I recently received an email from LtL. He decided that he needed a respite from the hustle and bustle for New York City; he needed to rejuvenate, renegotiate, and recreate himself. Like cars, we all need to pull off the freeway of life and refuel once in a while. Many of us have a special place where we can sit and let our batteries recharge (or refill the tank if you’d prefer I didn’t mix a metaphor—unless you have a hybrid). For some it’s going back to their childhood home, or a grandparent’s house. For others it’s communing with nature by hiking and camping. I prefer to go to London or Jerusalem. There is something about those two cities that I really like. A nice vacation in either city will allow me to come home and be able to deal with all the bullshit that is my daily life.
This is not so for LtL. He has decided that in order to fulfill his calling he must leave NYC, break up with his partner of a number of years, sell what he has, quite his job, and drive ½ way across the country to a state and city he’s never been to. His special refilling place is the American Southwest, and the desert. As such, he has decided to head out to New Mexico with no job prospects, no housing, not even any friends.
I think it’s insane. He’s not getting any younger, and still he’s willing to quit his job and seek out a new one with no prospects. I continued to think of all the things I’d say to him when we talked about this decision…like that I thought he was absolutely crazy and it was pretty much one of the dumbest things he’d come up with yet.
Then, in one of those rare moments of introspection that I have, I realized 2 things: 1) I still thought that he was absolutely insane for doing this, and 2) the only reason I was planning on being so disparaging was that I was in fact jealous. I wasn’t jealous of his decision to go to New Mexico in the hopes of working at Spaceport America, but rather, I was jealous of LtL’s courage. I know that he isn’t the type to make rash decisions, and if he did in fact decide to do this, then a lot of thought went into it. I was jealous that I’m not as brave or adventurous as I’d like to be. Every night I lay in bed with the Sabra, and we talk about moving to San Francisco or Boston or Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or London, and every morning when the alarm goes off, we both get out of bed and trudge back to jobs we hate.
But not LtL. He put is money where is mouth is, as the saying says, and got off his ass and did something about his unhappiness. Do I still think he’s crazy? Yep. But I also think that whether he finds what he’s looking for or not, he will be happier for having tried it. I wish him well. I support him to the fullest I can. I hope that his courage and conviction will inspire me to do more of what I want to do than my comfort level will allow.
His journey reminds of a great line from an otherwise mediocre song:
Somebody once asked could I spare some change for gas
I need to get myself away from this place
I said yep what a concept
I could use a little fuel myself
And we could all use a little change
-- Smash Mouth
I wrote the London Gent this morning to congratulate him on his city wining the bid for the Olympics in 2012. As always, his response made me laugh (which seems to be happening less and less these days):
Hotels are even now multiplying surprising tariffs by exotic factors and planning a comfortable retirement...........but there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.
I think that it will be good for the re-generation of transport links and the East End, which needs this sort of stimulus. By the same token, I can look forward to ever-more-agonising journeys with a completely fresh set of excuses to be deployed!
One has to expect a boom for tourist-related activity (e g theatre) — but also remember that 2012 is seven years away. There is, however, one redeeming fact which is that the French were supremely confident of being chosen, so it's put a lot of icing on the Trafalgar cake. (200th anniversary just celebrated)
This, alone, makes all worthwhile.
brought to you by Procrastination.
I guess I should bring everyone up to speed on the graduate school front. Well, I spent all weekend (it was a long one thanks to Mr. Columbus) working on filling out the application in Adobe Elements to make it appear like I typed it. Alas, in the end it didn’t look good, so I’ve decided to neatly hand write the application. Since I have all the information already, I don’t expect it to take too long, and I plan on putting it in the mail on Saturday. I have finished the first draft of my proposal and now it needs to be vetted (assuming that everyone is willing to read it). I have already sent it to the ‘rents. A friend at work looked at it, and made some good suggestions. I will also ask the woman at the University of Manchester (she offered months ago), DC, Bobzilla, and perhaps DW. MO, the Greek, RC, and LtL have all already agreed to read it, so that is good news. So, I should have the whole application out of my hands by Saturday.
I haven’t done anything with the Royal Holloway application, but it’s all the same info, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Once I get the University of Manchester application in the mail, I will concentrate on the Royal Holloway one. Since Manchester is shaping up to be my first choice, I am focusing all my energy on that one.
I know, I know. I have been remiss on keeping you informed of my progress concerning my desires to return to graduate school.
I have made the decision that I am definitely going to apply to at least the University of Manchester and Royal Holloway, University of London. I am still not sure if I will actually attend, but I am definitely going to apply.
In fact, I have already begun the process. I filled out the FAFSA online over the weekend. (For those not in the know, the Free Application for Federal Aid is the application for financial aid. All graduate students are guaranteed X number of dollars for graduate study. As far as I can tell, certain overseas schools are recognized and the US gov’t will still provide assistance. the University of Manchester and Royal Holloway, University of London are both on the list. Here’s hoping that I have not misread the rules.)
The only thing left to do is figure out who the heck to ask to write my letters of recommendation. MO offered immediately, so that is good (Thanks, MO!). Fortunately, British universities only require two references. I was going to ask my old advisor, but she is incommunicado, communing with nature and all. I am thinking about asking a Ph.D.-type here who was previously my boss, but he has never seen my academic work. There are two professors at the University of Maryland who I could ask, but one has left under mysterious circumstances, and the other was over a week and a half late with the last letter I had asked him to write. I also know that my former boss at the University of Maryland would happily write me a letter, but again, she doesn’t really know my academic ability other than I got good grades.
There is DC, who is the greatest guy, knows my work, and is a big, big name in our field of study, but I fear that the ivory tower-dwelling, prejudice academic snob will rear its ugly head merely because he hasn’t got a graduate degree (then again, I have discovered that there are many people working at universities and colleges in the UK without graduate degrees, so perhaps they aren’t as bad as the US when it comes to such things). Likewise, I’m sure that Bobzilla would be happy to write one (although I fear what he would write since he thinks that I should be working, getting married, and having babies—clearly he’s in cahoots with my mom). Seriously though, he would, I’m sure, write a wonderful letter.
So, maybe I’m not as bad off with the letters as I thought. Well, I need to worry more about the damn application and the statement of purpose and my proposal.
Well, I guess there’s no time like the present.
While we were enjoying our Jamaican Curried Lamb (see nice kids) last night, I broke my two big pieces of news to the ’rents. I was surprised how well they took both bits.
My mother asked me what was going on with the potential job offer at NASA. I told her that I still have not heard anything new, but that it’s supposed to start in 24 days if all goes according to plan. Now, I’ve been here at NASA for almost 2 years, and every office I’ve worked in has told me that they are going to get me a job, so I’m not going to really believe this office until I see the paperwork. I explained this to my mother, and she gave me that knowing nod. Then I followed this up with telling her that if I don’t get this job, then I’m going to quit working at NASA. I really thought that she was going to have a problem and say something like “well, you should probably stay there. At least you have a job there.” But she surprised me and just nodded again, and said that she completely understood and did I have any ideas of what I might do? I responded with
I’ve been looking at grad school again. My mom’s first response was “how are going to pay for it? I just don’t want you being almost 40 and so far in debt that you can’t ever see your way out. I mean, you’re going to want to get married and have kids, and I would hate to see you have so much debt.” Well, when I explained to her that being in debt really didn’t bother me and that I had no desire to have kids, she looked a little panicky. “What do you mean you don’t want kids? Who’s going to take care of you when you are old?” Fortunately, my father chimed in at this point. He only asked “Where are you looking?” So I told them about the schools I’ve been looking into and my mom asked about my topic and I explained that and she seemed to think it was a good topic and that it made sense, but would it help me get a job? When I said that one program was in the theater department and the other was in history, she said I should go with the history one as it would improve my chances of getting a job.
I mentioned my concern about Manchester being so far from London and what MO and the London Gent had to say about Manchester. My dad said that it’s only 3 years, and it’s not a big deal. And we both agreed that if the University of Manchester gave me more money (or any money at all), then they were the best place to go.
So, all in all, I think it went over better than I expected. I thought my mother would need a little more convincing, but I think once she got over the initial shock of me not wanting kids, she was OK.
Jo Cose is blessed with many friends. Alas, some of them live far away. The London Gent is a case in point. As his name suggests, he lives in London (although he tells me he is an expatriate from Scotland and therefore not a Brit).
When I was in London in the winter of 2000, I was trying to follow impossible directions that MO had given me. In retrospect, I believe that they were directions to the Hungerford Bridge. Anyway, where I was actually headed is irrelevant. I was confused, turned around, and not sure where to go next. So, being the tourist that I am, I looked for someone who looks like they belong there (read wearing business clothes and carrying a briefcase). So, when the London Gent walked up, I asked him if he could point me in the right direction. Alas, he was from the other side of town, and only in this neighborhood to drop off a package. But, he thought that he knew where I needed to go. He told me that it would be easier to show me rather than explain the directions (normally, I would be offended by such an accusation of my limited intelligence, but this is London, where even the locals carry their A-Z).
The caveat (there’s always a caveat, isn’t there?) was that his package had time sensitive material in it, and he needed to make his deadline. If I walked with him to deliver it, he would be happy to show me the street I wanted on the way back. As we walked we chatted and discovered that we actually had a connection. I had just recently graduated from a masters program in theatre history, and he worked in one of the better known theatres in the West End. What a bizarre coincidence!
I don’t know if it was just that the London Gent is such a nice guy or because of our cosmic connection, but he not only showed me where the street I was looking for was, but also took me on a multi-hour walking tour of London. Finally, he bought me a sandwich and drink, and we walked back to his office and ate lunch. He also took me into the house of two of the more famous and important theatres in London (and theatre history). It was a really great afternoon, and one of the highlights of that trip. I love meeting new and interesting people.
The London Gent and I still talk on email pretty regularly, and the last time I was in London (winter of 2004), he took me to a posh gentleman’s club and out to a shmancy dinner. It was quite a lovely evening.
So, I emailed him this morning to ask him for an insider’s perspective of Manchester since I am beginning to think seriously about the University of Manchester. He told me that I was lucky he checked his email because he was about to go on vacation. His description made me laugh, and I thought that I would share it with the world:
“leaving in a few minutes for Skiathos – lovely Greek island of my youthful memory, possibly disgusting island of my here and now.....we'll see.”
I got three emails from the professor at the University of Manchester. She seems really gung-ho for me to study there. I am just waiting for her to make financial offers (which might sway me to want to go there).
I still have heard very little from the schools in London that are my first choices. I have heard from Royal Holloway, University of London, and got their Prospectus the other day in the mail. I emailed the professor there a second time, but I am still awaiting a response.
I am beginning to think that a trip to bonnie England might be worthwhile. I shall start looking on Travel Zoo. I have over 60,000 miles with Northwest Airlines, but I was hoping to save them for a different trip. Oh, well, there are worse things than flying for free to London. But the biggest problem (even bigger than money, which is surprising) is vacation leave at work...I have precious few hours available.
OK, I got an email from the professor at The University of Wales Swansea, and she seemed somewhat interested, but there was no bio on her on the website and the department’s site was lacking in any real substance.
But, the Professor from the University of Manchester has been in touch again and offered to send me another article she is working on. She asked me some questions about my background and told me that she plans to be in Georgetown before Christmas. I also sent her copies of my articles and offered to send her my thesis.
It’s looking like I may need to actually go over there and meet some folks.
So I heard back from the professor at the University of Manchester, and she was very excited about my topic. She was ready to get me in touch with the admin folks there and get things set up right away.
She sent me a copy of a paper that appears to be a final draft of a forthcoming book. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it very much. The only caveat is that it dealt pretty heavily with masculinity theory. But I have a feeling that given my topic and my research interests that I will soon be unable to avoid it.
Now the real question is do I really want to live in Manchester?
I heard back from a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London. While he said that he thought my topic was very interesting and wanted to talk with me further about it, he seemed to feel that he may not be the best person to supervise me and suggested I make contact with particular professors at the University of Nottingham and the University of Manchester. I have sent them letters of inquiry.
In the meantime, I have emailed MO to ask his opinion on said schools. He feels that they are both good institutions in their own right; however, he expressed concern about my ability to adapt to life in the British Boondocks. He seems to think (and I heartily concur) that I would be much happier in London than elsewhere in the UK.
He also reminded me that while many folks believe that the name of the school on your resume and diploma are the most important and others think that it’s the name of your adviser on your dissertation, the simple fact of the matter is that what is most important is the quality of your book.