Sunday, September 2, 2007

Talk to me.

My default course of action, no matter the situation, is to gather information. Knowing more about something can never hurt, right? If I have perfect information, I can anticipate all consequences and be confident in the perfection of my own response.

As the amount of times I used a variant of the word "perfect" in the preceding sentence might indicate, this so-called course of "action" amounts to procrastination, the M.O. of those afflicted by crippling perfectionism (hi!).

This is enough of a pathology on its own. My problem is, given a critical mass of evidence, I tend to resolve myself to whatever course of action "feels right," which is often congruent with assuming whatever I really really want to happen will happen. And, stupidly, for several significant life decisions this has worked out okay. I applied early to Better Than U for undergrad, had a good feeling about my chances even though it's a complete crap shoot for ALL students, and after I got my acceptance notice in mid-December it thankfully no longer mattered that I had not started a single application to other schools. This summer I stumbled upon a job opening that I had reason to believe I was an excellent candidate for, and despite the disturbingly excessive length of the search and hire process, I thought to myself, "what's the point of writing all those cover letters and redoing your résumé to send to a bunch of positions you're nowhere near as enthusiastic about? It makes so much sense for them to give you this job. They will!" And they... did.

I know, poor baby. But bear with me for a moment while I work through my issues.

I can maintain my perfectionist street cred because my refusal to do any real work in pursuit of Plans B once I've put all my eggs in one big-life-decision basket does not in any way keep me from worrying about my lack of work done on behalf of alternatives. I spent endless time from junior year of high school on, obsessing about which schools to apply to, reading the Fiske guide, honing my list of colleges according to constantly-evolving Perfection Criteria. Then Better Than U emerged as a first choice, and my gut told me this was it. Which did nothing to stop me from worrying about the essays I did not want to write (and didn't) and audition tapes I did not want to record (and didn't) for other schools while I awaited BTU's decision. And as the hiring cycle for This Job dragged on and on, I would check BTU's HR website, constantly finding other suitable openings for which I reeeeally did not want to submit applications. Once I have my ideal situation in mind, I make bad faith overtures toward preparing for the worst-case scenario without actually applying myself, unless you count the stress and obsessing.

This, as you may already have been thinking, is stupid. Really stupid. The wisest thing would probably be to prepare my back-ups more concretely. And if I'm not going to do any triage work, I should get the fuck over myself and at least be a little carefree about it.

I know this, intellectually.

But. Here in front of me, we have graduate school. Hi, graduate school! You look fulfilling and benign here from my not-in-graduate-school vantage point. Anyway, again it seems like I've stumbled into a pretty sweet situation, through no effort of my own. First of all, BTU's department in my discipline is excellent for my interests. I did not realize this until, by sheer dumb luck, I came upon Big-Deal-particularly-in-Subfield-of-Interest Advisor Guy my senior year. I wrote my senior thesis with him, he liked it, and he seems to have my back in all things admissions. Also by sheer dumb luck, three years ago I also happened upon Also-a-Big-Deal-in-the-Discipline Awesome Mentor Woman, long before I knew the first thing about what I might want out of advanced academic study (if I wanted advanced academic study), much less what discipline in which to pursue my all-over-the-place interests. She let me into one of her graduate seminars as a lowly sophomore, which I appreciate even though I felt like I didn't really belong there and was intimidated as all hell by the grad students, and she has been a wonderful intellectual and personal support the entire time I've known her. She's also, naturally, in my corner for admissions; that's just the kind of person she is.

Leaving the it's-likely-I'll-get-in thing aside, there are other compelling reasons for me to stay here. I like BTU City; if I enroll next fall I know I'll still have social support around, since one of my roommates is staying at least another year, too; my one-of-a-kind music teacher is here, and I do not want to give up the seriousness with which I study singing just yet. And, like I said, BTU's department looks unique in terms of what it can offer me as a student in Subfield. I already know I have productive working relationships with Advisor Guy and Awesome Mentor Woman. It can't really be this fucking easy for me again, can it?

Of course it can't. I wouldn't let it, natch.

In practical terms this means I end up talking to a lot of grad students. I could, you know, study for the GRE or start writing my personal statement or even attempt to contact some professors in my field at the other departments I was looking at earlier in the summer, before I concluded that BTU is where it's at. But, nah! I talk to BTU's graduate students. I talk to them and ask them questions about applying to grad school, this department, its culture, blah blah blah. All of that conversation is useful, and pretty pleasant, too. But what I'm really looking for is for people to tell me that given my situation, no, it's not the most ill-advised thing in the world to apply to only one department, (presumably) get in, and go on my merry way.

And you know? That's pretty much what I've gotten. It is going to be that easy for me, apparently(?). Maybe. Again.

And if it isn't, I can only hope all this information I'm gathering will cushion the fall for which I'm so richly due.

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Reductionism who in the what now?