Saturday, January 21, 2006

In the Beginning

3:36 am:
Can't sleep. The three-year-old woke me up around 2:00. He wanted to snuggle. Got back to bed around 2:40... but couldn't sleep. Too much on my mind.

In Chaim Potok's 1975 novel In the Beginning, the narrator's father, a Polish-Jewish emigre to New York City, is struck by a great depression. It is one that is prompted by the events in the outside world, and by his seeming inability to alter them as he was wont to do before. The once powerful and admired figure is reduced to a pitiable has-been. Eventually, he emerges from his cocoon, and once again finds the drive within to rise as a phoenix from the ashes of his life.

I think this is an apt image for many of us casting off our raiments as PhD candidates, achieving that pinnacle of accomplishment, then entering the bleak world of the academic job search. Many perhaps look up to us, just like the father in Potok's novel, but we have difficulty adjusting to the changes in the world around us. I have been in a depression before, of this sort. Every time I have overcome it.

6 comments:

Lina said...

Another can't sleep post!
Great poem, really like it.

ArticulateDad said...

Clare & I both have trouble sleeping, like to sleep nude, and both write poetry. You might suspect we are one and the same... except:

1) she lives in chilly England and I in sunny California;

2) She's a ... well a she and I'm a he.

3) And last of all, she's just starting grad school, and I may never be a registered student again.

Lina said...

Except I don't write poetry! That was Sylvia Plath I was plagiarising.

ArticulateDad said...

Oops. Shows what I know!

Porkorama said...

When I was telling a friend in my program that I was done, this guy that was standing next to him (another grad student that I don't know), said, what are you so happy about? It's all down hill from here. Like that's what I wanted to hear! I said "don't spoil my moment, man!" But I suppose soon I'll have to think of the real world. Thank god I'm not going into academia. I've seen too many friends go through the horror. I get to be free after this to choose a different kind of shitty job! Woo hoo!

ArticulateDad said...

Porkorama,

Thanks for your remarks. I wish you all the best in your search and seeking. I confess, I've mellowed with age. I don't prejudge other people's choices as much, and ask that they don't prejudge mine.

There are many paths in life (as I wrote about in an earlier post), and we only need to be on one at time. I think one of the hardest questions for anyone to answer, but one of the most important to contemplate, is: what do you want? By which I mean, what do you want in life, right now, tomorrow, next year?

One of the best pieces of advice I got (from the same person who told me after passing my comps that I should think of the writing the dissertation as just 20 30-page papers!) was that I should ask myself where I want to be in five years, focus on getting there, and not dwell so much on the present.

As the job search drags on, that's a bit of advice I'm trying to hold onto. But it holds as well for anyone, in academia and out.