You know I’ve been busy if I haven’t been blogging. In the case of last week, I was so distracted by other things that my delinquency extended to the improper fulfillment of my tooth fairy duties, an event which snapped me out of the fog. Perhaps it was a cry for help.
I used to live like this all the time, wrapped up in my thinking world of papers and books, mind wrapped around this problem or that, or just holding onto a deadline and trying to push away the panic. I had forgotten about that state -- both the stress and the beauty of it. I was symphony of vibrations the other day -- buzzing from a bad cold, from lack of sleep, from the hum of too much caffeine and not enough to eat (too much coffee, at my current age, makes me nauseous, so I don’t eat, not a good thing to do when you’re breastfeeding... then I notice my hands are shaking and I’m tripping over things and holy cow! better get some food down the gullet!), the vibrations of the bus I was riding, my mind thinking back to high school physics, wondering if all these vibrations could harmonize somehow (is that the correct term?) and send me bouncing into orbit. That wouldn’t do; I had already invented all sorts of excuses for the tooth fairy neglecting Aiden’s tooth; what would I tell him if I -- I mean she -- forgot AGAIN?
I had forgotten this feeling of being so absorbed in something, working on something so obsessively for a prolonged period of time, and not getting enough sleep. You enter a weird place, everything seems a little unreal but also somehow ripe for interpretation and possibility. I found myself coming up with all sorts of new ideas but of course I was too tired to actually write them out. I had also forgotten how hard it is to be really productive for more than three hours a day. After three hours of writing I find myself lying on the floor giving one word answers to Aiden’s complicated questions. “Did the emperor lie to Anakin to make him become bad?” “Yes.”
In this state I found this post on all-nighters really moving, and was reminiscing about the days of student and consultant all-nighters.
All this writing (and, in the end, I couldn’t even make my deadline after 14 drafts of rewriting “Fear”) made me really miss the community aspects of being in school or at work. Even though much of grad school was spent alone in front of the computer, playing with my hair, resisting the call of minesweeper, and looking enviously at my cat nestled in the bed out and sleeping, there was always someone else I could call and talk to, or chat with, or send drafts to. I find myself trying to write stuff now and getting to that point where you start to hate the topic you’re writing about, no longer sure which way is up, and needing a sanity check. But... who can I ask? Poor Emily has borne the brunt of this neediness. But I can’t always rely on her, and I can’t always rely on myself. But who?
Entering the blogging world has restored my faith in people while also making me hungry to be a part of a community again. I never read blogs until I started my own; then naturally I had to check what else was out there (tangentially, I really appreciate Seoul Man’s research on the Korean blogs (1, 2, 3)out there. It takes a lot of effort to go through all those blogs and he’s done a great job). Being a bit isolated by language, culture, and just the fact of moving, it is easy to get to know people around you in anything but a superficial way. But reading people’s blogs sometimes you can cut through the weather and where are you from crap and see how others think, what is really on their minds and hearts.
And on top of that I have found that I, struggling with being a mom and thinking about whether to work, struggling with all this cultural stuff, figuring out how to think about what responsibility I have to use my education, am not so unusual. There are many women out there who like me are taking care of kids, living around the world, and trying to articulate the meaning and experience of it all. I often feel like I am a community of One, giving equal weight to problems of Identity and Potty Training, but I am not. It just feels that way at 3am when I am cleaning the pee off the floor and answer the call for more water, knowing I won’t be able to fall asleep again for 2 hours and by that time they’ll be waking up and demanding food.
Though in some sense, seeing all the great stuff that is out there has awakened an ambitious and competitive side of me that I had forgotten existed. I shouldn’t compare myself with those who have continued to work and think and be intellectually productive; I have taken myself out of that race. And yet I do compare myself and find myself coming up short. I don’t regret leaving the academic world but I still covet some part of that life, that part of myself. Writing my own blog is one thing; writing for others brings out the kind of anxiety of wanting to again be an insider but knowing I never will be. I have chosen a life outside of the U.S. (for now) and a life outside of the hierarchical ladder of _______(academia, consultancy, whatever). There are no clear steps or evaluations in doing what I’m doing, so I just have to make do by patting myself on the back every so often and over-interpreting whatever feedback I get.
Maybe I can get a job as a tooth fairy, but I’m going to need to work on my consistency first.
Currently listening to: Dream on (edit) by Depeche Mode