I received my first PhD rejection letter a few weeks ago. It was from Brown. Honestly my heart wasn’t set on Brown; the program wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and I can’t say I was thrilled with the prospect of moving to Rhode Island. But, the letter carried a certain foreboding weight; the way people say death comes in threes. It had an air of Après moi, le deluge (after me, comes the flood). Sure enough the rejection letters trickled in, and I was flooded with feelings of self-doubt. After Brown, was UT Austin (the hardest blow), and then Columbia. I suppose rejections come in threes as well. I’m still waiting to hear back from two schools, but it’s not promising. The first moment you open the letter and read “We regret…” is the worst. Your heart sinks; your stomach turns. Columbia really knows how to kick a dog when it’s down. Its rejection letter was the most pretentious letter I’ve ever read. No really, I had to look up one of the words they used. As if all of us reading the letter don’t feel stupid enough. I spent about $500 applying to schools and about $80,000 on a fancy masters degree and so far I’m three for nothing. At first I felt so disappointed in myself. I kept telling myself that this past year of shitty jobs and too much Netflix was ok because come September I’d be hitting the books again, getting a PhD. I moped for a couple days and of course because life has a cruel sense of humor, and because I work with babies, who are really just receptacles for viruses and bacteria, I was sick as well as academically rejected. I contract a stomach virus and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (a virus that usually only toddlers get) I had a fever, soar throat and a painful, itchy rash on my hands and feet. Between stress about not getting into schools and the painful rash, I couldn’t sleep. I paced back and forth in my apartment in the middle of the night, rubbing my itchy, red hands together. Who would have thought that a toddler’s virus could make me look like lady Macbeth in the “out damned spot” scene. Needless to say it’s been rough.
I allowed myself a couple days in the flood, but then it was time to come in out of the rain. Now I’ve decided to look at my rejection letters as acceptance letters to a new life adventure. After my interview with UT Austin, when I thought it might be a possibility, I got my hopes up and started researching the city and, being that I have a tendency to be over zealous, I started looking at apartments on craigslist. After living in my crappy, unheated, Bushwick apartment for the past year, all the less expensive places in Austin seemed luxurious. I found myself getting excited about things like a washer and drying in the building and stainless steal kitchen appliances. Performance as Public Practice at UT Austin is my dream program. Living in Texas would have been economically more comfortable than my like in NY. My girlfriend would look pretty hot driving a truck, and I think I could really pull off turquoise jewelry and a pair of cow girl boots, but I am not yet ready to be the kind of woman who is excited about stainless steal kitchen appliances! That’s how it all starts; first a great apartment in a safe neighborhood, then I’d get my PhD, and hopefully start my career, and before you know it I’m all settled down and having my girl friend’s baby! Maybe these rejections are for the best. Maybe I need another year in this liminal space. I’ve always been so responsible and structured. Maybe I need a little chaos, more time off, an adventure! I want to travel. I want to be the abnoxious American sipping coffee in a Parisian café, while reading Molière (I imagine Jacque Brel somehow playing in the background). I want to eat paella in Spain and see a play at the globe theatre in London. My girl friend and I have no money and I don’t even have a passport but I know we will make this happen! Sometimes after the flood comes clarity.