03 February 2006

falling with style.
this round of grad school has been an exercise in sheer determination in the face of what always seem like utterly insurmountable odds. i find myself fighting constantly for breath; trying to scrape together enough thoughts on a similar topic to call it a paper or a presentation. fighting my conviction that i don't have what it takes. battling all the cognitive dissonance i experience with some regularity as a result of my bizarre mental-emotional constellation of feminism, mormonism, intellectualism, and the never-absent need for marriage. i invariably end up a crying mess at more than one moment each quarter. and then i think that i just can't do it and i don't know why i ever tried and i should quit. but i keep coming back. either i am a masochist or i am really driven. when i'm enjoying my studies as much as i have been recently, i know i'm doing it because i love the thinking and the teaching and the exploring ideas. i love seeing my students work through ideas and i love thinking new things because of what they said. but when i'm stressed to the breaking point and i'm lonely and i realize that there is no way humanly possible to complete all my work, i collapse into a weepy mess--something that happens unfortunately often in front of other people.

regardless of my mental state, school seems like an exercise in survival. i've begun to reach a point where i realize that this is just the way it is and that it means nothing about my own abilities. grad school just kind of stinks, to put it oh-so-eloquently. today as i walked home from teaching a lesson which mercifully went well, given the fact that i hadn't really thought about it until immediately before teaching it, i called my little sister to say hi. and as i was explaining to her how my week has been (and it's been hellish), i thought of that scene in toy story where buzz "flies" and woody responds, "that's not flying ... that's falling with style!" it occurred to me that grad school is exactly that. it's not flying. it's falling--with style. taking the jump off some high point and hoping that as you fall you find ideas and thoughts and works and projects that give you enough bounce to make it look like you're flying, even though in reality all you're doing is plummeting down, drawn by the inexorable pull of gravity.

maybe, if i fall with enough style, i'll make it through and even end up with a job some day. here's to being stylish.


  1. I love the Toy Story reference. What a great movie! (even after seeing it a bazillion times). You amaze me, Amy, for sticking in there. And if there's anyone that I know with poise, grace, and of course style, it's you.

  2. well i've been awfully lucky in my friends here. i don't know that i'd manage the "style" part of the falling equation without the good friends i have here. do you remember the day nearly two years ago when i walked out of church crying only to find you and john and miles and harry? you very kindly invited me home and fed me lunch and my hurt went away. i'm not sure i could overcome all the messiness if it weren't for such good friends. maybe it's a good thing i get weepy in front of other people...

  3. Amy,
    I love the image - falling with style.

    But if any one person has the chops (the ability, the brains, the ideas) to be successful in grad school, it's you. Hang in there!

  4. Amy, I think it's a good thing. Because it helps you share your pain, diminish it, all that. I guess sometimes it's better to cry alone, but in general, it sucks because it makes it that much easier to dwell on it. And it's so lonely.

  5. I stumbled across your blog as I've newly begun exploring the world of mormon women who blog. I love everything you've written. I'm seeing elements of myself, and it's a feeling of solidarity and comfort to see these sentiments displayed elsewhere. I'm referring to all your posts. your writing is beautiful, and manages to capture the nuances of that cognitive dissonance you mentioned. thanks so much

  6. thank you for the kind comments, sarah. i'm glad what i've written resonates in some way. i find some peace in putting these thoughts out there in the ether; i'm glad they can create some sense of community.

  7. I've found that Stability hides its substance in the continuity of time, and it reflects its smiling face in undeniable causality.

    And so, after many heartfelt tears, my gratitude rests its head not on the shoulders of my expectation's fulfillment but on the breast of Stability's recognition.

    Amelia, falling with purpose is trembling beauty.

  8. Where have you been? I followed a series of links from ExII and found your blog, but you haven't posted since March. I've missed you on Linkup, too--you've only been around sporadically. Hopefully it's because life is so busy and good.

    I read this entry nodding the whole time. It's exactly how I felt in grad school. Honestly, it's how I feel now, working a full-time job, so perhaps it's just life as a driven person.

    Hope you're doing well.