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.
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.
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.