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.
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
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.
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.
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, young dumb and broke
This is me….on my way home…..flying back from Chicago.
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.
I take the train to work just about every day. On my way to work, two songs come on from my music playlist periodically.
Song I: Almost Was Good Enough by
Magnolia Electric Co. (to listen, play link below)
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
-from Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”
This excerpt is potentially the best representation of what it’s like when presenting your research at an academic conference. For grad students, scholars, and other professionals at varying levels, conferences are the best (or worst) places to go and discuss your research emphasis and getting feedback from like minded people in your field. Earlier this month, I attended the Graphic Medicine Conference, taking place at the Seattle Public Library, (for more info, click here) the same city where I completed a brief internship a few years ago. It was both a homecoming and a discovery as I continue to pursue my research interests.
I’m sitting on a park bench after a jog. It’s cold, the air is misty, and January still feels new. This has been my jogging route for years. It grounds me. When I jog, I only hear my feet pounding on concrete and the gasps of my breath. I reach a small park, making sure I stop to rest and catch my breath. Next to the play area and soccer field, there’s a small bench where I like to sit. On cold mornings, I can see the steam rise from my skin. Here, I get to sit there and think, endorphins and dopamine rushing through my brain, sweating, steam rising. These are the thoughts in my head:
(Song playing in my head while I jog: Some Time Alone, Alone by Melody’s Echo Chamber; click below to listen)
we resigned the light to someone/And handed to the righteous/We will walk into the right motion/Some time alone, alone to wonder/Change your mind and talk/Waiting around/
While everyone else is moving on and on, and talk Continue reading
fuck…shit…grr!!…gddmn….ugh!!….I swear to…..goddamn!!!! The hell is wrong with this stupid….ughhh!!!…………………….okay…I’m done.
I’m in a sad room with pale cubicles and fluorescent lights sucking the color out of the room, about to complete the GRE General exam.
You have the choice to accept or decline your scores. If you click “accept”, they will stay in your exam history and will be visible to the schools you wish to send them to. If you decline, they will be deleted, unable to be recovered.
(defeated sigh) Sure
I see my score.
I grab the computer monitor and rip it out of the desk, pulling and ripping out its power cords and cables. I yell all of my frustrations, letting out the loudest Fuck You my lungs can let out. That is what plays out in my head. I get up and quietly leave the room. There are other people in this room, also taking exams, and I don’t wish to disturb them.
I’ve studied all of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and can read them fluently . I can quote Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell. I have a working template for my Statement of Purpose. I also know what the word enjambment means.
I think…that means…I can take a break.
I still haven’t figured out the whole PhD application process yet, but the best advice I can give is that whatever you need to do to stay level, keep doing that. It’s a strenuous process- we all need to continue doing whatever it is to keep us healthy, sane, and grounded. Some people go to the gym, watch movies, cook, or go to the beach. Me, personally- I go to concerts 🙂 I love watching live music. The shows are great, the vibe is encouraging, and whether I’m with a group, a friend, or even by myself, it always does a great job centering me.