can this please be over…
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.
One more time, I’ll fix errors and print this sucker out on the fancy 25% cotton paper. I have to go chasing my thesis readers all over town and then go to 2 offices to turn in forms, have the thing checked again, and then to stand in line at the bindery, I guess.
I’m so exhausted, and it was a day where my knee was bad. Not a good time to have to walk all over campus. Also, my pride was hurt when… as I stupidly tried to hide my limp… I was caught by my advisor as we went down the stairs. I was like, “Oh, maybe the elevator… uh… ” but it was just one floor. Anyway, it sucked and I was embarrassed.
I was almost giddy at holding the humonguous manuscript with signatures on it & the weight started to lift off me. I thought of how much harder I *could* have worked… and that I was dumb not to get extra child care back in February so that I could have had a way earlier completed rough draft of the whole manuscript, and more time for the revisions to “cook”… But instead I was dumb and put the extra childcare at the very end. Well, I needed that too. Then I went right into a nasty guilt-spiral, which I’m still in, about the huge amount of time I spend away from Moomin, and how much my doing all this school had an impact on him. All the things that go undone, and the times I am too busy or grouchy to play, and how I haven’t taken him to the dentist in a year, and he’s not signed up for any sort of fun activity or lessons. He doesn’t even bother to ask me to play anymore, he just goes off by himself.
Prof. DJ was super nice. And again, so meticulous and helpful. I had no idea what to expect… at all… from this whole process. Because of what this other kind of jerky prof in the CW dept. said, and how she acted, I thought that I was on my own, because they didn’t have time to help us really and didn’t get paid extra for it, and I’d just have to do the defense, produce a manuscript, and maybe if I was lucky they’d read it once, comment, and give me a chance to fix it, so I could pass and graduate. And that I’d be super lucky to have even one person read it all the way through more than once. Instead, they both read it multiple times despite it being over 200 pages long and in 2 languages, and gave me extensive comments and suggestions… That was amazing! I really didn’t know that was what it would be like, and I’m so grateful!
Prof. Worky was really extra nice today, and invited me for coffee sometime and told me all about the poetry journal she’s starting and her own work and when I asked her about this one thing she’d done in the past she was completely forthright about it. I wanted to know sort of “what was it like for you as a feminist to be in this position…” and it was exactly as I had thought. That was good to know, somehow, even if it was a bit depressing of a thought.
And yet on this whole other level I’m like, WTF, what am I doing this degree for? Is this whole thing not just dumb selfishness on my part? I’ve been a total parasite for over 3 years, aside from my attempts to work part time, where I was lucky to make 500 bucks a month. I’m not being a good student, a good mom, or making any money. It all seems kind of pointless. Is it really going to get me any sort of work? What should I be doing now? What should I have been doing all this time? I’ve spent money to do it, and haven’t been working to bring in money, and then on top of it I spend more on babysitting. It’s like anything I do for my own education comes directly out of my child’s education, present and future. There is no way to fix that. It’s just true.
I just was staring at the marked-up front pages of the thing I thought today was the final thesis — but the horrible bureaucrats in the graduate division office told me that my abstract and title page had to be justified text which meant i had to go home and print it out again and get the signatures on those pages again — and I realized just now that I had no idea if this *other* page was correctly formatted or not — and I could hear Moomin arguing with Rook about getting in the bathtub, in the other room — and suddenly I just BROKE. I was like, damn, I cannot take this, I’m trying to be so strong about everything, and no one gets it about the pressure to be a Good Mom, everything, everything… the pressure to be everything at once… and how impossible it is. The weight of the responsibility and the certain knowledge that anything at all that goes wrong will be my fault, as a mother. I will have done something wrong… and I put the weight of it on my kid, like, if he is not perfect, somehow, it will destroy my whole concept of the point of my life… and that’s obviously not right! Not that I believe that at ALL, but I now understand how parents do it whether they mean to or not. People who aren’t in it don’t get it, and people who are, it’s too late, they’re in the same boat you are and you’re sitting there going “Oh. Crap. I guess I can’t smash the patriarchy all on my lone, after all, despite all these advantages…”
I thought of my conversation with a mom-acquaintance this morning as I got coffee on my way to campus, as we passed the baby back and forth and she rambled about her career… “Who’s going to hire me at 45? And even if they do, one of the kids gets sick and that’s it… I offered to go to no benefits and half time, but they said that wouldn’t work… all that training, for nothing now, it didn’t do them any good.” She has 4 more years till her youngest hits kindergarten and until then she is completely screwed and has to make the best of it all. It was just like, her hearing me say that I had done *anything* or had any goals… which I had been talking about to her… threw her into that same horrible tailspin of self-doubt. I told her how it was for me when I had a good job and a babysitter, (Just as much guilt and doubt, not any more money since it all went to the babysitter and ordering out food, and still just as much housework. With extra guilt for exploiting the babysitter.)
Anyway, I burst into tears at all this, and then cried more because of the guilt over feeling like I should not be crying. I went and got Rook to hear me out for a few minutes. Whatever I do, I should be doing something else. The pressure is so relentless.
Hell and damnation.
He nicely told me how pointless he felt his own thesis was, and that it was not even a brick in the wall of the castle of science, and at least mine was a solid brick in a castle and contributing to knowledge. He also said I was a good person and a good mom. It is hard to hold to those beliefs, knowing they are just beliefs, and irrational, and I really have no clue what I’m doing most of the time if ever, just like everyone else out there. I write this down not knowing if I should, and knowing that instead of bursting into tears I should be working on the very last bits of thesis or else helping to put Moomin to bed.
Is it strange that the only really comforting idea right now is that I will keep working on it all, and send out all the little bits of it, and keep working on it as a huge growing manuscript to become a book? That seems like another dumb illusion and I don’t see why it would be comforting or have any more point than anything else, and it certainly won’t make me a lick of money, ever, and buttloads of people are waiting to criticize me for how I do it , the flaws in it, the fact that I’m doing it at all, who I am, and what the work makes me become. So why do I care so much about it? Is this worth what it does to the rest of my life? Why am I doing all of this? Will I get any closer to independence, ever again? Why am I still crying?
Could this please be over, somehow, and something new begin?
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