Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happily Ever After

It has been a while since I have sorted through my thoughts in this space. It seems that short Facebook “status updates” have relegated these longer blog posts to big fixes rather than daily maintenance issues. And there are some things that I can filter to specific audiences on Facebook that I cannot say in a blog post that is open to everyone and anyone. But I am getting to the point that I just don’t care anymore. Much of my life is an open book – and maybe someday, if I can ever get to that place mentally and physically – it will become a book. Those who have taken the time to read what I have written over the recent past know what a mess my personal life became, know what kind of pressure cooker my professional life is and knows that all of it entails more drama than I ever wanted in my life. I am wondering what my limit is. I am thinking the edge must be near, however I am painfully aware that I will never know how close the edge is until I have gone over it.

I am in the second half of my third year of a Ph.D. program at Louisiana State University (LSU). I still wonder how the hell I ever got in here, but those who made the decision thought I was worthy, smart enough, that I would add to the program and cohort… something. I was suppose to have finished my MA at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) by the end of summer in 2011, before I actually went to Baton Rouge for my first semester at LSU. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a love affair with my girlfriend who would become a long-distance girlfriend who would become a long-distance fiancĂ© who would become a long-distance wife who would become a long-distance ex-wife – all in about three years and none it due to the “long-distance” part of it – combined with my tendency to do things by myself and push myself out to the very limits of feasibility, I didn’t actually finish my MA until I was almost done with my first year at LSU in spring 2012. I was going to write a thesis as my culminating experience for my MA, but I ended up forcing myself into a corner that only allowed time to take comprehensive exams to get my degree in time. I was on my last extension at LSU.

I wanted to write a thesis because that’s what I am good at. I can research, gather sources and compile them, blend them, analyze them, gain insight and clearly explain it and then, if necessary (as I would for a thesis defense) present what I found. However, I am not very good at estimating my ability to handle multiple and very different tasks (such as personal and professional) at once, not very good at responding to the world as presented as opposed to the world as I wish it to be and I can’t remember shit. This last part has been one of my primary deficiencies; it has been a huge handicap for most of my adult life and probably before. So why is this a problem? Well, to get a Ph.D. almost anywhere, I have to not only write a dissertation, but before that I have to take another set of comprehensive exams. Everyone tells me “you got this,” or it’s just a “rite of passage” or “nobody fails comps” or other words to that effect. But there are three professors at CSUS who know better. I barely passed my comps there. Barely.

In my defense, and those three professors might say so as well, I was very poorly positioned to study for my exams. However, that, too, was my fault for a couple of reasons. First, I overestimated my ability to perform at the necessary level at LSU and finish an MA at CSUS. Second, I pushed myself into a corner in which it became necessary – and let’s not fool ourselves, I was at the 11th hour, it was do or die. Added to all of that, and perhaps part of the reason for all of that, I was madly, deeply in love with someone who would turn out to be the devil in disguise. Again, no one to blame but myself, but if I am to assess my current situation accurately, it is important to assess the past accurately, as well. While the personal bullshit is behind me, the remnants, primarily in the form of resentment, remain. And I have 15 hours of comprehensive exams coming up in about a month. I am also taking classes and teaching two. If it sounds a lot like that spring semester two years ago, well it does to me, too. Except the ante is much higher this time.

And I still can’t remember shit, even under the best of circumstances. How do I know? Most of my cohort has already gone through comps. I have an advantage in that I can glean from them their experience and even get an idea of what my questions will look like. I got some of that yesterday. Some of the questions my advisor asked were along the lines of what he told me to study for – and I have been. One question in particular is something that I will likely be asked. It is something I just got finished reading about, something I have had more than a couple of classes on, something that I should be able to give a semi-coherent answer on right now. I mean, I just fucking read it. But without referring to the sources I can’t. I can’t remember who said what, I can’t remember when they said it or what the temporal context is, nothing. And this is not even under the pressure of the examination room where I will have only myself, a computer that is not connected to the Internet and a headful of “I can’t remember.” 

On top of all that, I am getting too old for this shit. I need to get on with my life. If I can get through the comprehensive exams, I am much more confident that I can write a good dissertation in a year and get my Ph.D. Then I get to start looking for a job, will probably have to move somewhere new again and start all over. Again. But it can be the last time; it can be the horizon finally. Maybe I can finally “settle down” whatever that means. But the fucked up part of that is I like where I am. Before all the drama that came down from my engagement/marriage/divorce, I used to like where I was… I don’t want to have to learn to like where I am all over again. If that sounds like future tripping, it is. If it sounds like whining, it probably is that, too, but I am not a fucking kid who can just go where the wind blows me. How I wish I could. Everything is upside down, everything is all fucked up, but everything looks so good. It’s not. I often wonder if “happily ever after” ever happens. I guess my story will end where it ends. It’s not over yet, happily or otherwise.