Nov 28, 2006

A Call to Action

All right. That's it. The time has come to shake off the detritus of this latest useless year and give some form to this sorry life.

I remember when I was a teenager, 16 and shifty and dating A. in secret. My parents didn't know about A. at first, but nevertheless they were worried sick that I would fall, like the fragile daughters of lore, into the arms of some leather-clad bad boy and from then on all would be lost. My grades would plummet, I'd spend all my money on makeup, and soon I'd be out at the lot parties with the bad kids, doing wipits and making out with the football team. My mother bought a book called Reviving Ophelia which was all about the crisis of adolescent girls--eating disorders and depression and promiscuity and drug abuse and all that good stuff.

As it was, my mother misspent her money on that book. I dated A. for the rest of high school and far from threatening my good marks, he was doubtless a stabilizing force. My parents bought into the talk-show hysteria and they were wrong, at least about me. Not that anyone should find that surprising.

I've been reminded of this lately because these days, M. is the one who shoves me toward action. It's largely thanks to his persistent bullying that I have decided, at the last possible second, to apply to graduate school this winter.

"I can't do it this year," I protested. "My recommendations will be laughable. I don't have the prerequisites. They will throw my application in the garbage."

"Well, so what if you're not good enough?" He said. "You'll never be good enough. So apply now with all your flaws, or admit failure. I think you have a chance. I have never had the prerequisites for anything I applied to, and who cared? Do you want to be working in that office all your life?"

That did it. I won't admit failure, even if I fully expect it. And my job brings me no joy. So here I am, scrambling to arrange standardized testing dates and letters of recommendation, a "statement of purpose" and emergency meetings with my Hoover adviser.

M. is applying to a Ph.D. program now and the odds are stacked neatly on his side. The chair of the admissions commitee owes him both a good sum of money and a fat favor. And unlike most masters students, M. will be published in a big-name, peer-reviewed journal soon. In this case, envy is no sin: it is a call to action.

By the way, and this is wholly unrelated, my French housemate just made a vat of thyme-infused ice cream for her husband's birthday and I hereby declare it dangerously delicious.

Nov 10, 2006


I gave up with the “cast of characters” post. I don’t want no cast o’ characters. How lame and “meta” was that? And why was it necessary for me to name everyone after saints? Two words: it wasn’t.

One of the reasons why I haven’t blogged recently is that I’ve been busy at work—and obsessing over politics, a disease if you ask me. But another reason is that I can’t commit to anything these days. A good idea one day seems stupid the next. I want coherence but I can’t seem to provide it. Just as I want to build a life, a formidable self, but persist in being a dilettante, a weaver of plans with no execution.

I want to learn calculus. I want to learn logic. I want to learn formal linguistics. I want to learn computer science. I want to learn biology. I want to read this book, and this one, and this, but alas! The time goes, and I do terribly little beyond my job. I want to leave and I want to stay. I want to be a specialist and I want to be wise in all things.

I don’t want to do the best I can so much as I want to do better than everyone else. There’s a reason why I went to a schmancy-pants college; competitiveness is in my nature. The feeling, not entirely misplaced, that I am being trounced “at life” by my peers is deeply demoralizing.

I can’t even keep a blog. Can I repeat that, for emphasis? I CAN’T EVEN KEEP A BLOG. Even silly fourteen-year-olds can keep blogs. My mind is in disarray. My blog’s title fits, I suppose. Undersecretary of disarray. I wasn’t even “together” enough to be the goddamn Secretary.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, etc.

I would say, "next time, I will write about politics and the elections," but if I did, you would be unwise to believe me.