Some questions will never be answered.
How does the economy work? Did Jesus have a wife? Why was Pushing Daisies cancelled?
And then there are some questions that could be answered, but are stymied by the rules of social pleasantries expected in casual conversation. Casual conversation means the content must be kept light, otherwise we’ll be sucked into a vortex of honesty, which no one has time for. What do I mean? Well,
“How are you?”
Oh, please, I’m not falling for that. You don’t really want to hear the answer unless I’m paying you $200 an hour to listen to my bitching.
“Are you okay?”
Whenever someone feels the need to ask this, you can guarantee the real answer is: NO I’M FUCKING NOT OKAY. But again, social niceties are in play. You’re sitting in a coffee shop with someone you’ve met twice. Don’t be honest.
Let’s get to the issue at hand:
“How are you adjusting?”
I have been asked this at least twelve times in the past three weeks. What do I say to that? The real answer? The real answer is: I don’t know. Only a super well-adjusted individual who actively takes time to reflect, journal, and meditate would know the answer to that.
Scratch that: I do all those things, and I still don’t know the answer.
Forty-three days ago, the Mister and I tearfully kissed Philadelphia goodbye. The Mister left his big ol’ city job, I left my Ivy League nightmare, and we hauled ourselves below the Mason Dixon line into a gorgeous new state covered in palm trees and Spanish moss.
We are in a part of the country I’d only ever seen in movies.
Thus, I expected it to be like this:
Really, it’s more like this:
So now you know my answer to the questions above.
In my infinite quest to prove myself (to no one in particular), I decided to return to graduate school to pursue a PhD. And after much deliberation, decided the University of South Carolina was my destiny.
Well, not really. But the the program is rad and the mentor’s a badass, so I was like “Ok, SC, I can deal with you for a bit.”
Also, after having lived in Columbia, Missouri and Colombia, South America – it really wasn’t a surprise I would end up in Columbia, South Carolina.
But let’s not get ahead of myself. Here we are in South Carolina, eating our weight in peaches and doing our best impressions of Southern Belles. We figure that’s the best way to fit in, right?
But it’s different. Not only are we two Yankees down South, but it’s been a big lifestyle change. The Mister is Head Homemaker/Networker Extraordinaire while he looks for a job. I am desperately trying to keep it together while I’ve returned to the place I swore I would never go to again:
Jk, academics aren’t usually depraved. Just socially awkward.
Classes aren’t hard, but they’re time consuming. And I’m not used to having opinions or speaking up. My last job was an exercise in stifling every part of me that cared about the world. It’s something I need to get used to.
My research also isn’t hard, but I don’t know what the fuck is going on 99% of the time. I get the concepts, but then I’m thrown on mysterious conference calls with dozens of people I’ve never met. I’m given conflicting instructions by the same person. I’m filling 60 hours a week with work, but strangely can’t find anything to show for it. I’m underestimated, yet also not meeting expectations. I’m trying to connect with a brilliant mentor who has the social skills of… well, an academic.
And my research isn’t just research. I’m out in the community doing real things with non-profits and health programs. My department is Clinical-Community Psychology. I’m learning to be a community evaluator, health expert, implementation scientist, academic, statistician, and a therapist all at once.
I’m doing great in classes, which is ironic considering (a) Prior to this program, I’d taken two psychology classes in my life, and (b) I don’t really care about my classes.
I mean, I care, but I’m here for the research, and that’s what I’m focusing on. But I have no idea how I’m doing with that so far.
So I’m stressing. And The Mister is stressing. And we’re trying to make friends. And we happen to live in a place with this tagline:
They’re not kidding. This place is like a boiler room. No misty mountains. No ocean breeze. Our cute 1940s house has a broken stove, no central air, and windows that don’t open.
Also, did you know this lovely place is nicknamed The Palmetto State? It’s a lovely tree, as illustrated on our state flag.
Did you also know Palmetto bugs share this name because they infest every inch of this state? And they happen to be GIGANTIC FLYING COCKROACHES.
In a local moving guide, it actually said: “If you see a cockroach in your home, you don’t have an infestation. They’re just a part of life down here!”
So do you really want to know how I’m adjusting, Mentor? Instructor? Department Chair? Random 5th year student? No you fucking don’t. Because I don’t even want to think about it.
To be real: it’s hard. There have been tears. And anxiety. And insomnia. I know I’m great – I’m smart, hardworking, and qualified. But I’m also falling short of every expectation. Particularly my own.
We feel too far from our family and everything familiar. The bugs are too terrible to spend time outdoors. We have to drive everywhere. The Mister is going stir-crazy.
But we joined a gym. We meditate. The Mister makes us amazing vegan meals. People are friendly. We joined a progressive community pseudo-church.
We have each other.
And I have yet to see a single Confederate flag.