weeks working on my application essays. How do you fit your entire academic history in two pages? This has always eluded me, until this year, when I decided to do what I’m good at- pouring my heart into every word, down to the last character. I printed it out it out, and it felt like it weighed ten thousand pounds. Like a marble statue, I have most of it done- now, I’m working on those last final detailed touches that will make it perfect.

Negroni by candlelight

The majority of my applications will be submitted in the next two weeks. This means I will do nothing but work on making them as immaculate as possible. A part of me already sees me celebrating. Another part of me wants to crawl into a hole, hoping to escape the outcome. Doubt lingers, bleeding through the words of support from loved ones. I want to do well, but at this point, it’s no longer up to me. I’m eating, sleeping, and dreaming application season, putting my future in the hands of graduate departments.

I’m in a Lyft, on my way home, and the song playing has a chorus that most appropriately speaks to the next couple of weeks:

I can not give you everything, you know I wish I could
I’m so high at the moment
I’m so caught up in this
Yeah, we’re just young, dumb and broke
But we still got love to give

While we’re young dumb
Young, young dumb and broke
Young dumb
Young, young dumb and broke

Plane Ride Home

This is me….on my way home…..flying back from Chicago.

Oxford-esque architecture at UChicago

Over the last three days, I attended the Discover UChicago program, meeting with faculty, advisors, and heads of the department in my field of academic interest. This is a program dedicated to giving underrepresented groups a chance to visit UChicago (one of my top picks) and meet the faculty and department of my my scholarly interests. As I sit in this plane, 30,000 feet in the air, I think about everything I learned, what we talked about, helpful feedback about applying to PhD programs, my research, and my position as a scholar. I’m completely vulnerable, taking the GRE soon, juggling these tasks while working as an Adjunct Instructor, as if the forces of nature are conspiring against me pursuing this. Only now, I’m armed with intellectual armory, filled with knowledge and skills this program helped hone. The people of UChicago were beautiful, giving me insight and feedback, including how to focus on my progress and research, while de-stigmatizing what PhD life is like. At one point in my preparation for applying, I felt intellectually useless, completely unqualified for the goals I have set for myself; now, on this plane, I feel like the goals I have set for myself, years in the making, are finally within reach. I want to hug my mentors, thanking them for getting me here, and I want to jump up and down, in this aluminum vestibule, never having a chance to feel this before. This trip finally made me feel something new.

I just made myself a Gin and tonic, thanks to The Carry-on Cocktail kit. (click here for more info)  I’m not drinking this as a congratulatory toast to myself, but as a final request before heading home. My work is far from over- I have the GRE exam, drafting my essays, and preparing for the worst, in the next few weeks as I work on my applications. Yet, I also have the energy to work in me- the kind that can power a city. I want to write, to do good, to move the stars and the planets that create shifts and waves in our temporal existence. I now feel like I’m in a position to do so.

I’m on my way home, 968 miles to go. But this is not a homecoming- this is my commencement. I’m going to write, and I have the tools to do this well. I’m in a vehicle that will get me there, finally feeling like good things are ahead.

On My Way to Work…

I take the train to work just about every day. On my way to work, two songs come on from my music playlist periodically.

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Song I: Almost Was Good Enough by
Magnolia Electric Co. (to listen, play link below)

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