O Me! O Life!
O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
The last couple of lines are pretty good summations of what I want out of life – to contribute a verse. That is my idea of what makes life worth living. Needless to say, what it means exactly to contribute a verse is entirely subjective notion; but I’ve got a pretty good sense of what it is, even if it is somewhat fuzzy (this is a bit contradictory; my apologies). The short of it, though, is this: I don’t want to live a life in which I go through the motions. I don’t want a bland, ordinary life. I need to achieve things; I need to be constantly better than what I already am; I need to keep moving forward; I want to make something of myself. It’s not enough to have a pleasant existence, or to have a stable job, or to have a cute family. I need more than that.
Yet, it seems so hard. I seem to make things even harder for myself by making the easy choice, and doing so unthinkingly. I don’t evaluate my options the way I should. I don’t fight for things. Quite often, I fall back to my entrenched habit of passivity, of letting things happen; of fighting only when it’s almost too late.
I am plagued with a moment of extreme self-doubt, and the cause of this is none other than Cambridge. I shouldn’t even be surprised anymore, but it’s capable of bringing me to my knees, the realisation that I still let my self-confidence and sense of intellectual worth be defined by what goes on, or doesn’t go on, in that university. My near-obsession with that school is like a toxic relationship with the bad boy who intoxicates, but who is utterly bad for me because of what it does to me. I should start learning to let it go…but I can’t.
Even beyond that, there’s still the question of whether I am even going to do a PhD. What if I don’t get in anywhere? That possibility is looking more and more likely.
I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. I know where my interests lie and I know the kind of career that I want, but I can’t do it without a PhD; and the reason I only applied to three schools is because I don’t want to do it anywhere else. The institution matters as much as the PhD; it matters so much that I wouldn’t be able to say what I would rather have if a gun were put to my head.
I know what a fucking idiot I am being, but I can’t talk myself out of it. I can’t make myself not care. Being quite self-aware about it only serves to help me own my idiocy. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Nicolas in London, on a night when I was feeling stressed and fucked up because of my personal life and what I perceived at that time to be my Herculean task of scoring a Distinction, which I perceived at that time to be out of my reach. I told him that I wanted a Distinction for its own sake, because it made me feel good, and because my sense of intellectual worth is intrinsically bound up with my LLM grade. I told him, too, that I knew all that, and I knew how superficial my reasons were for wanting a Distinction (and wanting it desperately), but I didn’t care, because it was what I wanted and I couldn’t settle for anything less.
I can’t settle for less. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m forced to settle for less.
Simultaneously, I wonder just how much longer I am going to be screwed by my fatal choice in 2005, of choosing a subject that I never cared about over something that I’d always loved. I feel like I’m constantly trying to make the best of an unamendable situation. In the end, I don’t really know what I’m fighting for, when I know that there is something that I love more – which I will always love more – than the path that I have ostensibly chosen for myself.
The best part about all of this angsty shit is that I haven’t even been officially rejected by Cambridge yet. I called up the admissions office because I was sick of waiting, just to be told that I will only receive a decision in early May, when the degree committee next meets. The problem with what I was told is that there was a degree committee meeting a few days after my phone interview. If the implication of what I was told is that the degree committee meets to discuss PhD applications (among others) and that decisions are only made in these meetings, then it means that my application was discussed in March and they didn’t think it was good enough to move it to the next stage (i.e. make an offer).
Even if I do receive an offer by some stroke of luck and/or miracle, I will be fucked nevertheless because it will be so late in the game that there’s likely not going to be any funding left. I can’t do a PhD without funding. What am I going to do?
I am honestly so tired of thinking about this and checking my email and self-service pages like a mad person the minute it’s 5pm Singapore time that I don’t want to bloody do this anymore. I am tired. I am defeated. I just want to disappear, at least for a while.