Turns out living in the city, working three jobs, volunteering, and completing an internship makes writing a dissertation next to impossible. I did manage to draft a chapter for a round of fellowship applications in February, but the process nearly killed me. My days were a blur of absolutely necessary commitments, scribbled notes on the train, and guilt. I had to beg off volunteer hours and choir as if they weren’t important to me, and even the necessary stuff suffered–I had an inbox full of student emails, a stack of papers to grade, and a slew of journal entries that stared me down as I produced the ever so very important dissertation chapter that would undoubtedly secure my future for the next year.
And then…the chapter didn’t do that.
Normally, I temper my expectations on these things. I try to stay positive, but realistic, giving myself the talk that every academic outside of the Ivy League gives themselves. It goes something like, “Now remember, you are not at an Ivy League institution.”
I guess this year I forgot that. I thought I had finally earned the funding I needed in order to give up one or two of the jobs and do the writing and get the degree. Hell, maybe I would even have enough left over to help pay for the job search I’m supposed to do this fall. I could get a suit with matching components! Oh look, someone picked up all the thawing dog poop in Chicago and the train went express right when I wanted it to! UNICORNS ARE REAL
To be clear, my department has not forsaken me. I am assured that I still have their vote of confidence, and I received the Leo Schelbert Award for Graduate Student Teaching. The problem is that the Award does not come with a guaranteed teaching position, and my TA time appears to be up (ironic…). So I am left without a tuition or fee waiver–which swallows up the award money–and I am left without my main source of income, as well.
This is indicative of the sort of funding problems happening across America at many universities. Rather than supporting promising graduate students, departments that care deeply about their colleagues-in-training are being forced to defund us due to asinine umbrella policies involving a glut of administrators who want boats and houses and pay raises and not only get said boats and houses and pay raises, but also somehow, somehow, still manage to sleep at night.
So, I allowed myself a good exhausted, righteous cry and a few days of processing, and then I had to start looking for the silver lining.
Enter my family, Silver Lining Suppliers LTD.
Andrew stepped in and offered me his guest room in which to sleep, a studio garage space in which to write to my heart’s and mind’s desire, and the best hugs in the world in which to heal. He has taken all his successes and said, here, let me share this home and its comforts with you, and let’s have conversation and cook together and read books and watch anime and be generally awesome.
Mom and Dad said, why don’t we help you get your things across the country? We need to pick up some of our remaining storage items anyway, and you likely want Simon and Algernon to come with you (my desk and chair, which, yes, they refer to by name.)
Andrew confirmed that the desk will fit, and reiterated that I would also be an excellent fit.
And so, I am off to Washington, as of mid-June.
I could not possibly be more grateful.