Monday, March 30, 2009

I Still Hate Sundays

It's official, I think. I'm depressed. I miss my husband so much that it feels like I can't breathe sometimes. I miss not being able to talk to him about what's going through my head. Instead, I have to lay it on all of you folks. 

At times I think I fucked up. I certainly fucked up things in my marriage last summer. I'll spend the rest of my life making up for them. But beyond that, I was supposed to provide a certain measure of life for my husband and I and our eventual family. My drive to do well came from him. I thought that if I could do what I was supposed to do and do it well, that it would secure our future and also secure his own opportunities to advance. Not to mention our children's. 

I was supposed to go to Yale, Princeton, or Cornell (SFRSHS schools 1, 2, &3). I was supposed to be not only the first person in my family to earn a college degree, but also the first one to earn a PhD, particularly from an Ivy league school. I was supposed to be the one to secure upward mobility. I busted my ass to earn straight A's in college, to get research experience, and to get good GRE scores. I thought I did everything I was supposed to do. Yet I did not get accepted by a single R1 school, let alone the Ivies. 

And the most fucked up thing? I wasn't applying to them because of what they were - if that was the case I would've also applied to Stanford and Harvard. I really wanted to apply to Oxford but could not for the life of me make heads or tails of their admissions process. I always dreamed of going to Oxford, moving to England, bringing up children with British accents. Good thing I didn't apply - it would've meant just one more major disappointment. 

So now I sit here with a tentative acceptance to an R2, a school that I will visit in just a couple of weeks. My husband is really excited at the prospect of moving there, but I don't know if it's because he thinks a move is inevitable or because he really does want to get out of New England for awhile. Even if we do go, chances are we would have to move again for me to complete a post-doc in order to be competitive in the job market. 

But is this what I really want?

I changed my mind when applying to grad school countless times. At first I was just looking for faculty who were researching gender - regardless of whether it was a social, clinical, or counseling program. I removed the clinical programs because I didn't want to add an extra year of internship, and then the counseling programs followed suit. Then I started looking for schools that would allow me to also research psychology and law - something that I thought could give my research a more practical focus. 

And that's how I think I fucked up. There are not many psych and law programs in this country. If I had stuck to my interest in gender I would have had a wider pool of programs to apply to. Granted, the rockstars of gender are all retiring and no longer taking grad students, but there were certainly up-and-comings that would have been great to work with. 

But it's all irrelevant. It's my turn to sacrifice for my marriage and my family. If my husband really wants to move to R2 city and I don't hate it when I visit, I will go and I will do the best work I possibly can. And if I visit and hate it, then I will stay here, try to find a new job, and become a mom with the possibility of revisiting my doctoral aspirations in the future. 

I sat here tonight watching House, and wondering if I should've just gone to medical school. Besides the fact that I don't have the stomach for it, I also can't afford it. But my thoughts have somehow turned from trying to figure out ways to do what I love to figuring out what exactly it is that I love. I used to want to be in the FBI. Now that I'm old enough and have the degree, I hate the idea that I can be moved anywhere in the country that they want to put me. Right now I feel like I just want to make more money than I make right now at a job that's more interesting than the one I have. 

I've thought about everything from PR to book editing. I'm tired of struggling to get into my field. It's getting to the point where I'm not sure I really care anymore. Psychology would be much better with me in it, but fuck 'em if they don't want me and don't see that. 


Juniper Shoemaker said...


I was supposed to go to Yale

+1 Juniper. A few weeks ago, I guessed this was your first choice. Excuse me while I dance a modest jig. I need all the cheeriness I can get right now. As do you. :)

I was supposed to be . . . the first one to earn a PhD, particularly from an Ivy league school. I was supposed to be the one to secure upward mobility.

Yeah. I know what this part feels like, at least. I feel like this now. The worst part is that I don't even feel that this is an ignoble goal to have. I think, "Why should all the other families get to produce Ivy League stars, while I fail mine by not becoming one?" (Plus: "Don't I have even more to prove, given my particular background?")

But on to the important stuff. JLK, you're all of twenty-six. That's absurdly young. I don't mean to dismiss your dreary feelings, because I know how genuine they are. But why talk as if you won't do these, merely because you've been through a first round of rejections?

It would be really sad if someone like you gave up what she really wanted to do as a career. But I doubt you ever will. I'm just going to read this as a rant.

Now I'm going to send you an email and out myself to you, in case you ever want to chat.

DrL said...

JLK, you do not need internet right now, you need some human touch! I would like to give you a big hug, but it is not possible through the wires...

You are coping with big change now when your husband is not with you at the moment (temporarily, but still) and it is normal to feel lonely.

This decreases your defences to deal with this sort of rejections that you got from the PhD programs.

Using only internet, as much as we would like to help you, is only going to keep you isolated. Have you read this?
You need a sympathetic ear, someone who would listen to you right now and cheer you up.

Do you have someone you could meet for coffee/beer to tell them how you feel at the moment? Do you have someone you could chat over the phone now? You need support when going through this, go and get it from good people, they are out there.

Isis the Scientist said...

JLK, I agree with DrL. We are all your internet friends, but I imagine you could use a real, life hug. Find one.

In the realm of the more practical, I know that you have notions that these schools are "the best" schools (and they are good schools), but this will not make or break your success and your PhD will not mean any less if you do good thesis work. My PhD is from a a state school, not an ivy league school, and I secured a position without difficulty afterwards and noone ever asks where my PhD is from. Also, I had a great time while I was there. You will be fine.

Mrs. CH said...

JLK - I can definitely understand your frustration. I'm sending you lots of virtual hugs (although agree with the others in that you should meet up with some friends IRL to vent, cry, get hugs, etc.).

As for R1 vs R2 - Iveys are good, yes, but at least in my experience, the name of the school only really matters for undergrad degrees (not that I'm saying that's the only reason you applied of course!). For PhDs it doesn't matter much WHERE you go, but WHAT you do.

So, I would just keep an open mind, go visit the R2, and go from there.

Professor Anonymous said...

1. Please do not spend too much time by yourself. Get with your family. Contact a friend. Make a friend. You are only alone as long as others don't know you're alone.
2. I really, really feel your pain, as do the others commenting here.
3. For a PhD, I agree with Isis and others that what you study/do and/or who you study with is way more important than where you study. I am not a product of the state school that awarded my PhD, I am a product of my own work, guided by a good mentor.

JLK said...

@Juniper - Thank you. It's nice to know that someone understands. But as far as why I'm talking as though I won't do it - I'm really, really pissed off. I'm tired of the snobbery in psychology grad programs and departments. I'm tired of having to whore myself just to be given a chance, only to not be given one. Every night I sit here wanting to send out emails to admissions committees, asking "what the fuck more did you want from me?" But you're not supposed to do that. I just want some goddamn answers so I can use them to make some decisions.

@Everyone else - Thank you for the virtual hugs and kind words. Unfortunately none of my friends IRL have the faintest clue what all of this is about. I get a lot of "what the fuck do you mean you didn't get into ANY of them?? How is that possible?" Which, quite frankly, doesn't make me feel any better.

I also only have one friend who has been through what I'm going through with my husband. I asked her a few nights ago how long it took her to get her shit back together after her fiance left for a similar amount of time. She said "It took until the day he came home. I was a mess. It's gonna suck, JLK. That's all I can tell you." Also not helpful.

Right now all I'm doing is weighing options and venting about how pissed off I am. It's nothing to really worry about. I can't make any decisions until I visit the R2 in a couple of weeks. The problem is that I just have way too much time to think right now.

Isis the Scientist said...

By the way, can we all be clear that state school does not automatically equal R2? My PhD is from a state school, but the state school is an R1. The ivies are not the only R1s. We all know that, right? Right??

I ask this because I wasn't sure I remembered an R2 in JLK's list...but I could be wrong or I could have been drunk at the time. That happens.

JLK said...

@Isis - my undergrad MRU was also a state school that was an R1. The R2 I keep referring to is most definitely an R2 - I found out after I talked to you that night, and since it was my dead last choice I may not have mentioned it. Every other non-Ivy school on my list was an R1.

Oh, and I just received an email about the RA job I applied for - they have ALSO told me to go fuck myself.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I just want some goddamn answers so I can use them to make some decisions.

Unfortunately, there probably are no solid answers. Applying to grad school is a statistical process. Some undergraduates have engaged in substantial research experiences and even published papers as first authors. These students will have their pick of top graduate programs.

If you are truly serious about wanting to go to a top program, then spending a year--or even two--as a post-graduate research associate and getting actual research experience and paper authorship is a wise step.

Professor in Training said...

JLK: Dr Isis and PP are right on the money with everything (as you would expect).

Personal issues aside, one of the most important qualities you need to succeed in this business is persistence. You also need to recognize what experience and/or situation will get you ahead. If the school you visit doesn't have anyone doing the work you're interested in, then think very seriously about waiting for the next round of applications. But if there is someone that sparks your interest, go for it. Sure, a PhD from Big Name Ivy School will open doors, but stellar and productive doctoral work will get you noticed for YOU and YOUR WORK and that can be just as valuable, if not more so in the long run.

I know it's seems easy for those of us who are either in grad school or beyond to say this stuff, but as one who's had to claw her way to where they are, believe me when I say you CAN do this. You've got my email if you ever need to chat - about anything.

scicurious said...

(((hug))). Since I'm rather far away.

Really, an R2 won't ruin your career. It's the work you do and how good YOU are, not how good your school was. If you need an R1, PP and Isis are totally right.

You will make it, and whatever happens, happens.

leigh said...

i also had my heart set on the Big Motherfucking Name schools- not the ivy league, but similarly big league mofos. but when i got here, i was fairly disappointed in what it actually turned out to be. i'll have to tell you more outside the public realm, shoot me an email if you're interested.

so maybe you're not missing out on as much as you might think. just some food for thought. keep an open mind about the upcoming visit, if you're in a deep funk over everything it WILL show. also, your experience there will be colored by your current sentiments.

also, re: the long distance, it DOES get easier. you just have to keep your mind occupied and keep busy. the longest nights are the ones where you sit around bored by yourself. the emotional part, unfortunately, does not just go away.

Toaster Sunshine said...

JLK: Stop it, you're Teh Awesome! And if the big schools that inspire you to greatness don't see that this year, then get into a research program and produce some solid work this summer (even neuroscience, maybe?) to prove to them that you've got the bench chops to excel. They know you can learn facts and memorize stuff from your undergrad GPA and GRE, but they need to also see that you can hack it as a researcher and not just as a scholar.

Also, this was a really shitty year to apply. Most programs have greatly reduced the number of students they're admitting, some aren't accepting any at all even, because of the crappy funding situation. Personally, I'm kind of hoping that this year's big increase in NIH funding will help float me into a great grad program this fall.

Toaster Sunshine said...

It should be noted that I think you are Teh Awesome because you write about psychology in a way that I understand and that is engaging. Most everyone else I've ever talked to about psychology makes it seem like dreck cobbled together by groping around blindfolded in a room full of moldy Jello (specifically, Freudian stuff). Maybe they didn't really understand it like you do, because you make it relevant and real. Your passion shines clearly through, and that is important.

It may be worth your while to write some popular psychology articles on gender and get them published. Showing you can write coherently about psychology in a public forum with your real name (in Huffington Post, for example), may wind up as a big plus for your new and improved application.

Ambivalent Academic said...

I'm sorry JLK. I wish I had something better to offer you right now than "hang in there".

my thoughts have somehow turned from trying to figure out ways to do what I love to figuring out what exactly it is that I love.

I still go through cycles of this. I think it's because even once you do get the to next step of the career that you thought you wanted, it's nothing like you expected it to be. It can be very frustrating and disappointing at times.

I don't know if that's helpful. I just wanted to say that the things you're feeling right now are maybe not a sign that you don't love psychology, but more symptomatic of your frustration with the current situation.

Here's hoping that things start looking up for you.

JLK said...

@Toaster - thank you, and that is an awesome suggestion. Problem is - wtf would I write about? I mean, I can disseminate current research to the masses, but I'm about to lose my journal access at midnight tonight and I have a limited number of actual subscriptions to pull from. I also might face a credibility issue, seeing as I'm only a recent grad. I'll look into it though, because maybe I can embark on a career of writing pop psych articles and books, and then grad school will be irrelevant! ;)

Stephanie Zvan said...

Hey, JLK. More hugs from me, too.

If there happens to be a researcher at your psych and law program who spent some time at UMN, shoot me an email. I worked with a couple of those types as an RA, and I will happily do whatever I can if I know them.

Hope said...

JLK, I'll just add my 2 cents here and echo those that have advised you to give R2U an honest chance. I know that's your plan, and I think it's a good one. I'm in a different field, but I did my BA and MS at an R1 and then chose an R2 (or the current Carnegie equivalent, I suppose) for my PhD because the program there in my sub-field was better than its R1 counterparts. These R1/R2 designations are not synonymous w/the quality of a particular program w/in a particular dept. Just saying....

unrelatedwaffle said...

One of my closest friends just got rejected from all five grad schools she applied to. This is a shit time to be applying to grad school, because the pool of applicants is astronomically larger than previous years due to the economy and the small baby boom that happened a little over 20 years ago.

Some things that made me feel a lot better about having to settle on one narrow thing to study is that every discipline is really studying one little corner of the same thing, the human experience. As touchy-feely as that sounds, you can always learn something outside your discipline if you really want to, and work and money don't have to come into it.

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