Monday, March 30, 2009

Anthem for Doomed Indecisivists

Heading to Boston tomorrow to visit Emerson College (visit my sis!!!!) and start making my final decision about grad school. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about the trip, especially the sister part. But when I get back, I have to make up my mind, knowing "I could get stuck for good!" So in a way, it's the beginning of the end. 

And because there's a song for everything (note usage above - 10 points for naming the song), I proudly present the Anthem For Doomed Indecisivists*: 

The plane will take off tomorrow,
[I] bet my final dollar that tomorrow
I'd go north
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Chases 'way the [gray] matter and the marrow
Of my bones

When you're stuck with two picks
Too quick
To wrestle through
I just lift up my hands
And stand
And say:

The plane will take off tomorrow
I surrender sanity tomorrow
On the way
Just thinkin' about tomorrow
Changes all perspective I could borrow
From today

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I dread you! Tomorrow! 
You're only [fourteen hours and twenty-one minutes] away!

*Another 10 points for naming the not-so-subtle literary allusion in this title.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

T Minus 21 Days

April 15 is just 21 days away. Next week, I'll be visiting Emerson College in Boston, and then the big decision-making ensues. Stay tuned for further updates and pro/con lists. :-) 

Have I mentioned I'm horrible at making decisions? 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Burning Bridges is Bad for the Environment

Today, if my mental state were to play out on the Facebook news feed, it would look something like this:

*                       FACEBOOK                          *

Jen is getting ready to burn the first bridge.

Jen is talking seriously to God about the wisdom of burning bridges.

Jen: Does anyone know where to find research about the health hazards of burning bridges?

Jen is reliving her visit to ___ school.

Jen is browsing ____'s viewbooks.

Jen is already nostalgic about ___ school she hasn't said 'no' to yet.

Jen thinks she might just run it by the post office later.

Jen slaps herself in the face and says "get it over with."

Jen makes a copy of the decision card to practice checking the "no" box.

Jen could still check the "yes" box on the real thing.

Jen is writing a thank you note to the admissions people she met.

Jen is addressing the envelope.

Jen is wishing she were out of stamps so she had an excuse to wait.

Jen is printing her name on the decision card.

Jen is dating the decision card.

Jen could probably clean her room before checking "yes" or "no."

Jen needs some tea.

Jen: the mail doesn't come until 2:30, after all.

Jen's hand is hovering over the "no" box on the decision card.

Jen wonders what is the meaning of life?

Jen just checked "no." In pencil.

Jen is slipping the card into the envelope with the thank you note.

Jen should probably check Facebook before sealing the envelope.

Jen is taking one last look at ______ school's website.

Jen is looking for volunteers to seal an envelope?

Jen sealed the envelope.

Jen is considering steaming it back open.

Jen is meandering up to the mailbox.

Jen thinks it would be a great morning for a long walk.

Jen will not go back to the mailbox. Jen will not go back to the mailbox.

Jen just burned the first bridge. 

Jen: Do you remember who said burning bridges was bad for the environment?

Jen is talking seriously to God about the wisdom of burning bridges.

Jen keeps mysteriously hearing doors slam.

Jen's finger hurts in a weird sort of phantom pain.

Jen hears the mailman coming. BRB.

Jen will not chase the mailman. Jen will not chase the mailman.

Jen is realizing the finality of burning bridges.

Jen is talking seriously to God about the wisdom of burning bridges.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Squashed and squeamish fingers

(The alliteration in "squashed" and "squeamish" was too good to pass up.)

Sometimes childhood is scarring: a burn here, a zig-zag white line from a sneaky piece of barbed wire, a smallish knot from a poorly-placed steel trapeze on a playground; I'm sure you can commiserate. 

Lately, I'm realizing that I have been deeply and traumatically scarred by my experience with car doors. Slamming. On fingers. Or other appendages. Need I say more? 

I didn't think so.

But it's not in the way you might think. My fingers and toes are all intact, despite my best efforts as a child. However, I have an ingrown fear of closing doors to this day. Logically, it must be a product of my childhood, right? 


(the not-so-clever metaphor begins to emerge)

All the grad school news is in. My mail delivery person is probably breathing huge sighs of relief. And now - or rather between now and Wednesday and then April 15 - it's decision-making time. 

I would have no difficulty deciding to go to a particular school, if it weren't for a tiny problem: I have to say 'no' to the other schools at which I was accepted. That means they can give away my hard-won spot and scholarships. That means I can't change my mind last minute. That means I have to close some doors. 

I have an ingrown fear of closing doors.

Why is that? I can think of a couple reasons. 1) I forget that it's a metaphor, and I really don't want to lose another fingernail. 2) I suffer from "the grass is greener" syndrome. 3) I am afraid of making a mistake that I then can't change. 4) I don't trust that God is in control. 

Staying in limbo is much easier because there are no doors. Leaving an "out" is vital when I'm the one running the show. Holding back is wiser when I'm living in the shadow of my past failures or those of people around me. But it's very limiting.

It's impossible to move ahead without closing some doors. The hard part is trusting God to help me close the right ones (and making sure all fingers and toes are safely on the other side before slamming). 

So if you see me repeatedly opening and closing my car doors between now and April 15, in the wise words of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, don't panic. I'm just practicing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Acceptance #3

...but just did.

Now the decision-making ensues.
Especially since "full tuition remission" no longer exists.

Hello, "Yet."

I love words. Most words. Not all words. In fact, there are some words that really stick in my teeth like corn on the cob and just don't want to come out.

Like "yet."

I'm a perfectionist. I'm okay with that. In fact, a lot of times, I really have respect for my perfectionism. (See All or Nothing for more on that.) Two responses are a lot easier to keep track of. 

But it's not all that healthy, especially when stuff in life comes with more than two possibilities. 

Take a few days ago. I got another rejection letter - three just last week, to be precise, bringing my total number of acceptances into a PhD program to - you guessed it - zero.  In my tongue-in-cheek-but-not-really response on this blog, I wrote "Jen is not PhD-program caliber." And then I paused.

Am I really not? As in ever? Boy, that's depressing.
Well obviously I'm not, because they rejected me.
Um, I think there's a flaw in the logic here somewhere.
No, really. 
Don't be silly.
No, really.

Tired of arguing with myself, which is just a little weird, I capitulated and typed "at this point," because "at this point" leaves more room for self-pity than "yet." Not quite sure why, but it does; trust me.

"Yet" is inherently optimistic. Maybe because it sounds a little like "yes." It also implies that the statement that is not presently true will/can someday be true. It's like a revolving door that pushes you forward, rather than an automatic door in a power outage that tries to compress your nose back into the rest of your face.

Now that I think about it, I would really rather get a shove from behind than have my face inadvertently turned into a Willow Tree figurine.

*Gets out toothpick, begins to eek out a few more 'yet's for later use.*
*Realizes the image is kind of gross. Guilty grin. Trashes toothpick.*

Right now, Jen - who is not yet PhD-candidate material - is going to set up a stakeout by the mailboxes so she is ready to receive the last admissions status letter, which has not yet come.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Open Letter to the USPS

Dear Postal Worker,

We've spoken before. I just need to apologize in advance for this week and next. And maybe a few more after that. Please come early.



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rejection #5

UNC. Now it's all down to Wake, or a lot of loans. What if they say 'no' too?
This one hits hard. I know it's competitive, and "a lot of highly qualified people have to be turned down," but why did you ALL choose me as one of them, if I am qualified? 

Really fighting the "I'm just never quite good enough," syndrome right now.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rejections #3-4

Two in one day! How cruel is that?
Right on time for VU, too: 
one day later than the rejection email last year. 

News flash: Jen is not PhD-program caliber at this point.
Two to go - let the nail biting commence.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Acceptance #2

Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, Va. Masters of Letters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature.

The Phases of Anticipation OR How to Avoid Snoman SMIOS

Sustaining a high level of anticipation for a long period of time is something like trying to put clothing on a snowman. 

A scarf is manageable, and maybe mittens. But once you pull out the hat - and the wool socks - and the long underwear - and the turtleneck - and the overcoat - and the ski pants ... well, the snowman goes into uncontrollable meltdown mode pretty quickly. (Earmuffs are the leading cause of SMIOS* among snowmen).

Waiting to hear back from colleges or graduate schools involves a lot of anticipation. But because of the innate meltdown effect we're all trying to avoid, I've found that the anticipation goes through stages of intensity, looking something like this: 

Premature Hope
1 workday after the completed applications are mailed

It might come today! Maybe they'll take one look at my application, scream "We must have this one!" and overnight me a check for a thousand dollars to convince me to accept. 

Blissful Oblivion
2 weeks after applications are mailed

It's out of my hands! I've done everything I can do, and worrying doesn't help anyone.

Pre-Deadline Panic
December 14, December 31, or January 14

What do you mean you never got my third reference? My transcript got lost somewhere over the Arctic Ocean? What do you expect me to do - send out another Robert Walton to find it? *Seriously considering the plausibility of creating a new transcript using MS Office.*

Momentary Lull with a Queasy Stomach
Most of January

Well, I won't hear anything for a while, so I might as well forget about it. *Turns on the news.* Graduate school funding is at an all-time low as more and more Americans seek a way out of the troubled job market by returning to school-- *Click.*

Personalization Frenzy
Most of January after TV is sold for $2.38 on Ebay

Hi, my name is -- and I'm an applicant for your -- program. I'd like to schedule a visit to your campus. Would you like one of my business cards? Be my friend on Facebook! I can send you an autographed supply of chocolate to hand out to the admissions committee...

Haunting of the Mailbox
Early February

First Response Crisis
February 10 at 9:16 a.m. in front of the computer screen wearing jeans and a purple shirt that itched at the wrists.

What did I do wrong? I should withdraw all my other applications so I don't waste their time too. Is Walmart still hiring? I'm never cheering for your sports team again! *Doggedly refuses to think about the amount of money spent on score reports, application fees, and transcripts.*

Return to Resignation
Most of February and March

Whatever. Another rejection? Oh, I'm making a quilt out of them, actually. I sent out a memo requesting rejection letters so I could make it king size. An acceptance? Probably sent it to the wrong person who just happens to have my name, address, email, and social security number. 

Looming End-of-the-Line
April 14

I STILL haven't heard from two schools? I left them seven voice mail messages, three emails, and fifteen subtle text messages. I can't decide until I hear from them. This is the rest of my life I'm talking about. Flip a coin. No, you didn't flip it right. Do it again. What is the meaning of life? I mean really, I could make a lot more money writing bailout requests for the auto industry. 

Realization of Priorities
April 15

Take that, world. I'm going dancing.

*Sudden Meltdown Into Oblivion Syndrome


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...And Now You Know

...the Rest of the story...

Paul Harvey, the legendary radio persona, died this week. 

I grew up listening to his radio shows, and fell in love with his storytelling voice. Our old, slightly crackling black radio (still sitting on top of the family refrigerator) that got magically louder at sunrise and quieter at sunset, or the radio in the car became his entirely when he started talking. The news was personal; it was real; it was funny. Who needed FM radio? 

I "grew out of" Paul Harvey eventually, but I can still hear the inflection in his voice when he would say "Paul Harvey - good day" or "Stand by for news" or "and now you know...the Rest of the story." 

I like this tribute from NPR because it's told in true Paul Harvey style.