Friday, April 15, 2011

decision day

Today is, appropriately, April 15, a day is pretty much always associated with heightened stress levels (tax day, oh-shit-yesterday-was-mom's-birthday day). It's also the deadline for accepting offers from graduate schools. Read: the day that you can't put off deciding which grad school you want to go to--or even if you want to go to grad school at all--any longer. By now I'm a little too familiar with this date and its ridiculously looming "end-all, be-all" aura of certainty. Last year, April 15th found me adjusting to the idea of living in pretty much the only city in existence in which i could never imagine myself functioning happily or healthily. (Lo and behold.) And this year, i'm preparing to move across the country again--third time's the charm--because I accepted an offer of admission & financial package from Arizona State's Women and Gender Studies PhD Program.

Shockingly enough, it was a fucking hard decision.

Since I moved, I've been in this lovely state of flux, reinventing myself and figuring out my own desires and maintaining my own well being. I applied to grad schools pretty halfheartedly--I needed a distraction (albeit a very expensive one), and it worked. I was in such a tumult, though, I didn't expect to get in anywhere, and I started collecting reasons not to go to grad school, ways to disassociate myself with the thing entirely. I took trips around the country, visiting friends & family doing a million other awesome things besides going to school. I partied my ass off and decided I deserved to take advantage of my youth, not lock myself in at 23 to the competitive hellhole that is academia. Going to grad school was someone else's plan, now I could recognize that and decide what I really wanted to do with my life--and where I wanted to do it--for myself. Besides, the activist in me always sort of wondered how I could ever actually take down the patriarchy as an academic--don't you have to get your hands dirty and work with real people to get shit done, not just talk to white kids whose parents pay for them to go to college and hope for the trickle down? Anyway, I interviewed for internships, applied for jobs, and did some serious research about which awesome city I was going to move to. I got excited about the opportunities that were opening up for me as grad school became a lesser and lesser option in my head. I even came up with a legitimate Plan B that I was ready to swing into, full-force. right when I'm getting ready to do just that, of course, grad school came a' knockin'.

ASU offered to put me up so I went and took a look around, ended up feeling right at home--talking to grad students & professors, going to classes. Many students were already published, and I spoke to many faculty members doing research that aligned with mine pretty precisely. Not to mention the campus was gorgeous--and summertime for basically 11 months out of the year is particularly convincing, especially to someone with a somewhat intrusive case of seasonal affective disorder. There was even a large demographic that traveled exclusively by scooter! Very reassuring. they offered me a good amount of money (tuition/insurance/stipend), the chance to work a smaller program where I would get uber attention (and further research/funding opportunities) from a dedicated WGS core faculty, and the reassurance that not only would I get to do what I want to as a grad student there, but that the work I've already been doing is interesting, important, and necessary. As a part of the School of Social Transformation, not only does the PhD program have security in the conglomeration (from getting cut--a real possibility for programs that some don't consider "real" disciplines) and is on the good side of the higher-ups (who support the school-based reorganization), it also brings to the forefront my worries about academia remaining far too removed from the issues of oppression we're trying to alleviate. It didn't feel like an ivory tower out there, it felt like a place I could get my hands dirty. I was really struck by the passion of everyone there--students, faculty, staff--who really loved and believed in the program. It reminded me a lot of CofC WGS--an amazing, transformative, close-knit community of scholars and activists basically kicking ass and taking names. Small but mighty--and getting shit done.

So I said: I'm in.

And now, April 15 feels different. It still has its stresses, as moving across the country to a new place by yourself inevitably will. But I'm resting easy knowing that not only do I have a plan, but that plan is to do something with my life that I am 100% qualified for and totally enamored with. It's all happening. And I did it.