That Pesky Past

November 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

I don’t even know where to begin to try to verbalize where my head has been the past few days. Deadlines for PhD apps, the GRE, etc. are all coming up incredibly quickly and I’ve been a huge coward, pretending like if I ignore them they’ll go away, which has put me weeks behind where I should be right now. The truth of the matter is that I’m a huge coward. I blame myself for everything and the few times I let myself hope, let myself try again, let myself risk anything and it goes badly, then I beat myself up over and over again, vowing that I’ll never try again.

I was going through my old flickr page (because a number of my old flickr friends have been pushing for a new photo blog) and I found this photo and entry:


in retrospect, doing a bridge off the seat of a rocking chair wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, but creativity is running low these days. this was my third take, and considering how much blood was rushing to my head, I think three pictures were two too many. I think the idea stemmed from my inner frustrations right now, like I’m contorted into all different directions or like I don’t know which way is up anymore. I’ve forgotten how to stand up straight, stand up tall.

got my last rejection letter today, so I’m looking at a forced year off. I haven’t felt this defeated in a long time. I tried to go for a run, but the whole time I just wanted to lay down on the lushest grass I could find and wake up after my life sorts itself out. my lease is up on june 1st, so it looks like I’m going to move by then. where to? no idea. wherever alec wants to go, I guess. so long as it’s not in the southeast, I don’t care where we go. it’s a good time to get out of here, start over, catch up on all the things I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t.

the list:
-read for pleasure
-get back in the studio
-ride horses regularly
-and hang out with my animals more

it’s a short list, I suppose, but those are the things I miss most that I haven’t done in the four years I’ve been busting my ass in undergrad. and for what? nothing. I have absolutely nothing to show for that work. so now, a year off. at least I have alec, and the girls, and a family that loves me.
I’m so glad I didn’t lose them along the way.

I remember sitting in the car crying, holding that last rejection letter, feeling my aspirations circling the drain. It’s so weird being back in the same position, writing applications again and hoping against hope that just one place will accept me. What’s funny and perhaps a touch poetic about that flickr entry is I didn’t do any of that “short list” above. I’ve made five pieces of art in the last two years. I haven’t ridden a horse since college. I do read on occasion for pleasure, and I suppose I spend a decent amount of time with the girls, but I still feel like I should be doing more. Obviously, I lost alec along the way, but I know I did what was best for me, so I won’t dwell on that.

What I am dwelling on is my current spinelessness. I’m so afraid of what I see as the inevitable — the rejection letters all over again — that I can’t even start my applications, which is just going to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll write them very last minute and thus trash any slim chances I had of getting into a program. Feelings of being directionless and powerless are overwhelming. A number of professors I initially contacted about doing prospective student interviews have emailed me back, asking when a good time to talk is, but I’ve ignored the emails because I’m too afraid to call them, too afraid to feel like an idiot again. What would I do, anyway, if I did get into Stanford, or UPenn, or any of the other schools? Who am I to say that I deserve a sacred spot in one of the top programs in the country? Confidence is key, kids, and this girl is seriously lacking confidence.

My lack of backup plan is disturbing as well, and a further example of my own cowardice. Is it weird that I’m feeling contentment in Birmingham? I think it’s just fear, that I’m afraid of venturing out into the world again, of having to continue the struggle for an unknown amount of time. Birmingham is incredibly easy. Cheap, familiar, small. I view the PhD program as a bit of a security blanket, as a period in time where I don’t have to worry about money (stipends, bitches!) or moving again or if I’m going to lose my job. I’ll be stable, tied to a particular location and activity, connected to a certain group of people for about 5 years. That’s so desirable to me right now. I want that, I want to be in one place and get comfortable. I’m just so exhausted from moving all the time, from things always being in a state of flux or change or disruption, from constantly trying to plan for a future that I can’t predict. I want to get somewhere and just sit.  Is it laziness? Maybe. But I’ve been going full speed for literally years, constantly taking on multiple things at once, biting off way more than I can chew, and working myself into the ground. I’m tired. I don’t want to settle anywhere permanently, but it sure would be nice to not have to move every year. I’m just exhausted, I don’t know how else to put it. Not getting into a PhD program this time around is really going to be a bad news bears kind of day.

How about another picture (this is from my senior year in college, as the photo entry above is)? I leave you with this, a self-portrait I made that I think expands on the idea expressed above, about feeling totally disoriented and out of sorts. Thank god for gravity, eh?


Addendum: So I read a bit of my brother’s blog, just because I was thinking about him earlier today when talk of siblings came up. People are always surprised that I have a brother, though for some reason they always assume I have siblings. I guess they just think that my siblings are much older since I so rarely talk about them, or him, as the case may be. Anyway, most of my brother’s blog is disinteresting to me, though it is significantly more creative writing than my “whine-athon” entries. In my defense, my daily life is fairly creative and I use my blog in a therapeutic “thought vomit” kind of way. He had an entry that I skimmed through about looking back on his college days, when he had these great friends who he did crazy things with. Life was spontaneous, exciting, inspiring. He feels a distinct and lasting affection for those years of his life, those people he became close to. I don’t have that at all. I spent so much time building my resume, taking extra classes, and focusing on getting into a PhD program that I didn’t really make friends. I didn’t do anything crazy, I wasn’t inspired or excited. I don’t have crazy stories from my college days. I spent all my time trying to fulfill the expectations my parents set for me, that I set for myself. I spent all my time pursuing job opportunities, internships, academic honors. Alec was my only real social interaction outside of family, and at least half the time, he wasn’t even that interested in seeing me. I worked so hard, I sacrificed so much, and for what? My resume is a piece of paper, meaningless and temporal. There is little that is lasting about it. I try not to think about all the years I spent building it, all the summer vacations I gave up so I could take more classes, do an internship, take on something else that I thought would help me get into a PhD program. My life is a piece of paper that can’t even get me a decent job in a museum or into a PhD program at a top-tier school. We can never go back. I made my choices, my college years will never be a fond memory for me. I have no more nostalgia for that time in my life than I do for my childhood. There is little in my past that I want to return to, and there is little in my past that I actually enjoyed. It’s going to be a sad day if it turns out that I made all the wrong choices. Alive for the first time, alive for the last time. We all do what we can and that’s all we can do.


§ 2 Responses to That Pesky Past

  • I admire your tenacity. And courage. And intelligence. And your unusual ability to take responsibility for your own choices. I believe history will show they have been good ones. I believe you will overcome all the “can’t do’s,” obstacles, and disappointments. Just not as soon as you might have hoped. Learning to cope with rejection and struggle may be the best education of all.

  • Joanna says:

    I love your pictures. They totally tell a story! 🙂

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