Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel
catvalente

Life and the Living Of It

I haven't posted much over the past week, mostly because I've been down and depressed. It's hard, ever, to point to a why to depression. Maybe it's because the rest of the country has snow, and we don't, maybe it's because I haven't been taking care of myself as I should have been, maybe it's because my allergies have been intensely bad, maybe it's because I have this novel in front of me which seems insurmountable right now. Maybe it's chemical and has no source. I've never been on meds, a personal choice, and I don't really talk much about being depressive. When actual crises occur I'm generally pretty good about rallying and Being Okay. But sometimes for no reason at all, my brain hides in a corner of itself and even a blog post seems like too much, let alone cleaning the house or getting around to that pickling I have to do before the produce goes bad.

I really want it to be Christmas. I love giving gifts when I can, and I want everyone to open them. I want to cook for them. But I wonder if in pushing myself so hard to take care of other people's holidays I don't totally lose my own, any sense of being off duty and just having fun. I sympathize with my grandmother who had to host these holidays, and so never got to relax.

We are also a house preparing for one of our members to go to grad school. I'm so proud of mishamish , and he did very well on his GREs, but part of me is filled with tremendous guilt that I'm not going back, that at this point it's probably a fact of my life that I'm never going to get the PhD that I took as an obvious path in my early twenties. A given. Of course I would.

I grew up with a mother in her doctoral program, surrounded by grad students as my babysitters and later friends. That culture was deeply ingrained in me. I loved it, I wanted to be an academic, passionately.

And then I dropped out of my MA program because my husband needed me to go with him to Japan. Because if I stayed there was no point to having gotten married. And I never went back.

I think of myself as an academic, it's part of my identity, but it's a lie. I'm not one. I don't have a graduate degree of any kind--I have a half-finished master's and a handful of journal articles. And for a long time I didn't go back because the Navy moved us around too much, or because I didn't care for any of the Cleveland-adjacent universities. And now...I just can't imagine where I would find the time. I can barely stomach taking a year off writing to have a child, and I know from my old experiences that being in grad school means I just don't have leftover energy to write. (And I just couldn't get a creative writing degree. I don't believe in them, I just don't. Not for me, not in this life.) With my schedule ramping up as it has, and three novels to write in a year, how could I possibly do it?

But part of me knows that's an excuse. I could. There are great universities near here and I'm pretty settled in Maine. The raw fact is I don't want to, and there's the root of the guilt. All the energy I could put towards a doctorate and a dissertation swirls in my heart and I think: but how many novels could I make of that instead? Every book I write is a dissertation's worth of research and discipline. I don't have any doubt about my ability to finish a program--I'm really pretty good at school, and always have been. But there will come a moment when I'm not writing the novel I see in all that research, and writing a thesis instead, and I will be miserable. There will come a moment when I look back and see the gap, when I could have been doing the work I so desperately want and wasn't doing it, and I will be be miserable.

I don't want it enough. I don't want it more than I want to write all the time, to get all these books in me out while I'm still living and able to do it.

And that means I've chosen my path, right? I should find strength in that. But I find only guilt, because I was supposed to be an academic. I was supposed to be this other person with letters behind my name, like my mother, like so many of my friends. And I will never be that person. And I tell myself that my books have been taught in universities, and surely that is as fine a destiny. I know well that most English grad students want to be writers. But in the story of me, this was supposed to be something I had done by 25. I graduated early from high school, and had all that promise, and dropped out. So the guilt is still there. Because I loved something and I gave it up for a man, which I never thought I would do, and I am not going back to it, even though I could.

Goddammit, why isn't it snowing?
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