Saturday, June 28, 2008


Things that make me sad:
  • having to go back to the DMV on Friday after I had already spent three and a half hours there Thursday
  • that my horrible boss used the slang "sweet" in an email, in a pathetically transparent attempt to ingratiate herself to one of the new, early-20s-aged staffpeople
  • breaking/chipping a tooth on a chicken bone and needing to go in for a mini-filling next week
  • summertime, both for the hot weather that makes me uncomfortable and for many of my friends' having skipped town, leaving me a hermit

Things that alleviate sadness somewhat:
  • that the Friday revisit to the DMV took less than an hour (shock)
  • planning to buy a Met ticket package with my friends for the upcoming season (yay opera! though the number of options is rather paralyzing)
  • that there's a university computer lab with air conditioning in which I can take refuge while I read some continental philosophy
And the hum of the various lights/air conditioning units/computer set-ups in the lab is pretty soothing, as well. Now, back to the books.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the deep freeze

About half a year ago (yikes...) I started some entries that never made it through to posting. Here's one of them that I think is sort of interesting as a snapshot of my growing-up angst:

"My mom and I don't talk about the big narrative arc of my life much. She knows I'm interested in pursuing arts, which was my rationale for staying in the same place after I graduated in the spring, but as far as the my other options went, eh. I kept them to myself. Mostly because there were so many other options, the bulk of which were indistinguishable to me in terms of the potential career satisfaction they'd offer. Cause, really, who the hell was I to know?

"Other options," obviously, have grown increasingly important in my life of late, particularly over the past summer. I've got the Ph.D. program to think about--for which I was basically guaranteed admission today, according to Advisor Guy ("not that we're corrupt or anything")--and I'm more and more enthusiastic about pursuing a career in academia. I don't know how I feel about this in the context of my musical aspirations. My job and my auditing of classes just drains me so much, which, along with a lack of practice space and a busy teacher, has really put the brakes on my big plans for how much of myself I was going to devote to music.

That's where it ended, as I am wont to leave my thoughts incomplete. (Bad habit.)

Where I was going to go with that was a phone conversation I'd had with my mom that prompted the writing of the post. In the conversation I told her that I was applying to a Ph.D. program, and for the first time I was confronted with the reality that my mom has little idea what that meant, either as a practical matter (how many years it takes, will I have enough money to live on) or what sort of career path such a course of study routes people into. It was a little weird, correcting her that it's more likely to take six to eight years rather than three or four, and needing to specify that (for all intents and purposes) I'm pretty much bound to becoming a professor afterward (taking good luck on the job market as a given, knock wood).

I think the weird/vaguely queasy vibe I got from the conversation stems from two things. One, it really drove home that my mom and I are quite distant from each other; we make pleasant, small-potatoes talk on the phone, but we're neither of us the most forthcoming people. She has little idea of the specifics of my life or opinions, and vice-versa. I don't think we've ever been entirely comfortable around one another. So, my announcing to her, from her perspective from out of nowhere, that I'm going to get a Ph.D. (when I was supposed to be pursuing this arts career), and her supportive but slightly bemused reaction, underscored that basic wall that's between us and likely always will be.

Two, building on the first thing: it seems that if I enter this profession of which my mom has pretty much no knowledge, despite her being a well-educated person herself, well, it just seems like there really will be no "going home again" (even if such a "home" of reciprocity never truly existed). I mean, perhaps this separation happened to some extent when I went off to an elite/elitist college for my undergrad degree, but it didn't seem that different on the surface--my mom went to college. She skipped two grades when she was a kid, so notwithstanding familial constraints, I'm sure she could have gotten in to as good a school as I did (paying for it would have been another matter, in the days before generous financial aid packages). Heck, she has a master's degree, so she still out-credentials me. But I can't shake the sense that this Ph.D. deal is going to make any efforts at "getting" each other quite a bit tougher from now on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RBOC: it's still too hot for my liking despite being overcast

  • When I first started watching Curb Your Enthusiasm a year and a half ago I wasn't too fond of it on account of the relentless pessimism and awkwardness. Now I love it and think that Larry David might be the closest personality-match I've ever had in a TV character. What does this mean?
  • My car is an embarrassment, like a midlife-crisising person trying to hard to retain its youth. "I can go from 0 to 30 in five seconds, baby, and I'MA LET YOU KNOW IT WITH MY MACHO ENGINE GROWL please ignore that the passenger window can't roll down and the AC works only intermittently LOOK AT MY BRIGHT BRIGHT RED PAINT AND MY TINTED WINDOWS RRRR." Sad.
  • Our freezer is so clean, it is surprising. One of my new roommates is quite industrious! She tells me she's a binge-cleaner, like myself, so it will probably work out as long as our binges settle into a complementary schedule.
  • My current credit card balance is particularly scary because I've been picking up the group bill at restaurants lately because I get reward points that way. But this does not reduce the initial scariness of seeing the credit card bill.
  • Despite this, I'm still going to make an online purchase in the interest of doing some street activism. Except I'm not sure if there are any really prominent stop signs around my neighborhood. Will scout this today.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Circadian math

Most of my classes in the coming semester will begin at 9:30 a.m. I went to sleep at 4 this morning. This, perhaps, necessitates an adjustment plan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Physical (vs. mental) exhaustion

I've never had a very hardy constitution. Had I been born in the 19th century, I totally would have been one of those kids who died of consumption or exposure or scabies. If the temperature's over 75, I wilt, and that's when the humidity's livable. And I've always been a depressive, too, which I don't believe is unrelated to my tendency toward fatigue.

So I've grown worried lately, thinking about not so much the mental but the physical requirements of an academic job. About how I plan on dealing with the exertion (and in my case the almost certainly attendant exhaustion) that seems to be necessary for success.

At the beginning of college I discovered better living through self-medication, the medication in question being caffeine (initially in coffee form, but then on to other caffeinated beverages). I have addictive tendencies/trouble with temperance, so caffeine has on occasion evolved into more of a crutch than a help, but for all intents and purposes I now cannot imagine my life without it: it makes me feel better, at least in certain mysterious doses, the amount of which I unfortunately have trouble anticipating from day to day. When I overload on it, it makes me more tired and more likely to fall into a funk. And even after all this time I haven't figured out what works consistently, though I continue trying to make the most of the whole "your body, your science experiment" motto. I hope I'll learn something one of these days.

All of which is to say that even now, with caffeine a staple in my toolbox (metaphor mixing what?), I am frequently have no goddamn clue what I'm doing with it. And I continue to be sleepy and/or grumpy and/or anxious and depressed.

On top of this, I am not at all a productive worker. I come across, apparently, as rather intense and scary regarding work in real life, and I AM very intense about schoolwork for the most part. The problem is, I spend more time stressing over it than actually doing it. (Even now, I'm writing this blog post instead of doing my RA work.) Nonetheless, the last-minute work on which I've skated by has always held me in good stead. I'm a decent writer, so I rarely did more than one draft of any paper in undergrad--reason partially being that I edit as I go along, partially being that I'd start writing no earlier than the day before a paper was due such that there was no time for second drafts.

But even given the psychological barriers to my doing low-intensity, ongoing work (I need to read more Boice, apparently), I'm concerned about the extent to which my mood/physical comfort affects my ability to motivate myself to work, and how easily I'm discomfited. I read the academic blog posts about the fourteen-hour days, all nighters, running from class to meeting to designated research time, and I just think, even WITH caffeine, how the hell am I ever going to do this? I never was that good at all nighters in undergrad, and honest to God, I'm already feeling my "advanced" age in my early/mid-20s. I've always had the mental outlook of a 50-year-old, and now my body's settling in to match. I now value sleep! Or not so much value as actually need a lot of it to function. Unless I sleep too much, in which case I'm groggy. Meh.

I suppose I'm worrying a lot about this right now because I've been feeling particularly crappy lately--I have never dealt well with heat, and again, when I'm feeling bad physically it will affect my mood, as well. I've never been an equilibrated sort. I also have inklings that I'm falling into depression again.

In any case, I'm trying to deal with this through a few small things. I've signed up for an awesome summer yoga class, of which there are ostensibly two sections, MW and TTh, but the awesome instructor lets us come all four days a week. Class hurts, but in a good way, and I hope it'll add some structure to my day and eventually increase my energy level. I'm also planning to make an appointment with health services to see someone about anti-anxiety medication; I took them freshman-sophomore year and they helped a lot with physical symptoms of anxiety that hindered my ability to concentrate. No clue if they'd still be helpful, but since I strongly suspect that the physical exhaustion has a mental tie-in, I'm hoping I'll hit on something effective.

Even with the incremental changes, though, it's a tall order to turn my fatiguing tendencies into round-the-clock productivity required for professional success in academia. It seems to be a marathon-length run at a sprint pace, and I'm totally uneasy about my ability to handle that.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A thought from a warmed globe

I don't mind being at the grad student offices doing research on a Saturday afternoon. It means that I can revel in the arctic temperatures offered up by its cooling unit, versus the seasonable warmth I experience inside my apartment. Plus it's peaceful and deserted here, with only the hum of what I imagine is aforementioned cooling system to keep me company. (And the research is fun, too!)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hey kids.

I have returned (three months can sure fly by), having contracted out my youth to a Ph.D. program at charmingly (?) elitist Better Than U. I'm planning to continue my present work through the summer for the sake of the paycheck, but I aspire to put in as minimal an amount of genuine effort as possible.

I also have some academicky stuff on my summer reading list, but right now it's all I can do to finish up these back-issues of Wired and Bitch and MakeShift for the sake of decluttering my apartment--perhaps it's a good idea to leave off the academicky stuff for a few months, anyway, so I can at least not be totally put off it when I return to reading nothing but that sort of thing when I start classes again in the fall.

It's still not entirely hit me yet, but I do feel like a parenthetical (eek) belongs in that sentence about starting classes again in three months...

In more current events, this primary season has depressed me remarkably. The best articulation for my feelings is the always on-point feminist blog Shakesville, and my link-of-the-day for the past couple of days has been this one.

That's all for now.

Reductionism who in the what now?