Friday, May 09, 2003

I get letters!!

I woke up this morning to a delightful email from a friend here in Glasgow. It very nicely encapsulates all that is wrong with the graduate student life, especially the inevitable self-loathing that creeps in from time to time. I tried to remind him later that, no matter whether he studied in the States, Britain, or India, due to the glut of PhDs in the Anglophone world, he was probably going to be unemployed once he had the degree anyway. So, really, what does it matter? Oh, and yes, he green-lighted the reprinting of the email:

Good morning, Brad!

I have a nasty red-wine hangover, and I feel all yucky, so I think I'm going to stay home and lounge around in my pyjamas (did you know that 'pyjamas' was spelled with a 'y'!?) until the throbbing and dehydration go away. Have a nice time, and give A. all my love.

The lecture last night was good, particularly because I weaseled my way into a free dinner afterwards. I was standing around drinking cheap wine (that's why I feel like shit, free wine + me = drunk) chatting with M. [ed. visiting lecturer from Yale Univ.] when J. [ed. Associate Professor in the dept.] said that they had an extra space for dinner if I wanted to go. Hmm . . . let me see . . . free dinner at a posh restaurant that I can't afford. Okay!!

We went to 'No. sixteen' [ed. note: a fine fine restaurant right around the corner from me] and had a delightful dinner, with more red-wine (not so cheap, still free). So, after consuming too much, I stumbled home into bed around 11. Sadly though, in my drunken state, my self esteem was seriously deflated.

At dinner, I sat at the table between A. B. [ed. A prick of a postdoc my friend and I have to deal with far too often.] and J., and across from J. B., P. S-L. and M. V. [ed. The first two are profs. at the univ., and the latter, again, is the visiting lecturer], thinking that I was about the dumbest person at the table. A. prattled on (as he does) about some philosophical thing that I nodded my head pretending that I knew what he meant, while P. responded with equally erudite philosophical / theological rebuttals. Meanwhile, J. would occasionally say something in French as a rejoinder, causing everyone to politely chuckle. P. mentioned something about Derek Parfit (my dialogue partner in my last paper) and J. encouraged me to respond (thanks, J.). Anyway, I sounded like a mush-mouthed moron, and think I did little to impress or inform the plump German, who I imagine will be my internal examiner at the Viva. Yippee Skippy.

The coup de grâce was when I was listening to M. talk about how great Yale was to teach at (indirectly convincing me that my original assumptions about the redundancy of doing a PhD in the States - with all its course-work, exams, etc. -- was pretty much unfounded), and at the same time overheard J. B. complain to A. and P. about how the UK PhDs have become devalued because Americans come here for the 'cheap and quick' PhD, which to many academics back in the states has become a 'joke'. That's what I want the leaving head of the department to be saying, yeah!

So, the free wine + over-my-head conversations + Yale is a great school why didn't you go there -- oh yeah you didn't have the pedigree + facing my future that I have a 'cheap, quick' PhD that my potential employer will consider a 'joke' = 'I'm a big-fat-retard! Thankfully, I'm feeling a little more stable now, but reeling from an assault to my psyche! In the parlance of the LSD culture I was reading about yesterday, 'I had a bad trip, man.'

Me -- the big-fat-retard . . . maybe if I work out more people will like me . . . I should learn a foreign language, that will impress people . . . if I get published, yeah, that's it, publishing will get me the big job . . . I should write more . . . I should be publishing all my musings, yeah that's it . . . maybe if I switch to a vegetarian diet, my health will be better and I'll have more energy to work . . . I should sleep less and work more . . . I'm too easy on myself, a harder regime would get me further . . . maybe I'll do another degree at the same time . . . I should go back to work and get a real job . . . maybe I should fulfil my dream to be a potter . . that's it, find an art that only I can do, and then I'll be special . . . no, my shit would suck, just like everything else . . . maybe I'll . . .

There is more to the story here -- namely, the dirt I have on the visiting lecturer, which made our hero in this email much happier to hear; the fact that the current level of my indebtedness to the U.S. Stafford Loan program indicates this degree o' mine is anything but 'cheap'; not to mention my well-articulated, yet ambivalent, dislike for academia in general -- but it's not nearly as interesting as my friend's self-hatred. I'm off to get some drinks with it now; this will probably clear up my own thoughts on the matter, so I'll undoubtedly post an update later.