I've started writing this post many, many times. M. keeps telling me to write me a "letter to myself." While I'm not sure I want to post a "letter to myself" here in this space, I will unpack what this path feels like on a daily and weekly basis.
First of all I should note that I absolutely over-romanticized what it would be like to get a PhD. There is no way to know what academia is like until you are in it, full time, and mature enough to understand all of the implications of the career.
Sure there is the challenge of living near the poverty line, but really what makes this process difficult is waking up in a panic almost every day. What drives me to this panic? Any number of "ordinary" PhD anxieties, such as: am I smart enough? will I be able to write a book? do I have the stamina to finish? is this worth it? And, it should be noted that I still have all of these thoughts even though I entered into this program with my eye wide open. It's part of the design of the program -- mechanism to weed people out.
Some days I wake up and feel like I cannot possibly finish this degree. Other days I wake up and feel so invigorated by my studies. Some days I wake up and feel intellectually inferior. Other days I wake up know that I know my "stuff." It's one big mind fuck. Really. And that is the test.
Various people in my life have helped and talked me through these moments of existential crisis -- M., my brother, my cousins, my friend Caitlin. And one thing I always conclude, because sometimes my anxieties come from living at the poverty line, is that stability is always weighed against freedom.
STABILITY V. FREEDOM
Ideally, one day, I want both. But today, and all the days behind me since July 2011, I choose freedom -- the freedom to explore what else is out there. The freedom to get one of the most selfish degrees on the planet -- we all know a PhD in the humanities is not a smart career move. We only get to live in this time and place once, so I didn't and don't want to forget that. I'd rather be poor and free and happy, than financially stable and miserable.