It’s morning, mirrors fogged up, as I stand in front of my bathroom counter, shaving, with small traces of spice in the air. It’s my second year at Ohio State University, and today is the first day I teach Freshman Composition, a class I’ve taught dozens of times, only with different course objectives, and in a different state. I’m moving my face around to get a good shave, while muttering the things I wish to tell my students. I go back and forth about the information I wish to share with them. Do I talk about my background? That I’m a grad student? Maybe I need an opening joke to put the class at ease? I’m on the edge of a doubt spiral, until my cat jumps on the counter, giving me a look of affection. I pat him on the head, then, in Piece Brosnan’s voice, he says, “You’re going to be fine”. Then it hits me- I don’t have a cat. I look to him, then spot a red lever mounted on my bathroom wall that I’ve only noticed until this moment. It says “PULL” in large red letters. I pull the le-
7:08- I’m awake, exactly seven minutes before my alarm goes off. Do I try to salvage these seven minutes, and try to get a bit more sleep, or get an early jump on my day? Hmm….umm……Oh, I have to shave! I jump out of bed, and start getting ready.
I’ve officially been in Columbus for 365 days. In that time, I moved, helped my friends move, jogged along the Olagntangy River, presented at a conference, donated blood, slipped on black ice, pulled a few all nighters, made friends with a cat, my research pivoted, had several existential crises, joined some circles of friends, with a touch of heartbreak, attended four live concerts, my weight fluctuated like crazy, found a couple of spots that reminded me of home, made a few trips back home, read at least forty books, found out I have 20/15 eyesight, celebrated Thanksgiving with people I’m not related to, and once, I was so broke, I ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week.
These are not things that happen to you on an AirBnb trip- I have roots here now. I always thought of myself as a transient spirit, in a constant search to expand my intellectual horizons, but I’m at a point where slowing down is in my best interest. I’m no longer doing a million things at once, but trying to do one thing really well. Today, I’m doing the thing I set out to do here- doing work, good work, work I care about.
Currently having breakfast at a small spot, walking distance from my new place. The food is really good. They also have an awesome Sangria, but I’ll save that for another time- I have work to do.
(to read What Seeking Infinite Jest Means Part I, click here)
A young man walks out of the Thompson Library at OSU, with a smile on his face, borderline smug, after completing his first year of his PhD program. He’s texting his friends and making plans for the break with an air of confidence that is only granted to those who have marked off accomplishments years in the making. The world is at his fingertips, walking as if he has been granted access to a kind of knowledge reserved only for the most privileged. Perched from a rooftop about a hundred yards away, invisible to everyone else, I can see this young man and his gait. I watch from the shadows, silently observing, attempting to predict his next step. I look at his jovial walk, with something between envy and resentment, and let out a whisper: “What’s going to happen to you?”
Today is Tuesday, March 12th, the Tuesday of Spring Break at OSU, and I’m doing the thing that I enjoy the most: writing. It’s strange to start a blog post dedicated to what life is like in a PhD program about how much I love writing when that’s all I do- I write papers, I read books for research for future papers, I’m always thinking about the next writing project, and it’s almost impossible to read a book, and not think to myself, “I can write about this”. It’s important for me, to write, in this silly blog, because I love it. I’m trying to dive into writing like a young aspiring poet attending his first open-mic night. I’m sharing this rather intimate insight because, well……..I’m really damn busy. This is partially why I haven’t written a new blog post in so long. I have several drafts that were supposed to turn into really nice stories and observations about PhD life, but they’ve all been brushed aside. But I don’t wish to speak ill of my program- that’s not what this blog post is about. Rather, I was hoping to share a bit about how my program is going. And it’s definitely going. Continue reading →
“In order to do what you do, you need to walk. Walking is what brings the words to you, what allows you to hear the rhythms of the words as you write them in your heads. One foot forward, and then the other foot forward, the double drumbeat of your heart. Two eyes, two ears, two legs, two feet. This, and then that. That, and then this. Writing begins in the body, it is the music of the body, and even if the words have meaning, can sometimes have meaning, the music of the words is where the meanings begin. You sit at your desk in order to write down the words, but in your head you are still walking, always walking, and what you hear is the rhythm of your heart, the beating of your heart. Mandelstam: “I wonder how many pairs of sandals Dante wore out while working on the Commedia”. Writing as a lesser form of dance.”
-from Paul Auster’s Winter Journal
My New Years Resolution is to walk more.
to write more.
to dance more.
It is a universal truth that the books you read in college will correspond to the events in your life.
I’m walking to my place after wrapping up the third week of life as a PhD candidate. I’m pretty tired, and I’m not in the mood for the music coming out of the party-reeking houses that line my block. Once I get home, I crack open a Coke, and put on some music. In this small window of time, I get to relax and reflect on everything I have experienced here at OSU. Today is Thursday, the day of the week where I don’t feel guilty if I don’t study. Binging on the new season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix is tempting, or I can throw out a mass text to see if anyone wants to meet up for drinks. Instead, I’m doing the thing that centers me the most: writing. Here’s a brief description of my first week of PhD Life.
First pic of Columbus- writing in a café, while drinking a ginger beer
This is my first blog post composed as a citizen of Columbus, Ohio. I’m currently writing this in a small café about three blocks away from my new place, at an intellectual crossroad, excited and eager to start my new program, while slightly lachrymose, thinking about all of the things I will miss due to this change. It’s a difficult transition, specifically due to the small differences people take for granted when moving to a new city. A few hours ago, I jay-walked across High Street, a street with fairly heavy traffic, and cars stopped, as well as everyone walking by who saw me; they all stopped to see what I did, as if I committed an egregious crime. Technically, I did, but in LA, no one treats this as a problem. These little intricacies aren’t serious offenses, but when they add up, you feel like you don’t belong.
A couple of months ago, I stepped out of the country for the first time in over twenty years. My parents were planning a trip to Mexico and wanted me to come along. As great as it sounds to go out of the country, I mulled over this for a long time. It wasn’t the flying or awkwardness of visiting other people that bothered me- to be frank, I’ve grown so distant from my family and roots from years of studying and focusing on my career. I didn’t even know if I wanted to go. While studying was always a convenient way to describe this distance, it feels like it has always been there. Growing up, I never liked a lot of things my family liked. Music, certain foods, or even speaking Spanish- I spoke so little Spanish around others. Today, when I speak Spanish, it sounds like an alien taught himself Spanish, then taught me, and gave up halfway. When my mom asked me about the trip, she made me deal- if I get my passport, she’ll buy my ticket. (Who the hell is going to say no to that?) I got my passport, booked the tickets, and we were scheduled to go. It came at a really good time, too. I just finished sending out a stack of applications for doctoral programs. (read all about that here) Something about sending out those applications and putting my future in the hands of cloaked readers made stepping on a plane and heading to unfamiliar territory sound really enticing. It ended up being me and my mom, on our way to Mexico. We boarded, flew away, and I didn’t look back because I didn’t want to.
Hace un par de meses, salí del país por primera vez en más de veinte años. Mis padres estaban planeando un viaje a México y querían que fuera. Por muy bueno que parezca salir del país, reflexioné sobre esto durante mucho tiempo. No fue por volar o la incomodidad de visitar a otras personas lo que me molestó. Para ser franco, me he distanciado tanto de mi familia y mis raíces en los años de estudio y de centrarme en mi carrera. Ni siquiera sabía si quería ir. Si bien estudiar siempre fue una forma conveniente de describir esta distancia, parece que siempre eh estado distanceado. Al crecer, nunca me gustaron muchas cosas que le gustaban a mi familia. Música, ciertos alimentos, o incluso hablar español; hablé tan poco español alrededor de otros. Hoy, cuando hablo español, parece que un extraterrestre aprendió español, luego me enseñó y se rindió a mitad de camino. Cuando mi madre me preguntó sobre el viaje, ella me hizo tratar, si obtengo mi pasaporte, ella comprará mi boleto. (¿Quién diablos va a decir que no a eso?) Conseguí mi pasaporte, reservé las entradas y estábamos programados para irnos. También llegó en un buen momento. Acabo de terminar de enviar una pila de aplicaciones para programas de doctorado. (Lea todo al respecto aquí) Algo sobre el envío de esas aplicaciones y poner mi futuro en manos de lectores encubiertos hizo que pisar un avión y dirigirse a un territorio desconocido suene realmente tentador. Terminó siendo yo y mi madre, en nuestro camino a México. Abordamos, volamos, y no miré hacia atrás porque no quería.