What is that saying? When it rains, it pours; something along those lines.
I know (because John told me) that this is run-of-the-mill, that everyone goes through this; hell, forget academia - all writers have had their manuscripts rejected. I know that it is part of the process, that it is absolutely unremarkable, that it doesn't matter in the long run because the rejected paper can (and I suppose will) be improved upon and it will get accepted somewhere else.
But this is just a shitstorm right now that I find myself in. I am already fundamentally questioning why I am doing this PhD, beating myself up for making a mess of my life and exacerbating the consequences of the choice that I made when I was 19; fundamentally questioning whether I am even cut out for this, rejecting the imposter's syndrome diagnosis because I am just not good at this. I am not good at any of this. And it's because I really simply and quite honestly do not care enough.
This is the story of my life: perenially getting tripped up by an utter lack of passion for whatever shit it is that I have foisted upon myself. How shocking, the extent to which I refuse to know myself. How pathetic, my desperate attempts to right and wrong. And how tragic, my hanging on to something that I have done nothing about, as if it alone were enough to magically give me the deliverance which I want so badly.
Academia is not just reading and writing. What kind of myopia and self-delusion was I plagued with when I decided on this PhD and ostensible career path because 'I like reading and writing'? It is not the case that I lack the capacity for critical self-reflection; this entire journal and its solipsistic, whiny self-referential entries is proof that I have this capacity in spades. No, the problem is that I do absolutely fucking fuck-all when this reflection has been had. I fall back on what is comfortable. I am too afraid to do something different. I have not the conviction to choose what really matters because I am weak, and stupid, and complacent, and wilfully blind to how badly I need to not be myself - to rid myself of these old habits, this choosing the safe route, afraid of embracing the only thing - the only thing - I have ever been passionate about.
So here's what I am going to do, then. I am in too deep now to quit, and I have too much pride to quit, so I will finish this PhD and see what happens. That's it. I am owning my lack of passion for this academia shit, I am owning my contempt for it, and I will take comfort in the fact that, because I have not chosen what I am passionate about as a career, it will always offer me the refuge and solace that I need when life pisses on me and I need to turn to something that makes sense, something meaningful, which makes life worth living.
Literature, the novel, writing, the written word. My noticeboard - the noticeboard that I face when I sit at my desk, is plastered with my favourite quotes from my favourite books to remind me of what and who I am when I feel as if I am losing myself to a process and institution that I don't really care about. To remind myself, indeed, that this isn't the end of anything; what I am currently doing is a step towards something else; that there is more to life, to the world, to me, than a shitty rejected article, a possibly shitty PhD (but no, it will not be shitty; I refuse for it to be shitty), a shitty academic CV, a shitty academic job. The thing that I love is not the thing that I am doing. That is the story of so many people's lives, and it is an emblem of my sense of entitlement and privilege that I think I should be exempt from the general rule. Of course, I will strive to be the exception, but I should not keep whining and moaning about the gap between the two, and do what I am doing to a standard fitting of who I am. In the meantime, when I experience moments such as the past week and especially Saturday afternoon and the past hour, I will read the quotes on my noticeboard and take comfort in the words of writers that I admire, the words that I want to one day - not right now, maybe, but one day - write...and publish.
(In a way, having an academic article rejected is a good rehearsal for when I finally finish writing something that I care about and having that rejected. At least I'm now 40% prepared for how that will feel when it finally happens.)
Here's the thing, too: I will take whatever motivation that I can get. It would be nice to be motivated by scholarly research and shit, but the truth is, I'm not, and I can't manufacture a passion that doesn't exist. What I am motivated by, however, is defiance, stubbornness, an over-inflated ego that blesses me with too much pride to let others dictate my decisions and choices, however bad they are. No one ever pushed me to do law, be a lawyer, do a PhD; those were only my own really poor decisions. And so no one gets to tell me that I am not good enough. I decide when I've had enough of this shit, not someone else, certainly not a run-of-the-mill rejection of an article.
So I will keep doing this. My thesis will be fantastic. My 377A article, in its revised form, will be published somewhere. That's it. There's no alternative, no negotiation - true to my true nature, it's really all or nothing.
It's funny that my secondary school form teacher, who also taughts us Maths, once talked to me about the gaping distance between my grades for English, English Literature, Chinese, etc, and my grades for Maths, Science, Physics, blah. 'Surely you're not an extreme person,' she said, as if implying that I could do well in both arts and science.
Truth is, I am an extreme person in her sense. I am either good or something, or I am not; I either want something, or I don't; and I am either satisfied with something done really well, or I am not. And when I put my mind to something, there is no something else. There is no Plan B. It will happen - and that is that (unless stymied by visa regulations per my unsuccessful attempts to get a job in London but that was not up to me).
I am tired of the whiny, childish mood that I have been stuck in for the past week. It's time to start being an adult again and stop feeling victimised by this amorphous, ill-defined because undefinable because ultimately whiny 'everything' that I'd been feeling sick of: tennis, French, my PhD, my life, myself. Yeah, I'm stupid, I made bad choices, but fuck off with the whining already. How many people in the world get the luxury to complain about doing a PhD at Cambridge? Just fucking own this shit and do it and stop whining. As for the other 'failures', stop playing tennis matches then, and start bettering the French. That's it, right? As for the shittiness of English weather, enjoy the five weeks in Singapore then and look forward to that. As for the boringness of Cambridge, fuck off about that already; you're going to the US in a few days' time, so stop complaining. As for your 'grossness', do you even own a mirror? Just fuck off with that shit. As for college and its unhelpfulness in financial matters, when in your life have you EVER - EVER - been extended financial aid by ANYONE except your parents? So this is just another piece of shit in your shit history of receiving no financial support from anyone for your academic endeavours - which means you ought to be used to it by now. Sure, the college should be more helpful, but life isn't shit for no reason, so just accept it, stop feeling resentful, stop feeling like no one cares because there's one person who cares, and that's you yourself, and that should be enough. Why should you expect anyone else to care when you've cared so little in the past half a year? So stop this crap. Start owning your life choices. Start doing better. Since failure is not an option, once you start doing better, there is no other outcome except being better. And that's it.
On another happier note, Matt came round last evening. He couldn't come over on Saturday when I was being a child and bawling my eyes out about nothing because he was in some village somewhere, so he came over on Sunday after work. I offered to make him dinner because I was gonna cook anyway and I figured he'd be hungry after work.
I was just going to make pasta with mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. I started cooking the mushrooms, ignoring the fact that they were kind of slimy and blackened...until I started worrying about what would happen if they'd actually gone bad and Matt ate them and I made him sick. I'd cooked mushrooms in that state plenty of times before and I didn't remember feeling ill, but I didn't want to make him sick, and since I didn't know (because I'm stupid, remember?) how to tell when mushrooms had gone bad, I erred on the side of caution and googled it.
After reading the results, I threw away the entire pot of mushrooms and started afresh with fresher shitake ones. The problem was, I'd only begun chopping up garlic when he texted to say that he was at my front door. He'd already said he couldn't stay long so I was hoping to have dinner semi-ready when he arrived; alas, it was barely ready.
The bright side was, it led to a collaborative effort at making dinner. He really likes food, and he knows a lot about food, so he dictated the cooking process. It was actually really fun. I was happy to defer to his expertise when it came to things like seasoning ingredients, when to put what in, etc., because he works in the food industry after all and I'm just a person who likes eating but not food per se, who doesn't particularly like cooking but cook anyway because 1) I like eating; and 2) I'm afraid of getting fat and so I need to control what goes into my food. So it was really fun. I think we should cook together more often because 1) fun and 2) saves money, so yay.
I asked him to help me buy a bottle of wine from the Wine Merchant because I felt like some red wine. He managed to get a pretty good 2012 cabernet sauvignon for 6 pounds, original price 15 pounds. I'd said I would pay him back, but I forgot, and in the end, he said not to worry about it.
I am getting free coffee at Fitzbillies most of the time now. I feel bad, but at the same time, it's pretty freaking awesome.