Moving into the unknown

I haven’t updated this in a while. I’m not quite sure why but after the somewhat traumatic experience of being kicked out of graduate school I didn’t feel like writing publicly for a while. In reality the last three months or so since I found out I was being withdrawn from the program have moved rather quickly. I have wasted a lot of time, unsuccessfully applied to numerous but probably not enough jobs, struggled with increasing feelings of hopelessness and depression, begun to write a novel in earnest, written some terrible poetry, read a lot of op-eds about politics, celebrated the passing of the health care bill, applied to Teach For America, been rejected by the New York Teaching Fellows program, gone to an all day Teach For America interview, gotten drunk (extremely drunk), gone out to eat far too often, wasted money and barely made rent, much to the frustration of my roommate, though I haven’t shorted him yet.

In the process of performing these actions I decided it was time to leave Chicago. I think I actually came to this realization a long time ago but was still unsure about whether or not I wanted to take that leap. I have basically been scraping by while working at a bar in the Loop where I make between roughly 175 and 225 dollars a week. I was making ten dollars an hour but now I am only making five (not including tips), which has cut considerably into my income. I’ve kept my head above water by performing odd-jobs here and there, covering for my friend when she calls in sick, and collecting any income I can through legal means. Initially, when I was making a bit more from my job, which only involves working on Friday and Saturday nights, I didn’t think things were so bad. That said, I’ve fallen behind on credit card payments, my credit rating is in shambles, and I don’t have a long term plan unless I’m accepted into Teach For America, in which case I’ll have been thrown a life preserver I scarcely deserve.

So, whether or not I am accepted into Teach For America, I will bid the Midwest farewell after 7 up and down years enduring its winters and all else it has to offer. I have struggled mightily at points and dealt with disappointments at various junctures and of various types. Though I haven’t lived in Minnesota for almost three years I felt as if living in Chicago was in some senses an extension of that experience. It seemed that as long as I was not back on the East Coast that I still feel is my home, I was still in the midst of my long, Midwestern adventure. An adventure that I always knew was bound to end sooner or later. I did not expect for it to end in such circumstances. I fully intended on completing my PhD program and thoroughly believed that I wanted to be at the University of Chicago. For a variety of reasons, most importantly my own dissatisfaction, that has not come to pass and never will. I was enormously disappointed with myself for some time and embarrassed by what I understand as a failure on my part. But, truth be told, I always felt out of my element. Such feelings were sometimes obscured by the degree to which I enjoyed the company of the friends I made in Chicago but I think I knew deep down from an early stage that me and UChicago weren’t going to last. All at once the passion I had felt in college was all but gone. I struggled through the courses and papers because I had to, but not because I really wanted to. Eventually that sense of disillusionment began to more fully undermine my work and my commitment to the endeavor of a PhD program in English literature. I stopped believing in what I wrote and started becoming more and more cynical about the content of classes and the comments made by my professors and peers, which obviously did little to improve my attitude towards what I was doing.

Eventually I more or less quit on the whole project and suffered the consequences, something I was amazingly unprepared for. I never had a plan b coming out of college. Grad school was it as far as I was concerned, so even now, some three months after my official departure, I’m still mostly clueless. That the economy is in the tank hasn’t helped but even a greater surfeit of decent jobs wouldn’t give me a clue. I toyed with the idea of joining the military, something I used to think about more often as an adolescent, but I realize that is a pretty absurd solution to what is really not a truly dire situation. I can’t join the peace corps because of my outstanding credit card debt, not to mention my student loans that are on the verge of kicking in. I have absolutely no clue where my life is headed. I’m poor–beyond poor–and have two degrees which do not lend themselves immediately to a career, particularly when there are so many other talented unemployed people.

So, I still wonder why I feel compelled to leave Chicago. I feel disconnected from things here. Having severed my relationship with the University, the one thing that connected me to the vast majority of Chicagoans I know is gone. This hasn’t entirely made those relationships unsustainable, but it has made me feel less desirous of continuing them. I remain bitter about what happened. Certainly, I have few to blame besides myself, but I never felt very welcome or comfortable in that environment and I feel like their recruitment was disingenuous, something that was confirmed for me by subsequent prospective student weekends I attended as a PhD student. I had other options. What in retrospect seemed to be better options. But here I am.


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