Where I Am, Right Now
January 28, 2016 § 2 Comments
I just started a post entitled “Gender Politics and the Dishes (Which I Still Haven’t Done)” and pasted a half-thought Facebook comment in to the body paragraph and thought, Oh Lord this is what my life is coming to.
Grad school is terrible but let’s not talk about that. Actually let’s talk about it for a minute. Grad school is terrible! But I am learning so much, basically what gets me through each minute is the same thought, phrased exactly the same way every time: “I have learned so much in the past [accurate number of the moment] months, that if I quit right now it will still have been worth it.” That, and, “after this semester, I only have 4 more to go.” For some reason these comfort me.
I have never been a person who actively, for-sure wanted to go to grad school. In fact, I avoided it for as long as I could, right up until the moment when Mr. B sat me down, held me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “If you don’t go this year, you are never going to go. And if you never go you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life. And if you do that, I will never, EVER stop hearing about grad school.”
Everyone I talk to who is either currently in grad school or recently left it has the same reaction to my brand new realizations that grad school is terrible. They are like YES IT IS SO TERRIBLE YOU ARE ONLY THE MOST RECENT PERSON TO KNOW THIS. And I take comfort in this a bit, but then I have to wonder, why? Why does it feel harder to be in grad school than in normal real life? Like, normal real life is HARD AS SHIT. Real life has things like medical emergencies in The Great Recession, and credit card debt, and unemployment, and emotional breakdowns during work hours, and bad phone calls in the middle of the night. Like, in real life, if you don’t get enough jobs to pay your bills you might not have a house. Those are some high stakes compared to to getting an AB from your mentor.
So what is it about grad school, this seeming vacation from real life, that somehow feels harder?
Is it because I thought I was going to get a vacation from real life, and real life just kept going while also grad school happened? Is it because I am sequestered away from everything that was familiar, and I am learning that everything I did before was terrible and why did anyone ever want to work with me? Is it because our governor thinks that higher education isn’t important and a toxic work environment has sprung up out of the financial quagmire he created? Is higher education naturally set up to create toxic work environments, no matter who is governor? Is the American system naturally set up to create toxic work environments everywhere, and as a recently minted not-quite-so-young-person am I just the latest to hear the news? Is the emotional toll of learning just that much heavier when you’re a grown ass adult who actually cares about what is going to happen when you get that piece of paper? I don’t know. I haven’t even finished a full year of grad school yet why did you even ask.
Oh I asked. Well anyway, I don’t have the answer.
I uprooted my husband and moved us across the country, and he is the one who most consistently feels that what we have done was the best idea. My mind and base artistic skills and knowledgebase are expanding so quickly sometimes it’s all I can do to just feel terrified in the rush. Sometimes it’s all I can do to think, “Well, I ended up ok last semester, so this semester might end up ok too; maybe my art will be really cool by the end of all this.” I hope these are all just first year thoughts. If they are I am so ready for second year thoughts. If not, I want to learn how to have fewer, less consistent and horrible thoughts. I am tired of having an existential crisis every day all the time, over art.
Because the thing that keeps needling at me is, it’s just art. Art is important: it is life changing, and it is transformative, and it is so important. But at the end of the day, it is Just. Art. So why haze entire generations of artists, just to make art? Why push people to their very limits, just to see if they deserve to keep struggling to live paycheck to paycheck and hold a day job while they scratch our their existence on practically-free shows in someone’s basement?
Is it that I’m now working toward something better? Is it better because it makes more money? Will making money make me a better artist? These are not leading questions; I really don’t know the answer. My ennui in this is so powerful.
Anyway. I had all these feelings and wrote them down instead of reading and ingesting more things, like I should. Like is in my calendar. But like it or not, here we are, past bedtime and worse for the wear because I still haven’t done the reading I had planned for myself. But now at least you know about it, and I do feel a bit better having said it. So with all that behind me, I guess I’ll just keep reading about, exploring, and explaining art. I guess I’ll just keep obsessing over this lifelong obsession and trying to make connections to the human condition, like Solving Art will solve everything. Or anything, for that matter.
And I hope it goes without saying, if you have answers to any of my questions, ANY of my queries, I await your elucidation with bated breath.