Alternatively Titled: A Graduate Student’s Gusty Confession About Why Stuff is Hard

I’m still on the Hunt for #ReadOctober. This week it’s American poet David Wojahn’s WORLD TREE, recommended by my thesis chair, and Canadian science journalist Alanna Mitchell’s THE SPINNING MAGNET, which came to me via interlibrary loan as recommended by McLean Magazine’s “Nonfiction to Read in 2018.”

I’m still bashing my head on a (maybe?) crown of sonnets tentatively titled “Sonnets for the Dying” about a bunch of dead racehorses (uhh, don’t ask), and in the preliminary stages of panicking about my thesis and thesis reading. Things are somewhere between the brilliantly useful American phrases “fubar” and “snafu.”

Consider the alternative title your content warning: I’m about to be melodramatic and melancholy and weepy. In other words… Here Be Dragons. 

I know I’m not the only academic who feels this way. I know. I just emailed my former prof again—Kevin, the guy I mentioned yesterday—asking for PhD advice. More specifically, for his “wise words or dire warnings,” because I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, and more often than not, I feel like an enormous fraud. I’m in another country, now burdened with an astonishing amount of medical debt (because I’m real-life loony tunes), and I’m reading, and writing poems? Talk about singing in lifeboats.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m still plugging away at my degree and pursuing all my little adventures, and I’m still very certain that poetry is the only thing keeping me alive. But what am I supposed to do with my aliveness? I’m especially daunted because 102% of the time I’ pretty sure that whatever it is, I’m doing it wrong. With some reflection, I do think this current wash of depression and depersonalisation (let’s call a spade a spade) was brought on by the crashing high of the Barrelhouse news and all the potential around October submissions. The last week of September was an excess of praise and success, and when the first week of October rolled around, I was with someone in my family who clearly demonstrated that she did in fact love me without condition (that’s a new thing in the years since Dad died), I was in the ocean for the first time in sixteen months, and in many other ways I felt like things might be okay in the long run. Then I came back to Greensboro, Hurricane Michael hit and felled two trees on top of my house, I realised I’m too broke to make any of the October submission fees for all the places that have amazing things happening (including the BIG DEAL REVIEW my thesis chair, with confidence, told me to submit to because “this is exactly the niche they print and these poems are some of your strongest yet”), I’m also just really broke in general and that’s a scary thing to have happen when you’re in a foreign country with no one outside of yourself to rely on. So now I’m planning on how to live on milk and coffee and frozen peas until idk when bc 80% of my work stipend goes to my tuition which literally doesn’t even leave me with enough for rent.

Anyway. Getting that out has kind of eaten all my gusto. Now I’m going to go home and make comments on poems and in great likelihood delete this when better sense strikes me.


One thought on “A Report From the Inside of Schrödinger’s Box of Self-Doubt

  1. Hang in there, Amy. All the clichés are clichés because they’re true: dark before dawn, clouds and silver linings, passing too. Also, I love the blog.


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