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.
That is what I want to do. I want to write the words that will guide the waters away from fear, towards goodwill, hope, and what’s right.
That was the final thought I had in my last blog post while sitting on a park bench. Today, I’m sitting at a desk, grading stacks of essays. At that time, I was teaching a composition class during the winter quarter (sometime during the months of January and February). Teaching this class….was brutal. Three-hour class sessions, meeting
I oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice; stir; pour into chilled glass (over ice or straight up); zest orange peel into drink, then add as garnish
four days a week. Every evening consisted of me and a small mountain of work. Technically, I’m writing, and, technically, this is the job I’ve always wanted, teaching students about writing and exposing them to great authors. Yet, it doesn’t take much to remind me that this is a job, which means you wake up, go to work, go home once you’re done, then do it all over again the next day. I don’t know if Faulkner or Melville ever found themselves in this position. What I do know is that one thing we three have in common is that we knew we had opinions and wanted to write about them. (well, they did- I just write in a silly blog) Near the end of that semester, I heard about Paul Auster, one of my favorite authors (as mentioned in one of my first blog posts) doing a public speaking event in San Francisco. On the train ride home, carrying another pile of essays to grade, I thought, You know….maybe this is just what I need. Maybe letting my thoughts ruminate away from all of this for a bit can help me put this semester into perspective, putting away this existential dread. Shortly after, I bought a plane ticket, an AirBnB (my last AirBnB, if I may be glib for a second), and took off. Once I was on the plane, I thought to myself, Teaching this course made me really value time and learning how to pack as much in a day as possible. This is a post on my three days in San Francisco.
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.
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.
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.
Courtney Barnett @ Sonic Boom Records. Saw this show while studying in UW- so good!
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.