In the past few weeks, I submitted my last batch of grades, ever, for my institution; since they chose to never even give me an office key this year, that represents the end of my obligations to them, unless there is something I am missing.
I have postponed celebrating, because I was hit with an avalanche of freelance work. This is usually a very good thing, but when I have days like I did on this Thursday, which began at 5 AM and ended at 1 AM on Friday…not so much.
So my pathetic metaphor in the last entry was falling off a cliff; the one I guess I’ll use in this one is climbing back up. Rock climbing! I don’t think I have ever been on or near a cliff. So I’m really not Writing What I Know here.
During the days, it’s really easy to stay positive. For too long, I ignored the infiniteness of the world and clung to school as it imposed an easy schema on the universe. Just so you know, I was very afraid to write that last sentence. It seems like the kind of thing that the bullies in my department would find so they could scream “WE TOLD YOU SO, FAILURE!” at me. Or add it to their quiet list of evidence that, God-like, they would rattle off; the silent accounting of all my failures, small and large, ready to be whipped out and weighed at a moment’s notice, and always at the moment least expected.
And that is where my mind goes at night. As Phil Ochs once put it, “the days go by too quickly, the nights go by too slow.” No matter how good of a choice it was for me to leave, the department handled whatever their problem with me was – I never got any coherent information, just a lengthy list of small offenses committed years ago (An A-! Too much smiling!…I wish I was kidding about that) – in the absolute worst way imaginable (short of, I guess, physical violence- I guess I should give them that), and every sane person informed of this situation agrees with me.
But, hey, this is MY blog. It’s all about me, not THEM!
So this is what I learned this week:
I feel like Rip Van Winkle, and certainly not because I slept for 20 years (more like 20 minutes).
Unfortunately, while my ex-ploitative department (see what I did there?) was sucking the life out of me, the world went on outside. I’m blinking around the Internet, and suddenly, when I think of the last time I wasn’t trapped here, it was a really long time ago.
When I think, really harshly think, everything is different, in the subtle, scarring ways. There are so many, many ways to measure time.
When I moved here, I was 25 (now I am 29, and that feels like an enormous, horrifying difference). When I moved here, one of my best friends from college had just found out she was pregnant (now he’s a preschooler). When I moved here, it was a leap year, an Olympics year, and a presidential election year (now all three have come ’round again). When I moved here, my halcyon college days were not too far distant and some of my friends were still slowly finishing up (now everyone I know who was there at any time I was in college has graduated or moved on; professors have retired; campuses have changed). When I moved here, I had a new set of cheap pots and pans bought on clearance (now they’re scratched, the handles are worn, lids cracked). When I moved here, my Original iPhone was high-tech (now, that was 2 phones ago).
When I moved here, I was filled with hopes and dreams and possibilities and optimism (now I no longer feel capable of any of these).
I don’t know if this is the right analogy, but I feel like I’ve been in jail. I am totally overwhelmed by the possibilities now that I am not restricted by deadlines, living my life in terms of semesters, forced to “image-manage” in a way that is in complete conflict with who I am; I am no longer constantly battling with students over minutiae; I no longer have my entire life governed by people who made it clear they despised me (remember kids, it’s not “impostor syndrome” if they send you a vague registered letter threatening to fire you 4.5 weeks before your comprehensive exams, and spend the next month and a half barraging you with emails and meeting in which they tell you in fluent bureaucratic vagary that you have managed to disappoint in every way possible).
I keep thinking of projects I want to work on (I have a list of at least 5), yet I can’t shake the absolutely terrifying free-fall feeling. The scaffold is off; I am on my own now. That should be liberating, but I am terrifying.
I need money to survive, yet I also need time to breathe, and the two seem mutually incompatible. What to do? I guess the only thing I can do is keep trying to climb back up, though to what I am supposed to aspire, I do not know.
(PS: If you or anyone you know needs audio transcription, virtual ESL tutoring, editing or proofreading, I can do that for you. Please excuse the horrible website; it has been extremely difficult for me to find reliable help with WordPress, and that’s infuriating).