Saturday, February 26, 2011

Calling out the Universe

I like to bargain with the universe. I think this comes from a deep inability to make decisions coupled with a profound distrust of myself. During my pregnancy with R, I struggled with the ambivalence I felt towards going for my Ph.D. I didn't want to go but felt like I should because I had sunk so much into my Master's. I also knew that it wasn't wise to make any claims when with child, and right after finishing a rather exhausting year of thesis work.

But even after I had R, I was feeling pretty indifferent towards the whole Ph.D. Of course the indifference also lead to some mega anxiety. I was after all nearing 40 and didn't really know how to do much else. I felt pulled towards midwifery. And of course there was anxiety there because midwifery was far, far removed from the academic stuff in which I was engaged. H and I talked through it many times. Well, I talked to H and he listened sympathetically. I made a decision to not apply and when that left me with 2 am panic attacks, I decided to leave it up to the universe aka "I'll apply and if I get in that means I'm supposed to go."

This is a tactic I have relayed on for most of my life. It may explain why I have four (very wanted of course) children. Yes it is in some ways a method of relieving myself of responsibility for making decisions BUT it is also an act of surrendering. We live in a time where we are pushed into ultra responsibility. We are taught to micromanage our own lives from a young age. Every choice we make, we're told, will have ramifications on our future. It's a rather stressful imagining of our future selves. This view of life also doesn't take into account the fact that in reality we often have very little control of our lives, and that some of us have even less control than others. Agency is well and good when you have power.

I sent my applications in and felt that I had done my best (except for the GREs). And I told myself that I was going to be okay with whatever decision came back. But deep down inside I wanted to get into a program. There were a few reasons for this. One, it's what I knew how to do and I seemed to be good at it. Two,  not getting in would feel like a failure and since I'm insecure as hell, failure equals bad. Three, after sitting in on a class, I realized how much I really enjoy working this area. Of course this was also balanced with feelings of wanting to be "just a mom" for a bit, and of being tired of the whole academic world. But really I was leaning towards wanting to be accepted. I just didn't voice it because part of the game I play with the universe involves being "objective."

And then H got into UGA. I was thrilled because I knew he needed to get him in somewhere but it was a bittersweet moment. It was the moment I knew that I had not been accepted anywhere. Still because nothing was official, I was able to sort of shelter myself from having to really deal with the universe's answer.

Yesterday my first official rejection came via form letter email. I spent the day sobbing, laying around feeling like a failure, and then finally buying Trader Joe's out of chocolate. Everyone keeps me telling me I am not a failure and that it is not personal. And of course it's not personal. They don't know me. BUT it is a fail. There's no way around it. The university that rejected me was a good fit but I wasn't good enough to fit. There's no way around that answer. It doesn't make me a failure no. I get that part of it but it does say something about my work and what they thought of my work. That's hard. And of course this rejection feeds into my own insecurity. The insecurity that ate away at me throughout the years I worked on my MA. That insecurity that manifests itself in a little voice that tells you that you're a poseur. That everyone else is smarter than you. That you're not really as good as you think you are. I kept thinking yesterday that people like me don't get Ph.Ds.

This morning I have a bit more clarity. But there is still a part of me that is glancing up ruefully at the universe.

3 comments:

Leelee said...

Dear Ginger... hmm.. was it Einstein who had difficulty getting into a PhD program? keep that in mind, and keep trying. If that's what you want to do.. It's certainly a grieving process - I completely know this. Take the time to grieve about it.. But realize it's not the be all and end all. There are tons of programs out there. Or maybe you want to go down the new path you were talking about (mid-wife)? As I have told you before..as we evolve, so do the things we feel define us. Our dreams evolve too. and sometimes that ends up taking us in directions we never thought..

But certainly take your time to be sad about it.. however, it won't take long before new opportunities come a-knocking so be ready for them! You are loved, you have people who know how brilliant you are...

John B-R said...

The universe is a fickle beast. 1) You get rejected. 2) Trader Joe's has chocolate.

Who knows WHAT to think?

WV sping. That seems appropriate, somehow, maybe it's the sound the universe makes when it's supposed to be thinking or something ...

Kellie said...

You know I've been there. I couldn't even cut it in the MA program and I've based my entire self image on being smart, so it was a terrible blow. Leelee is right that it is a grieving process, and maybe not one that ever ends.

But you're wrong that you're not smart enough, and I'll keep telling you different until you believe it.