Today’s post is one of those posts where I’m not sure if I’m coming or going. I decided to do a round up of posts I’ve left halfway. (Full disclosure: this collage post and title come from this Daily Post blog post from last May.) I’m not even entirely sure if I want these drafts out there for all to see, but hey! What’s the worst that could happen: someone thinks I’m a sloppy writer? They’re drafts, folks.
If there’s one you, my dear readers, would like to read more of, let me know in the comments and I’ll give it a shot.
I didn’t always want to get a PhD.
When I was very very young, I played teacher. One time, my parents ordered an encyclopedia set, and the day they received it I had a friend over; I remember taking out the new books and using them to “teach” my friend. I don’t know how fun she thought this was, but I loved it. Later I wanted to become a vet but, get this, I decided against it when someone told me I’d be in school for 12 years. I moved on from vet to oncologist. The doctor who operated my wrist when I was 11 was an oncologist, and I was amazed at what she had done and the intricacies of the procedure. Later, it was writing; I wanted to become a music journalist because I read a lot of Rolling Stone and I was a fan of alternative music.
Eventually, books and writing became more and more important in my life, and I wondered what to do with my love for books and for writing. I had very few hobbies outside of reading, writing, watching tv, and hanging out with my friends. I was also a voracious reader. So when 11th grade rolled around and I had to consider what I was interested in and what schools I would apply for (after all, that’s what the other “smart” kids in my class were doing), I decided that I would do something related to writing and reading. I looked into a summer camp for prospective teachers, and applied for this exclusive program. I loved it, and the next semester decided to apply for English programs. (Why English over Education? I figured the best way to learn about books and about writing was to immerse myself in good books. Very simple thinking.)
With the handful of articles about going or not going to graduate school that have appeared in the last few months, I have found myself thinking a whole lot about my own decisions. I went from a BA in English and Modern Languages to an MA in English to a PhD in English back to back to back. Even though many articles suggest a break between degrees (to see if you’re “Really ready” to go to graduate school), I just plowed through semester after semester, all the way to my PhD.
Years ago, in high school, someone told me–someone who could see into the future–that I was destined to travel. I know some of you don’t believe in that, but I sort of do. Yes, me with my PhD. Leave it at that. Little did this seer know that travel had already marked my world, an indication of how it would become a trope in my life.
I was born in New York, the child of migrants: Puerto Ricans who had moved to New York, part of a mass exodus in the mid twentieth century that would later be called diaspora. Before I understood what being a New Yorker meant, my parents decided to move back to Puerto Rico and as a result my sister and I were uprooted and subsequently planted in a sleepy country town. By the age of seven, I was already caught in between traditional notions of what it meant to be Puerto Rican and stereotypes of Nuyoricans.
I would not stop there though. At 18, I moved to San Juan to attend la Universidad de Puerto Rico, and later I moved to Binghamton, NY, for graduate school. I probably should have been more selective about my criteria for graduate school–all I was looking for was PhD programs in Translation and closeness to New York City–but nevertheless Binghamton changed my life forever: I met my now-husband there, I met some wonderful people there, and I had my daughter there. Her birth certificate says “Binghamton, NY” on it, but as of summer she now lives in City #3: Houston, Texas.
I was always mentally prepared to leave Binghamton. I went there for graduate school, and at the beginning I dreamed of going from Binghamton to New York. Later, when I met my husband, we both agreed that we couldn’t see ourselves staying there, for professional reasons. Binghamton is a wonderful place to raise a family, and we would be close to our loved ones, but we were thinking about our careers at the time: him, broadcasting; me, college teaching. Also, many of my friends had left Binghamton by the time I got pregnant . A handful had stayed, but I had already dealt with the blow of seeing people leave and having to separate myself from others; I knew eventually I’d have to say good-bye too. Leaving to teach/work somewhere else is the fate of a lot of graduate students. We know that comes with the territory.
But leaving Kansas City was tougher than I thought. Sure, by May 1st I was ready to get in my car and drive down to Texas just to have my family back together again. But for almost three months I ruminated upon my departure. People asked me about Rob’s move, they asked me about my move, they asked me about my job prospects, they asked me about apartments. For a while it was all we could talk about. And so I thought about it even when people didn’t talk about it. Amid all this thinking I remembered how I had wanted to make Kansas City a home for us. Eventually it started to feel like home. It was probably the first city I really felt was home, not because I was born there and still mourned my departure (New York) or because I grew up there (Sabana Grande) or because I went to school there (Binghamton, San Juan). I told myself, this will be our home for a while. I stood on our terrace, stared out onto the street, and told myself, yup, this is where it’s at.
So the move to Houston was of course a move to a new home. I embraced the adventure that was moving to a new city (the fourth largest city in the United States). I loved the idea that we were staying in an urban environment–our fondness for cities is one of the things my husband and I have in common. But that meant I would have to let go of Kansas City and the things that made it a home for me. Or was it the other way around? Can I say that Kansas City became a home, or would it be more accurate that I tried my best to make it a home for myself? Is it fair to say that a city is our home, or do we claim them as our homes? It all brings me back to my dissertation research and the idea that home is more of a social construction than a natural, organic thing that stems simply from where we were born (or not).
So Houston will become home again too. That process of home-making will look different from the process in Kansas City…I think. And that’s alright. Meanwhile, I will continue to travel.
I sometimes dream of having a whole day to just respond to emails. Not work emails, mind you. Emails from friends, the “let’s catch up” kind. I don’t get them anymore because, surprise, I’m bad at responding to them. If this were a blog post in itself, it would be called “Dear Friends I Don’t Write To Anymore.” A post explaining why I am a jerk and why I don’t write back to people immediately.
Letter writing. Didn’t that used to be a thing? People would write letters. People would stay in touch that way. Now I find myself just sending a text in between other activities. In the parking lot after I drop off Elena at daycare, I send off a quick message. On Twitter I do a quick tweet. On Facebook I like a post. We move on. There has to be time for long messages, right? For long, rambling messages to friends. To explain where we are and what’s up. Is that what the phone is for?
I do miss having my friends all in one place. (Facebook is not the same thing, in my universe.) It’s not that I miss having friends, because I do have them, but I miss the presence of my old friends in my life. The people I hung out with. The people I went drinking with in my early twenties. The people who nursed me back to mental health through break-ups or dates gone bad. The people who worked on their homework with me until dawn.
Dear friends who I haven’t spoken to in years: It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I mean, just yesterday I liked your Facebook picture with the puppies in the living room, or something of the sort, but we haven’t heard each other’s voice in years, haven’t we? Some of you, we don’t even chat through Facebook. What has happened? Why can’t we keep in touch? Why can’t I keep in touch? I know I let it go, Lord knows I had my own drama to take care of. And maybe it was my fault. I always blame myself anyway.
Or do we simply keep on growing? Do we shed people as we go through life? Is that right or wrong or simply life? And why do I seem to hold onto all of you in my head, thinking, wow, I should do a better job of keeping in touch with people?
It’s weird. There are these people we meet and who become a part of our lives for a period of time. We can’t fathom living without them there. And then one day you move away. Or they move away. Or they go to another department. Or they start another job. Or you start another job. Or, simply, life happens. And you live on. And you lose touch.
Where do our friendships go to die? And I don’t mean the friendships that are toxic or that are meant to die a quick death, but the ones that we really thought would live forever, and then didn’t.
I feel like I want to reach out to so many folks, but I don’t. I feel it’s too late. Or I’m too embarrassed to admit that I am complicit in letting these friendships die. Or I wasn’t the only one, but I did let the die. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s all I can focus on, on what I did or did not do.