Things are coming along nicely, except for my stress level. It’s rising. The thesis, which I thought I would be stressing about, isn’t the problem. I’m about 8,500 words into it (close to 10,000 if you count the endnotes). No major stumbling blocks.
The stress is coming from choosing schools. We have also been accepted at the third school we applied for. Three for three. You’d think we were smart or something. All three are R1 research universities. There are 88 of those in the US, in case you’re curious. All three are in the top 30 of that 88. It’s a thin atmosphere up there. They all have budgets approaching that of small countries. All three accept relatively few applicants. I’m really flabbergasted that they not only accepted us, but seem willing to work hard to convince us that their school is the right one.
However, numbers on paper just don’t do it. I think I’ll just have to rely on my intuition, which served me well in the barroom days. I could tell when I walked in if it was a place that I wanted to be. We’re visiting two of them soon. I tell myself to wait and listen to that sort of sixth sense I used to have for sniffing out interesting scenes. Money is important, but it isn’t the only thing to consider. My girlfriend and I were talking about it tonight, after meeting a first year student from one of the programs who came to town. He stressed the “community” atmosphere. Most universities do.
Community makes me nervous. Some communities, I’m fine with and enjoy. Others just get on my nerves and make it hard for me to stay focused on what I’m doing because of all the energy expended trying to be a good “citizen.” I like the department I’m in because they leave me alone to do my thing. I am afraid of having to “join” a club that doesn’t have anything to do with me. Disciplines are big, and not everyone shares the same emphases—mine are kind of rare. That is why one of these schools really seems to want me. People always stress the “bonding” nature of the whole thing. But what if you don’t want to bond? Often, these days, I’d rather be alone.
But of course the whole idea is to share knowledge with other people. I’m fine with that, as long as they don’t feel compelled (outside the classroom or conference circuit, anyway) to make me. I am horribly nervous about that, nervous about the politics of schmoozing. Yeah, I know, they call it “networking.” But really it’s only slightly removed from the barroom schmooze. Cooperating on research, papers, or projects is one thing—politics is something else.
I hate not knowing. But knowing isn’t something that can be counted on in this situation. It’s an intuition kind of thing, and it does me no good to be nervous before I really meet those voices on the phone. I haven’t felt so introverted in years. I don’t like the feeling much.
I was reading a native peoples foundation site yesterday, researching funders for a project (the precise link escapes me now). It listed the board members with their tribal affiliations. However, several of the names— instead of having a tribe— listed a university. Sometimes, that’s what this feels like. It’s like choosing a new nationality, or racial label.