Aug 11, 2018/19

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.

What Seeking Infinite Jest Means Part II: Completing My First Year of My PhD Program

Thompson Library

(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?”

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Spring Break Catch-up and Program Update

Generational Synthetic by Beach Fossils
(click play to listen- no quarters required)

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

Resolution for 2019

“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.

Happy New Years- May 2019 be kind to us all.

First Week of Grad School

It is a universal truth that the books you read in college will correspond to the events in your life.

Walking Home

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.

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Let the Good Time Be-GIN!!

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.

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Concrete on Leather

work boots

Today was my last day of working with my dad as a laborer in his construction company. Possibly, forever.

No more exposure to toxic chemicals,

no more going home feeling like a burnt pop-tart,

no more feeling like a six-year old when I get yelled at for not knowing the right concrete/water solution ratio,

no more prosciutto, mozzarella, and olive spread sandwiches,

no more looking at a completed project, saying, “I did that”,

no more awful dad jokes, which made them glorious,

no more stories on the commute that have been trapped inside for years, letting out a little light I never knew about.

I hope to anthologize all of these stories some day. Just give me a minute……I’m a little beat.

Luz Por Las Nubes

(para leer en español, haga clic aquí)

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.

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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 my head 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?