I’m a working stiff now. In the last two months I self-ejected myself from the uncomfortable, stiff little womb I call “graduate school” and managed to complete a languishing dissertation, defend it, and start a new job.

Insta-presto! You’re a grown-up. I have an office now and a desk and a password to “log on” (to what? I want to know) and I commute and I work late and I am really really tired.

The last few months have been a whirlwind and it is only now in the quiet of an empty building that I have the moment to reflect on what got me here…if I can remember.

What do I remember?

I remember rising at 5 am to attend morning meditation, and then breakfast with the temple residents and then to a cafe or a library to read or write. I remember the moments of utter desperation when one thought roiled in my brain: “you will never finish in time.” The grad school clock had wound down on me and like those desperate I-just-want-to-make-it-perfect students I see in my own classes, I was still scribbling away while a proctor tapped his desk with a pencil and looked at his watch. I was writing against some intractable clock with a stubborn second hand.

I remember walking home from the cafe in the warm summer night passing happy dogs and dog-owners enjoying the late, balmy evenings. I remember wishing I was them.

I remember the 8 hour marathon when Brian and I sat at the kitchen table editing and revising the last draft the night before it was due.

I remember not sleeping, lying in bed, eyes open, writing in my head.

I remember paperwork that “gave me permission” to defend lost in the quagmire of the university. I remember worrying if it would come down to this: a form misplaced.

I remember proofreading the dissertation in an Amish cafe in Florida, sun beating down on me while I sat in the window.

I remember ice tea. Gallons of it. Drunk at all hours.

And what do I not remember?

I don’t remember:

The defense.

The topic of the dissertation itself.

What I did to celebrate when I passed.

What I did yesterday.

What I will do tomorrow.

The world has seemed to whirl around me like a hurricane in the last few months, and in brief moments I feel I am in the eye of this storm, watching the water, the houses, the boats, the Tinman, the dogs circle around me. From there, it all seems clear: this is life. In other moments, like the ones marked “today” I swirled in the storm with the cats and the dogs and the trees, wondering when it would stop, when I would come to rest, to sit still breathing heavily amongst the wreckage. The ability to stop, to slow the swirling hurricane seems beyond me now, and I wait for the storm to slow itself.

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