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Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2004 - 7:51 p.m.

Holy Measure, Batreaders: Iím back, though itís a different kind of back than before I left.

L and I went to the mountains for the weekend; we hiked, played guitars, wrote lyrics, cooked, and talked forever and ever. It was perfect. And now Iím back here in town glaring sideways at the rest of the semester, trying to size it up. It doesnít look so good from where Iím standing.

I got my first official rejection email today from a PhD program. After I was wait-listed last week by my favorite program, I was expecting bad news from the other more distant places Iíd applied to, so this was not a shock. It was merely a suck. Stupid, stupid PhD programs donít know what theyíre missing.

Yes, after a few days of crying and remaining bedbound, I have become defensive. Based on my experiences in a not-great-but-not-terrible masterís program, I just donít believe that Iím not a good enough applicant for the big fancy places. I think instead that I must have screwed up some part of the application process, planted some giant unintentional red flag in my application at such an angle that it poked out the eyes of the committee. I can hear them wailing and clawing at their faces from here. I just wish I knew what the flag was.

Second-guessing aside, I have a lot of thinking and research to do. I applied only to the best programs for my tiny subfield; if I donít get a PhD from one of those, there is a good chance I will not get a job. So if I cannot get into those places, I should go quickly away from academia. I donít want to go somewhere half-assed, anyway Ė I have spent a lifetime being better at academia than those around me, and itís time I be humbled. I didnít mean like this, though. I want to be humbled because my classmates are doing better than I am. So that means I need to be at exactly those places that wonít let me in, and thatís also why they wonít let me in. Oh, the paradoxes are hurting my head.

So I need a Job. And I am really behind in thinking about Jobs: every non-academic job Iíve had has been unrelated to what I really love, and has offered no opportunity for advancement. I have been good at interviewing potential blood donors and sticking needles in their arms, at serving and selling pie, at keeping freshman from tearing down their residence halls, and at organizing mortgage files. But I always just assumed Iíd be an academic, so those were just Experiences. I have absolutely no idea what kind of Job would motivate me to get up before eight in the morning every weekday. It would not involve pie, blood, freshmen, or file folders.

The worst effect of all this PhD crap is that all of a sudden Iím a terminal adjunct. I am teaching freshman writing classes and working at the writing center not as a means to more exciting ends but because this is all my degree qualifies me for. Already I was unthrilled by my semester, and now it seems horribly dead. I stammered through class today and tutored lamely. Seven more weeks seems impossible, though what lies beyond that is even more impossible because I donít know what it will contain. I could still get into one of the two remaining schools, either the one I havenít heard from or the one whose first choice I am not. But I need to start Jobbing around, converting my pretty cv into an ugly resume and talking to people. Two months.

Suckiness Number One of my spring break was the rejection from schools. Hereís Suckiness Number Two: last week I had a procedure to follow up on an abnormal pap smear Ė a minor, noninvasive, supposedly painless cervical biopsy. And guess what? That motherfucker HURT. I know from past experiences that my doctor is competent. She is talented with a speculum. But when she did the biopsy I actually screamed, and I am not a screamer. I bleated like a sheep, and I am not a sheep. Then I passed out, and I do not pass out. Then I went home and stayed in bed all day with my hands hovering protectively over my privates.

The doctor says Iím healthy Ė nothing to worry about. Lovely. Hereís $365. Baaaa.

But here are some good things: Bettina and Brent, who write and think beautifully. Cheap red wine, which I have just run out of. My new trail shoes, which are blue and gray and make me walk like an Amazon. The new growth on my azaleas out front. The NCAA tournament, about which I know almost nothing; I had the whole system explained to me this weekend, and I am in love with its orderly chaos. I am rooting, totally illogically, for Maryland.

My March Madness marches on. I haven't been documenting it so well because it's all selfishly, bitchingly reflective and not good writing fodder...but because that's how I'm thinking these days, I have not been observing the things around me enough to comment on or think much about them. It's lame, and I would like to get over it. Soon enough I will.

Here's what Brent wrote on the internet today; it makes me happy and good-sad all at once:

"An e-mail I was going to write to Eva Moore today, but instead I'll write it here because I'm killing birds with stones here, dorks.


I went to the hospital last night. (My girlfriend)'s roommate was sick. She got no kidneys. Anyways, I saw something you might find interesting. What, praytel, you ask? And I respond ... get the fuck out of here with that praytel shit.

And then I say ...

I saw you. Well, I saw what you will be when you are 50. When you are 50 you will cut your right pointer finger and wrap it up with a wad of either cheap gauze or good kitchen paper towels. You won't be in pain, just a little worried. Your mind won't be focused on the hospital. Instead, you will be either thinking about a book you just finished or something your brother said to you.

You will still wear glasses. Your pajamas are hard to distinguish from your summer clothes.

You will get sick of waiting and realize you can patch yourself up. You'll walk out of the hospital with a look that says "My finger hurts and I'm alone with this" or "I don't want to see this much of this part of the world for a long time".

If, when you're 50, you are thinking the later ... we'll have shared a thought 26 years apart."

In 26 years I will apparently not have been cured of my dangerous clumsiness, eh? Get better, Brent. I miss you.

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