I haven't read Joan Didion's book, but it must be about grad school, right? There are so many years of magical thinking there it's hard to pick one ---- the "I will finish the entire dissertation in 8 months" year, the "I am brilliant and I will get a wonderful job at Harvard" year, the "fuckit, I'll drop out to become a best-selling avant-garde novelist" year ... take your pick.
My favorite, though, was the two weeks before the graduation ceremonies. That's not a year? Well, that's the magical part.
I had such big plans ---- After I Graduate Everything Will Be Perfect! I Will Be Perfect! Even though I was completely incapable of motivating myself to work on the dissertation, I was sure Once I Graduate, my apartment would be always clean, I would be able to write effortlessly and fluently, I would go on a diet and stop slacking on my (expensive, already-paid-for) exercise program, I would cook healthy stuff I have at home rather than throwing out rotten stuff and then buying expensive, unhealthy crap on my way into the library. I would go out and do social stuff more and be an all-around better friend. I would, I told myself, Turn Over a New Leaf.
Something tells me that's not going to happen now.
Mainly because nothing feels any different. I mean, sure, yay, I graduated. But I'm over that now ---- I'm not done, so the week after the graduation hasn't been any materially different from the week before the graduation: I go to school, procrastinate in the library and roll the damn rock a little way. I have seen a bunch of random people ---- someone I TA'd for years ago, someone from a grad class my first year, a couple librarians I've met ---- and it's very fun to say "I'm almost finished! I just graduated and I'm getting ready to file!" (ok, I am exaggerating on the "getting ready" part, but they don't need to know that, right?) Yes, that part is nice.
But I don't feel any wiser or more accomplished or really like I've succeeded at anything. I don't feel like a "Dr." and let me tell you, if I were going off to be a "professor" in some tenure-track job in fall I would be dealing with huge academic fraud syndrome, something that never troubled me much as a grad student (heck, I've been one long enough that I'm quite comfortable in the identity). I still feel like me. And I've gotten quite used to "me" being equivalent to the snarky, procrastinating, backsliding lil' old grad student. So while I never turn down the chance to have a party in my honor, it didn't really feel transformative or like it actually marked any sort of real transition.
That's not to say I won't work on my List of Perfection above as goals ---- money is tight and my clothes are too after the past couple months of high-stress, low-free-time eating, so I need to undo that bad habit ---- but I keep coming to these new milestones and thinking "here's the happily ever after!" here is the moment of perfection, of nirvana, of closure, of something! And then it just turns out to be the everyday. Is getting a job, is getting tenure, going to be the same deal?
Sigh. Oh well. I sought an epic narrative and found only the quotidian. Maybe the epic can only be found in representations rather than experience. Good thing I'm a fan of satire and bathos, because those are always applicable to reality itself.
In other news, it is hot over here ---- something that's not helping my plan to eat out less and consume less ice cream. I start up the summer session very soon and will be complaining and questioning you all about my adventures in it presently, I'm sure, and besides finishing my dissertation ---- and the joy of formatting the dissertation, which, I have been told, will cause me to pull all my hair out, so you will get updates on that, too ---- I need to get my articles revised and sent out again, write another conference paper, plan for the next job search --- oh yes, I have many things on my plate this summer. You will get to hear me whine about them all. For that part of my personality hasn't changed a bit either.