Sunday, June 04, 2006

You get your grade at the end of the course.

Where’s the box?” My pastor asked. I didn’t want to go to church this morning – forced myself there through guilt, hoped something would speak to me once I arrived, was bitterly disappointed when nothing did. I’m just so blah lately (depressed, OK? I'm still not doing well, and it's frustrating and scary and I hate to admit it). I did perk up for the children’s time though – Pastor does a lovely job with them, and while someone rushed to find the infamous box, he looked around at the children seated beside and around him.

“So…” He said, cocking his head, stalling. “How’s life?” We laughed and the boy at his right smiled as well.

“We don’t know!” He said, looking pleased when our attention moved to him. “We don’t know how life is.” He repeated for effect. “It’s not done yet. How can you know how life is until it’s over?”

I never know – when children say something profound – if they’re repeating something they’ve heard elsewhere, truly making some great realization, or just saying something that you can take as more meaningful than it was meant.

It spoke to me, and I left church with more thoughts rather than serene acceptance of life in general. I attached the little iPod to the FM transmitter and continued on with Liir’s story. Personally, I’m fond of sequels. You spend less time getting to know everyone and can just continue the story. Perhaps that’s why I feel this is a tighter novel – recurring characters, fewer gaps in time and knowledge than occurred for dear Elphaba. Plus, as I get nearer the end, I understand more, perhaps hope for less, and all the background starts to come together. I find myself nodding as a bit from the past clicks neatly into place. So that’s why he met that character. Or who knew he’d show up again?!

I find myself missing certain characters from the original story – hoping they somehow reappear and make some difference, offer help or insight or encouragement. Sometimes people play bit parts though, sad as that sounds. Fascinating and charming as they might be, they exist in your particular story for only a time, then sort of fade away in your memory. Hard to pick them out though – someone can seem vital in the present, and only when looking back can you say they may not have mattered so much after all. Conversely, someone will pop up in a way that seems random and somehow recur in your story as he becomes more and more profoundly involved.

I like thinking of life as a novel – something plotted out but with unexpected little twists. Dramatic, certainly. It should be interesting to me if no one else. Romantic, hopefully, though apparently my story is a bit lacking in that department of late (and in general - let's be honest). Believe me when I say that I wish there was more to tell you. Friendships – a few main characters seem to have closed ranks and won’t allow newcomers. Conflict – more internal than external. I can’t figure out my direction, and hope that at the end, I can look back and say this was worth it. The post-doc was the right professional decision, and I took appropriate action while I was here. Maybe there’s some reason I started the blog – will meet someone or be offered an opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise recognized.

My fear, I think, is this is one of those periods I’d skip over if I were to write out a story. I mean, there was growing up, and that was pretty standard. Then undergrad brought me out of my shell – I found good friends, had a long-term crush, so that’s rather interesting. Then grad school was so painful, it’d have to make a couple decent chapters. But now? I’m worried this is going to be one of those, “Then I spent a few years in [current city]. It was … hot. Temperature-wise, I mean. Not in that anything really happened.” Then I guess the hope is that I skip to some vastly entertaining story of what happens when I leave here.

My question is this. For me or for Liir. If you fail – if things don’t turn out right, if you don’t make a difference, if you settle for safety rather than love, if you never achieve that professional goal you set… Do you have to say “Bad. Life is not good.” or something like that? Is an 'A for effort' good enough? If not, how can you rate what’s going on now when it’s unclear as to how if affects what happens later on? In the absense of a mid-term (or 1/3-term, perhaps if I live a relatively long life) progress report, I'm left hoping I can look back and say I did OK though it does feel boring right now.

But who knows? It really is hard to tell how life is before it’s over, isn’t it? And just because it's not going so well right now doesn't mean I can't turn it all around.

5 comments:

Psycgirl said...

I've been lurking here for ages, but I am compelled to comment. The only grades assigned in life are the ones you assign yourself. I think choices may look bad in the moment, but they all have benefits and all teach you something - the lesson just might not appear until later. Relax and enjoy the journey. I'm constantly trying to do this - in the moments when I achieve it, its very peaceful to just let things unfold as they will.

DRD said...

I always enjoy your posts, but this spoke to me more than usual. I struggle with a bit of depression which I often overcome through pushing myself into different adventures. As I grow older, any time things are boring I worry that I've settled and then I worry about how it will change my trajectory in life. I try and just enjoy the moment, but boy would I love a mid term exam grade with a few comments in the margins to let me know how I'm doing!

post-doc said...

Psychgirl-
I agree. A lot. I'm just not feeling peaceful right now. I miss feeling as though I don't need to worry so much - I'm just not pulling it off of late.

DRD-
I enjoy you as well. :) It'd be nice to have a bit of reassurance in the boring times, wouldn't it? Especially when I'm aware that being depressed is skewing how I look at most everything.

In general-
I was thinking last night that the blog still helps me a great deal. There's something about pasting the posts in blogger, italicizing certain words, adding the links, then allowing someone to read it. It makes situations easier to consider somehow, I think. So whether you comment or just read, I'm quite grateful.

DRD said...

Your posts are much more "finished" than mine usually are, but I also am attmpting to use the blog to work through my tendencies to shut down. I say attempting becasue there is just a very brief window between stressed and shut down, so if I don't write in that window I do nothing at all which isn't good. Anyhow, we are reading and pulling for you to find the right balance in your life.

JustMe said...

sorry to be late on commenting, but i just wanted to agree with well, everything, but mostly the "in general" part...posting stuff really does help, and i'm so glad i started! it is reassuring to know that others struggle with similar things in academia and i wanna hope/think that lots of ppl going through not-so-great times can help and supprt each other towards the good.

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