2:07am- I’m staring at the ceiling. My eyes wander, trying to focus on something. My body wants to sleep, but my mind will not allow it to. It is plagued by one thought, like a virus, latching on to my every thought, slowly consuming me from within. I close my eyes, but this one thought demands that they stay open.
I’m not getting into any PhD programs this year.
This is the idea, planted in my brain, churning out every and all forms of doubt. Questions. Flashbacks. Hypotheticals. Any criticism ever pointed towards me. I want to shut it off. But I can’t. It’s not letting me. I think about all of the reasons why I would get accepted, then it turns into a list of all of my deficiencies. I have a really shoddy GPA, GRE scores are worse, I have no idea how I’m contributing to my area of interest, I can’t for the life of me see how my research is relevant to any of the programs I’m interested in. This may seem tedious, but unfortunately, this is what I have to think about. What exactly will I do when I’m there, and why am I applying there in the first place? If I can’t think of good answers for this, I have no business applying. Why do this? Even that question, I really hate asking, mutating my life’s goal into some business venture. To a degree, there’s a good justification for thinking like that: it’s mainly because schools don’t just accept you, but invest in you, and they want to make sure they’ll see good on their return. But this….this is where my life has led up to. Now, I’m staring at the gatekeepers, and they aren’t impressed.
2:09am- This is really getting to me. Still not sleepy. I’ll watch something on Netflix. Mhmm….hmm…oh, this looks cool! I’ll check it out.
2:14am- Goddamnit! I can’t focus! I just want a moment’s peace…let me escape for one moment.
2:17am- Just think about all of the things you’re good at. You’re an excellent researcher. Remember that time you walked around with a stack of books from your waist to your chin? Everyone thought you were a dork. But you wrote an amazing essay. Your professor loved it. Your friends did, too. It was a really good piece of work.
Maybe, but that’s not an exceptional skill- that’s your job. That is exactly what you’ll be asked to do once you get it.
But doesn’t that mean I’m qualified for the job and that I’d be a good fit?
It might, except that is the same qualification all of the other applicants have. All 300+, vying for your spot. You can’t just be qualified, you have to really earn it. Have you?
Just go to sleep. You don’t need this thought right now.
2:21am- Can’t sleep. My body lies here, decrepit. I’m turning over to the end of the mattress, about to lean over. I’m right on the edge, almost falling off. I keep myself in this position, not falling off entirely, as if I’m suspended in this liminal position, stuck in the inbetween. What am I going to do? If I apply, I might not get in; if I don’t, I’ll be miserable. Where is my mind? By The Pixies is playing on a continuous loop.
With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind
Where is my mind
Where is my mind
Way out in the water
See it swimmin’
What time is it?…what the…what day is this!?!?!? Oh, still 2:21. I’m still here.
2:35am- Just start with one of the things you’re good at…You can write well. Yes! You know how to write something smart enough and compelling enough that people will care about. That sets you apart.
It does, enough for you to work in advertisement. Get into that- it’ll be perfect for you.
Goddamn, this thought won’t let up, won’t it? No matter what I do, I can’t shake this. I need to get up. Take a walk. Let my thoughts process. Let some fresh clean air. That’ll help rid this voice.
2:45am- Still in bed.
This is not indicative of a qualified candidate.
Tomorrow morning, I’m working all day on your essays.
No, you’re not.
Please…for the love of God, stop.
You don’t even know why I’m here, do you?
What do you mean?
I’m not a voice of negativity.
I’m telling you what you need to hear.
By telling me I’m a failure?
Go to sleep. You’ll process this tomorrow.
4:28am- I’m awake. Not sure if I was a sleep or not. All I see is black. Even when my eyes are open. It’s quiet. It’s…tranquil. Eyes are closing, but I’m still awake. Still awake…still awa…
4:57am- Get up.
Get up. And get to work. You’re not tired. You have work to do.
I can’t. I…I can’t.
You still don’t understand. GET. UP.
Wha…what are you…
You’re going to get up, get dressed, and do what you need to do.
You need to listen. And listen good, because I’m only saying this once. You are going to work until the tips of your fingers bleed, until the soles of your shoes are worn all the way down. You know why?
Because you are the product of courage. You have It. Down to your bones. And you know this.
What?…what do you…how?
You decided to leave a life of security and logical answers, then threw yourself into the world of the Word. And you have not stopped. You are an engine of will.
How do you know that? Why…
Because it’s in every fiber of your existence. Your father immigrated to this country without knowing a word of English. You are an heir to the rebels who fought for their independence and won, conquering their destiny, all the way back to the first fish brave enough to crawl on land. Millions of years in human evolution was spawned by the very will you are made of. Now go do this.
What if I fail?…if I don’t get in?
Then you’ll apply again. Or you won’t. Accomplishing this goal you have will not determine your fate. Whatever happens, you will be the better for it. But you will do it. And you will do it with every ounce of strength you have. This work requires no less, and you are more than qualified for the task.
So…I’m gonna get in?
That’s not for me or for you to decide. What you can do is get to work and do what you are good at. Giving your best is what you do best.
Go to sleep. Then wake up, and get to work.
I am the voice you need to hear. Now go to sleep.
5:26am- My eyes open. I can hear birds chirping. There’s a small blade of light, cutting the dark open. My eyes open wider. It’s a new day, and I have work to do.