February 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
I suppose my biggest struggle in going home will be fighting a feeling of shame. I have been very vocal about how little I respect all the kids who graduated from college and moved home because they “couldn’t get a job” or who got a job but still live at home because they like not having responsibilities and a lot of spending money. I have no patience for these people. Get a job. Move the fuck out of your parents’ house. Stand on your own two feet. Be an adult.
So I feel a bit of shame when I tell people that I’m moving back home, even if it is temporarily. I want to emphasize that I was a success, not a failure, that I had a job and was enrolled in an MA program and had a great apartment on Capitol Hill but that I made the *choice* to go home. I don’t have to go home because of money or emotional need or laziness. I don’t have to go home at all. But I’m making the choice to go home. I’m choosing to go home at this juncture in life because I feel it will give me the time and opportunity to really get down to business on my PhD applications. I have no intention of staying with my parents, and I’ll know this time next year if I got into PhD or not, so I’ll know if I need to start applying to jobs or not. This is temporary. This was my choice, not something I was forced to do. I am doing it for all the right reasons. Yet I still feel like a failure.
I’m combating this in two ways. Firstly, I’m not telling everyone that I’m moving home, instead I’m just telling the people I really respect. They’re the ones who will most understand why I am doing it, and will assure me that they know I’m not going home because I “couldn’t make it” on my own in the big city or in grad school. I owned that shit. They all know I came here with no job and no place to live, but that I made it happen for myself. I got a job within two weeks of being here. I got an apartment within a month of being here. I changed jobs until I found the best one that suited my needs. I got into grad school and I kicked ass at it. They understand I am going home for the right reasons. Selective telling is helpful because it filters out the bullshit responses I could be getting from people I don’t much care about. People I respect understand and appreciate what I’m doing so I should not feel ashamed.
Secondly, I’m changing my look. That sounds superficial, but in Lady World, it can have a huge impact on how a woman feels about herself. I’ve done a first round of clearing out my closet of all the things that don’t fit or that I don’t wear. I need to do another round, though. I bought some new clothes to fill the gaps in my wardrobe, new clothes that will make me feel more like the woman I want to be, someone elegant and stylish but still casual. My new make-up, too, is simple but effective. I want to feel attractive and mature. I want to look like I’m a successful human being who is “going places.” I want to feel better about myself. I would like a new hairstyle to go with this, but I get nervous about cutting my hair because it can (and has!) go so wrong.
Took some photos of my baby steps into fashion adulthood. I bought my first pair of shorts in five years last night and I have been trying to build enough confidence in myself so that when spring comes I’ll actually wear them. They are very comfortable, as are all the new clothes I’m buying. I’m getting rid of everything that is uncomfortable because there’s simply no reason to be uncomfortable in your clothes. So here goes.
with pumps on. (they help me feel and look more sophisticated)
no shoes, less confident. shorter, stubbier.
no cardigan and bad posture! I’ll work on it. also, I should probably work on my facial expressions because I look a bit blase or deer-in-headlights in these pictures. building confidence one stone at a time! it’s slow going, I guess.
I will try to post more outfit pictures in the coming weeks in an effort to reshape myself in appearance so emotionally I’ll start to believe it before I make the big move home. I have nothing to be ashamed of and my actions are not hypocritical, especially since while I’m living next door to my parents I’ll be studying my ass off for the GRE and taking French language courses at one of the local universities. And painting. I should really paint. One of my very good friends invited me to do some volunteer activities on the weekends with him as well, so I’ll be active! No sitting on my laurels for this girl! So that makes me feel better. Baby steps, folks, baby steps.
Oh, and just if you’re curious, here are the haircuts I’ve been considering for about a year now (I’ve also been toying with an Emma Watson-style pixie cut, but I know I would hate it if I did it):
Of course it’s important to remember that my hair texture is very different than the hair texture of these ladies, and I don’t have a professional stylist to do my hair every day… I like the angled cut of the bottom picture, though. Last time I cut my hair that short, I got it cut straight across and I h.a.t.e.d. it. An angled cut like that with bangs might help me feel less like a 12 yr old and more like a mature, stylish adult. Ah, we’ll see!
February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
So it’s pretty much a done deal: I’m withdrawing from grad school at GW, quitting my job, and moving back home to live in a cottage next to my parent’s house in Alabama.
I don’t feel that bad about withdrawing from grad school, surprisingly. I feel a lot better about not having $50,000 in debt, that’s for sure. And almost everyone I’ve talked to seem confident that leaving a Master’s program early won’t affect my application for PhD programs, especially since I’m leaving for financial reasons and not for academic reasons (cause let’s face it — I rocked grad school hard core).
My biggest concern is that I won’t learn enough of German and French to really improve my application. I’m planning on taking an Intro to French class at Alliance Francaise and a Scholarly Reading in German class at the Goethe Institut here in DC before I move home at the end of June. Hopefully I can complete the classes in May and June, but they haven’t released the summer schedules yet so I can’t confirm. The courses are pretty cheap too, less than $400 each, so I’ll actually be able to afford that!
Theoretically, I’m supposed to be getting a raise in April (? supposedly? we didn’t get an inflation raise at the start of the new year and I’m actually making less money now than I was making last year because of tax increases, so I’m hoping I’ll get a raise on my one-year anniversary with the company… cause damn) so hopefully that’ll help a bit. I’d like to beef up my savings account a bit more and pay off my credit card (as much as possible……) before I move home. The biggest issue is the $700 moving van. dunno what to do about that. And I need to buy a new bed either in DC or immediately when I get to Alabama.
So that’s all done and settled. My mom is *super* excited about me coming home, a lot more excited than I was expecting. I think Dad will be happy to have me around. I feel bad because whenever we’ve talked in the last few years (……since I got to college basically, so like 6 years?) all I do is complain. Hopefully we can change that since we’ll be seeing each other more often. Also, I’m going to try to get the fam to teach me to cook! Since I’m clearly incapable. So it’s all coming together…
The complication is Alec, I guess. He mentioned yesterday that he’s thinking about moving home too, which is exactly what I didn’t want for him. He’s got so much potential that he’s finally realizing, being out of the house and away from his friends and working at a great job. He could do so much more, and I’m worried that moving home would just put him back. He needs to learn to stand on his own feet, take care of himself on his own, and he’s not going to do that if he moves home. His friends don’t have jobs, his mom will probably let him just move in with her again, he’ll just settle back into his old ways. He’ll lose his ambition. I thought me leaving him would be this huge opportunity for him to really figure out who he is as an adult, but him moving home won’t help him at all. I know he would be happier temporarily if he moved home, but I’m worried in the long-term he’ll regret it.
I was also hoping to have some serious space between us after the breakup. Both of us moving back to Alabama at the end of June just was not what I had in mind. But I guess what it’s forcing me to confront is if I really want to try to be friends with him post-breakup or not. He’s my best friend now, so it’s nearly unbearable to think about life without him, but how healthy is to keep things up between us? But I know the girls would like to see him on occasion, so if we were in the same state that would help. Cleo really loves him, they’re really cute together. And it would be good to see him. But I can’t really picture hanging out with Alec and not having things like they are now. That’s the problem with never having an official first date — we just kind of starting hanging out and then eventually started calling it dating. There wasn’t really a defining event that made us switch from friends to a couple, so it’s confusing trying to think of him in a context different than what I know him in. Whatever. Add this to shit I don’t need to be thinking about right now. My mantra needs to be “PhD, PhD, PhD.”
Leaving DC is going to be reallllllly painful. I love it so much here! And I cringe whenever I think of Alabama. Damn me and my liberal mentality. But DC also has far more opportunities for well, ANYTHING, in comparison to Alabama. Just trying to find places to take language courses in Alabama was a challenge. There’s no interesting food there, no arts scene worth noting, certainly no Rembrandts to go visit, and no nearby cities for a minibreak (besides Atlanta). But all those things would just be distractions anyway, right? Distracting me from my studies and my commitment to PhD PhD PhD. I’m sure the total lack of internet on the mountain will help keep me on track as well.
Seeing my family will be great. I’ll make my visit home about family and studying. That’s it. And BBQ. And maybe I’ll start painting again. I really want to. No work. Still a terrifying thought…
February 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
So I seem to be denying the things that are most upsetting me about this …situation.
First and foremost, I simply feel betrayed, painfully disappointed. I feel like I put in all this work and got very little out of it because now it seems like everything I’ve committed the last five years of my life to has been mostly a total waste.
4+ years of trying to keep my relationship together is finally coming to an end because my boyfriend couldn’t fix things on his end.
Apparently all the work I did in college — part-time job, internship, double major, honors thesis, and certificate in museum studies — really doesn’t matter that much.
The last few months I’ve been in school, working on my Master’s and trying to really shine as a student has been overlooked. No one cares that I have the best grades in my class. No one cares how much I’ve done to try and turn the student gallery around. No one cares that I carry the discussions in most, if not all, of my classes. No one cares.
The last year at work has likewise been fruitless. I’ve been busting my ass, I’ve been biting my tongue, I’ve been trying to get excited about the new direction of our project. No one cares. No one notices.
I’ve been passed over for a number of things in my life. In high school, I was passed over for the department award. My teachers wouldn’t tell me why.
I was rejected from every PhD program I applied to when I was a senior in college. No one could tell me why.
I only got High Honors on my thesis in college but no one would tell me why I didn’t get Highest. My advisor said it was because I didn’t use any sources in a non-English language (I was working on American art about an American sitter… everything I found was in English). One of the professors who sat on my committee was going to write me an email about why my paper didn’t earn Highest Honors, but I guess she never got around to it. I asked her if I had more time to edit, would it have done better, and she said no.
I have thus far been rejected for every fellowship I’ve applied for. The most I could get out of my advisor is that there is “nothing I could do to make my application better” and that there are a “whole host of factors” that have nothing to do with my application at all.
No one will tell me why I’m so often passed over. I don’t know how it keeps happening so I don’t know how to fix it.
I keep thinking that maybe I’m just not smart enough and that’s why I keep getting turned down for things. But I’m definitely doing better than my peers in my current Master’s program, and at Emory I was on Dean’s List my last four semesters.
I think what it comes down to is that I’m just not enough of an original and creative mind. I can get by, I can do well in class, I can ask good questions sometimes, but overall, I’m smart but I’m not interesting. That’s why I’m deathly afraid that I won’t get into a PhD program this time around either, because I’m just not a *creative* enough academic. I’m worried that if I leave my Master’s program, I’ll never get in anywhere. I’m worried that leaving the program for financial reasons, then going home to sit in the woods to study French and German just won’t be a good enough way to spend another year off from school.
If I don’t get into a PhD program this round, what will my life be? I will have given up on my Master’s degree. I will have given up my job. I won’t even have alec around to talk to and to make me laugh. I will be alone with nothing but a long list of things I did that didn’t matter. I won’t even be able to move somewhere else because I won’t have an income for a year, and you know people rarely get hired when they’ve been unemployed for a while. I’ve been spending the last six years of my life planning for a career that is impossible to have without a PhD. I have nothing else to offer.
This is where I’ll very likely be spending the next year of my life. Essentially, in retreat.
Retreat has a couple relevant connotations to my situation. Retreat refers both to a designated time for rest, recuperation, meditation, and to a cowardly abandonment of an unwinnable situation.
I refuse to stay at GW if they won’t give me financial aid. A Master’s degree from them is not worth $50,000. It is an unwinnable situation.
I refuse to stay at my current job if my boss won’t give me the respect I have earned. $35,000 a year at a company where I will never be able to move up in isn’t worth it. It is an unwinnable situation.
I refuse to stay in a relationship with a man who doesn’t give me what I need to be happy, no matter how clearly I ask for it. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. It is an unwinnable situation.
So I’m retreating. Is it cowardly? Or is it simply a set time for meditation and rest?
Can I give up everything I have worked for in the hopes that a year off will not doom my future to hell?
What will I do if I don’t get into a PhD program? I am risking so much by quitting all three of my unwinnable situations. I am not usually such a gambler and I find it terrifying on multiple levels. But staying in unwinnable situations isn’t exactly healthy, is it.
How can I make people understand that I didn’t retreat because I failed, but instead because I was simply unhappy? If you choose to bail, don’t you get some credit for that? Or is the very act of retreat an act of swallowing one’s pride since even the people who know the details will think that you bailed out in cowardice or because you just weren’t good enough to cut it.
I haven’t had time for rest, recuperation, or meditation in years. Literally years. The last “vacation” I took was a business trip extended by one day. Don’t I deserve some time off, some time to rest?
But is that rest going to be worth it if it completely ruins my life?
How do I decide and how can I be sure I’m making the right decision? Perhaps more importantly, how can I know I’ll be okay if things don’t work out? How can I not blame myself for ruining my own life.
But I guess that’s always the question, isn’t it?
February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Had a good, long (well, 30 min) talk with my dad. He wants me to move back home and live on the family compound, to spent my next year studying in the quiet of the country. To spend a year not working.
Honestly, it’s a terrifying, yet strangely appealing option. I’ve been working since I turned 15. Literally. When I wasn’t working I was in school or doing an internship. I’m a consumer, so having no income really freaks me out. It’s not that I’m a thoughtless consumer, I’m definitely not, but I love collecting art and buying new furniture. I like having beautiful things, handmade things, old things. No income. Hey, Mom, can I have $20? It’s scary. Terrifying. Totally repellent. But I have no other source for money. Allowance, Mom and Dad? How do I justify the need for a new dress so I’ll feel prettier? These are the issues that made me most uncomfortable in high school, which is partly why I got a job in the first place.
There’s also the issue of where I would live. Dad has offered me his and mom’s house, but I really prefer an indoor bathroom and shower. And I’d really prefer not going up to the “big house” (my grandmother’s house up on the hill from my parents’ house) to shower in the winter time. But I know the family has been considering building a new addition to the compound, so maybe it’s possible. I’m hoping for taller ceilings personally, but one can’t be too picky when it’s not my house and I’m not paying for it. Drywall walls would also be nice so I could hang my artwork, but I’m not sure if that’s possible either. Low ceilings and blank walls make me really claustrophobic for some reason, so I’m trying to be conscious of that without being demanding.
This situation is kind of funny, because I’m always jealous whenever I think of people “back in the day,” rich people anyway, who did nothing but sit around and read all day. There are so many books I want to read or reread, but no energy or time to do it. Wouldn’t it be a peaceful existence, staying out in the country in a cozy little one-room cottage, doing little more than read and write all day? It would just be me and the girls, and maybe I would have coffee with my mother in the mornings, tea in the afternoon with my grandmother and great grandmother, evening wine with my aunt? Maybe we could build a fence for cleo so she can spend some time outside. It’s so romantic really. A back porch facing the woods… The fatty (my old housecat) would just like a window sill with sunshine.
My biggest concern is the lack of arts and libraries in Alabama. My assignment during this time off would be to do some serious academic work including trying to get published. But how can I do that without internet, access to Jstor, and libraries? A conundrum indeed. Life without Jstor is a terrifying thought… of course, not as terrifying as life without internet.
I have emailed UAB about French and German courses, so we’ll see what they have to offer. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to pay for that either. Can I live with myself if I let my parents take care of me for a year? A serious question to consider. I know they would probably just be happy to be able to see me more than twice a year.
Dad will tutor me on the GRE.
I suppose I need to be strategic in how I leave GW, though. I’ll need to secure teacher recommendations for my PhD applications, so I can’t just burn all my bridges. Ah, diplomacy.
Of course, there’s still the possibility that GW will suddenly find funds that they would be willing to offer me in the form of financial assistance, but dad has made some good points about the weak spots in my application. Leaving DC will be very hard for me. I love it here. I’m spoiled. Thinking of leaving all the Rembrandts, Monets, and Van Goghs absolutely breaks my heart. I love seeing the Capitol building every day. I love not worrying about driving (I have an increasing fear of other drivers, but also I fear that I will accidentally kill someone with my own car. life = over). I love knowing how much is going on in the city, even if I don’t go to anything. I love the unique little neighborhoods, I love the parks, I love all the tree-lined sidewalks. I love catching a glimpse of the president’s motorcade. I love the feeling of history mixing with feelings of change, hopes for the future mixing with memories of the past. I’ve really loved living in DC. It was hard enough thinking about leaving for graduate school. Leaving now, so soon… you’d think I was talking about a lover! I love all the diversity here. Alabama is just white and black to me, and mostly uneducated at that. I know, it’s only for a year… and it would definitely help me fill the gaps in my application. It’s a solid option, that’s for sure. But there are many details that need to be worked out before I make any decisions. And I have some time, a couple months during which I can weigh my options. Should I stay or should I go…
February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
So it’s game plan time.
Option 1: Plan like I’m going to stay in the program. Register for summer courses. Can cancel them with a full tuition refund before May 20th. Last year I heard about my fellowship in May, so that may work out timing-wise.
Option 2: Do the paperwork to withdraw from the program at the end of the semester. Cancel summer loan request.
If I leave school:
Option 1: Stay at my current job, stay in DC.
Option 2: Get a new job (already have a list of ones I’m considering), stay in DC.
Option 3: Get a new job, move somewhere else.
Really I suppose before I make any big decisions about school, I need to talk to some admissions people or faculty at the schools I’ll be applying to for PhD to see if leaving my Master’s program will dramatically negatively affect my application. If they think it will be a negative effect, then I guess maybe the $50,000 will be worth it… I’m hoping they’ll understand my financial situation and realize that having an assload of debt really isn’t healthy for anyone, for their education or not.
So that’s step one.
There really isn’t any harm in applying to new jobs. I don’t have to take them if I get offered anything, and it’s always good to consider other opportunities.
Another option to consider is leaving DC. There are some significant downsides to this. If I get into a PhD program, I’ll be moving in another year anyway, so I’d probably be moving just to move again. That’s expensive and kind of a pain in the ass. Learning a new city just to move again. But you could make the argument that I could move to the city where my top choice grad school is, so then I can be really involved with the department while they’re evaluating my application. I would have to pick a number one school though.
My parents want me to move home. It makes sense. It would be a lot cheaper (SOMUCHCHEAPEROMG) and there would be someone there to intervene if I got suicidal, so that would be handy. But it would be another wasted year of my life probably, because there are so few (like….zero) jobs in Birmingham that are art-related. But it would be really nice to spend some time with my family. And the cost of living is ridiculously cheap there. I could save a LOT of money, even if I don’t get a super-great paying job. I could probably temp and still afford an apartment and afford to save some money. Sometimes I really talk myself in to going back home.
The biggest downside to moving home, besides finding an enjoyable, arts-related job, would be not having a car. I don’t want a car. I like taking the train. I hate having to worry about gas, changing the oil, repairs, etc. Hate hate hate hate. There just isn’t a way to get around without a car in Birmingham, and I have to consider things like groceries, getting to work, etc. My parents would probably lend me a car, but I hate to be a burden on them (I know they won’t see it that way, but moving home is hard enough for me). I also wonder if I’ll be able to get an apartment without having proof of employment, but considering rent is so low there (average apt is about $450/mo with a mere $250 deposit) I wonder if that’s even necessary.
Moving back to Alabama
Pros: lots and lots of time with my family, significantly cheaper cost of living, could save some money, could intern at the BMA, lots of time with one of my favorite people from high school, could move back sooner than later because I have enough money to pay rent for a few months (so I can get a job once I’m there, not before I move back)
Cons: it’s Alabama, would be another year working at a pointless job, probably would make less money, lack of intellectual stimulation, would have to get a car, would have to travel much farther to visit PhD programs
Staying in DC
Pros: it’s DC!, loads of intellectual stimulation, public transportation, I’m already here, closer to PhD programs (for campus visits)
Cons: loneliness (no alec, no family), stress of staying at my current job or getting a new one, super expensive, safety issues (not excited about living alone here)
So I guess just in writing this, I’ve ruled out moving somewhere besides Alabama. It just wouldn’t be worth it to totally relocate to a brand new place when I’m not sure I’ll be there for more than a year. Wanted to move to the beach, but maybe not practical. I’d have to get rental insurance anyway, which would be another expense. Anyway, guess my options are stay in school and take on $50,000 worth of debt, withdraw and stay in DC (probably looking for a new job), or withdraw and move home.
Decisions, decisions. What would you do?
February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
things are almost 100% in the shitter.
1. I was turned down for another fellowship, the last major funding package I applied for. so I’ve applied for student loans for summer courses seeing as I will now be going down to part-time at school and full-time at work. or will I be? I’m actually considering just leaving the program. I’ve gotten the top grades in my class, I’m the only one who is committed to getting a PhD, and I’m clearly a valuable student to the university. so why am I not getting funding. that’s exactly what I’m going to talk to our dean about (the dean of the department, coincidentally named dean) next week. if they don’t give me some serious financial aid, I’m leaving the program. a measly Master’s degree from GW just isn’t worth the $45,000.00 worth of student loans I would have. if I leave now, I’ll just have $15,000. which sucks, but at least is manageable.
2. I’m looking for a new job because my boss has burned the bridge between us.
3. alec and I are splitting up in four months.
so I pretty much don’t have any kind of stability in my life right now. literally everything I have (school, work, relationship) is going in the toilet. it’s shocking really. I feel like I’m in shock. numb. disbelief. hopelessness. worthlessness. depression. FUCKING.AWESOME.
the bright side is that I can do whatever I want now and it won’t affect anything. I can move back home. I can move to california. who the fuck cares. my biggest concern is that I won’t get into a PhD program because I’m leaving my Master’s program halfway through. that’s unfortunate. but what else can I do. it just feels unreal, watching everything I’ve worked for totally fall to shambles. yeah, I’m certainly “to blame” for putting everything in the toilet, but a person can only work so hard before they realize they’re not at all getting what they want out of it.
I deserve to be recognized and supported by GW. I’m an excellent student. My professors all appreciate how active I am during class. I have made a huge effort (pretty much single-handedly) to improve the student gallery. I deserve to be funded.
I deserve to be recognized and supported at work. I bust my ass all the time and get ZERO recognition or thanks for it. I don’t think my boss/coworkers have any idea how much other shit I have to do outside of the office and how much I sacrifice by coming to work every day. I bust my ass and my boss rewards me by telling me I’m “unprofessional and have a bad attitude,” which is not only hypocritical considering how she acts in the office, but totally disregards me as a person and employee since she didn’t care at all why I had a “bad attitude” at work. I’m so done. so. done.
as for alec and I… he’s had more than enough time to fix things. he hasn’t. I’ve been totally honest, direct, and timely. what more can I do. I’m unsatisfied, and while that doesn’t mean I’m unhappy all the time (because I’m not!), it doesn’t mean that I should stay in a relationship either. it’s going to be exceptionally painful to have to live without him emotionally, and it’ll be somewhat painful too to live without him financially.
I deserve to be happy, don’t I? I deserve to get what I want, don’t I? especially when I’ve worked so hard for it?
I just feel heartbroken. and furious. really fucking furious.
depressed. feeling worthless. just wait for those PhD rejection letters.