This is going to be a long one — the post, I mean…but also the quarter.
Tomorrow morning I fly back to school.
I’m a PhD student in the humanities at a west coast university. My wife is a writer based out of a midwestern university. We met in the midwest, and then I moved out west for school. We’ve been doing part-time long distance for the last 3 academic years, which means that I’m in the midwest for the summers, she’s on the west coast for the winters, and fall and spring quarters we fly a lot, typically seeing each other about every 3 weeks.
This is my last quarter of coursework before I take my qualifying exams and return to the midwest to write my dissertation. Which is great. I’m really excited to get back home, to live full-time with A, to stop flying so much, to hunker down, to have our family, to have all my stuff in one place again. (I’m much more ambivalent about career stuff, but I’m good on life stuff. More on that in a later post.)
BUT, before that happens comes this quarter from hell. Lots of things are going on which make it so.
First of all, I’m not *quite* ready for my exams. The core of my committee is together, but I still need one more person, maybe two (I’ve got meetings lined up for the first week back, so hopefully this is resolved soon). Once the committee is complete, the exams can be scheduled and then at least I’ll know what my doomsday is. Unfortunately, the people that make the most sense for me to work with are on leave this year, so it’s a little bit of scraping the pan going on.
Second, that means I have a fair amount of prep to do before I can take the exams. Lots of reading, lots of writing, lots of anxiety, which I’ll be managing sober.
Third, I’m still writing and revising my dissertation prospectus. This is not unusual, and I’m not behind schedule with that, but it’s still a lot of work, and totally overwhelming. Hopefully this is done before the quarter gets into full swing. I had a major breakthrough this weekend, so it should be smoother sailing on this front.
Third, I’m TA-ing this quarter. Also not unusual, but it’s for a prof I’ve never worked with before (but I class I have done before, so maybe it evens out?).
Fourth,…but I panicked about how we just got knocked up and next year I don’t have income lined up, so I took on a readership, as well, grading for a second class. Perhaps stupid, but it’s a significant chunk of money just to grade.
Fifth, OH YEAH I’M GROWING A PERSON INSIDE ME. So far that means I’m hungry all the time, my boobs are huge and sore, and I’m sleeping like a newborn. It might soon mean barfing and mood swings. And it definitely means — I’ll say it again — coping sober. This, many of you know, is not the grad school way. This is one reason we’re a little bit glad that A won’t be around for all of this. I suspect I’m going to be in the kind of shape that nobody should see.
Sixth, I can’t tell folks at school about #5, lest I get mommytracked before I even take my exams.
Seventh, we’ve got to move out of our west coast apartment. Moving is always such a special treat, and I suspect this will be even specialer by virtue of #5 and #2. Also, it involves integrating cats.
Eighth, even though I just said it’s probably for the best that A doesn’t have to bear witness to the mess, distance is hard and sad, and I tend to be lower energy at least for the first while. I miss her when she’s not around, and I miss our life together, especially when I find myself watching the 12th episode of “Damages” in a row on my laptop in bed…err…
My hope is basically that planning for this to be stressful and awful and the worst worst ever will make it just a little bit less so. A thinks that the pressure — the fact that it absolutely has to be done and we’ve got a nugget on the way — will kick everything into high gear. I suspect she’s right, it just sounds miserable.
So, to help out with that: MY COPING PLANS.
1. To ship a box or two each week, in order to minimize the crazy of moving, to reduce the appearance of impact on the ol’ pocketbook, and to succumb in little waves to my impulse to compulsively clean and also to throw everything away when I’m stressed.
2. To continue acupuncture, and to resume a (toned down for baby-growing) exercise regimen.
3. To continue to cook and eat well, which is never actually a problem since I realized that cooking is both productive and soothing to me, except that just in the last couple of days, some foods have become quite unappealing. Not nauseating, but unappealing.
4. To say it outright when I can’t handle something. Bend, don’t break or something, right?
Good lord. Wish me luck.