So I got my last rejection letter in the mail today, from University of Illinois. I had applied to Ph.D. programs last semester in a bit of a haze, still trying to cope with the Kevin nonsense that I wrote about here, still trying to piece my life back together after the break-up, not really sure what I wanted. And as this semester started, I felt my priorities shifting. Graduate school is pretty great, don't get me wrong. Where else can I be relatively financially secure (in debt, sure, but I eat and pay rent) for doing the things that I love, like teaching freshmen why rhetoric is important and writing essays about literature and cosplay? But there is a fundamental lack of perspective in academia. There's this weird culture here that makes it difficult to imagine yourself anywhere else, because the idea is that being a professor is the highest of goals, and if you end up doing anything else, you've either been unable to cut it or you've settled for something lesser. Which is fucking ridiculous, obviously.
This is not a place that encourages mental health. Sure, you can negotiate the profound ableist culture of the university, but you have to want to. And I'm not sure that I'm willing to be even slightly miserable for so long right now. I'm prioritizing my happiness right now, and my health, and the university is not the place for me to do that. I've been struggling here for the past year, and it's been a rocky year, so maybe after I take some time off, I'll want to come back, from a better place. But for the moment I need a breather. So this summer I'll be moving to Austin, and will not be in school for the first time in my life.
Getting nine rejection letters was still hard, no one likes rejection. And, frankly, I think I'm pretty good and some of those programs are stupid to let me go. But I'm relieved I wasn't accepted somewhere amazing. I kind of doubt my ability to say no to them, and I don't doubt how miserable I would be, moving thousands of miles away from any semblance of a support system, to start a four-year (at least) project I'm not positive I want. So rejection saved me from making a terrible decision, and I'm really excited about this new chapter of my life, and confident that graduate school is always a choice I could make later. I won't worry myself about what comes next for a while. I've been thinking long-term my whole life, and I'm ready for a little living by the seat of my pants.
Leaving graduate school, though, means that my writing will become even more important to me. I think I'll be devoting more time to this blog than I have in the past (gone are the days of me disappearing for a month because of finals, after this semester is over), and my pipe dream is to break into freelancing. One of the reasons I was rejected from all those schools, I'm sure, is that I was not shy about the fact that I wanted to focus on science fiction fan cultures and pop culture. I could have made my application more conservative, painted myself as a Victorianist with a weird interest in science and science fiction, but that's simply not the case anymore, and I didn't want to end up somewhere where they wouldn't let me write papers about Doctor Who cosplay and the manifestations of Victorian culture in steampunk fashion. Honestly, I couldn't be happy only doing those things here, on the side of my life. So I emphasized them in my applications, and I'm pretty sure academia just isn't ready to consider those legitimate interests. So we'll see if I can make any money writing about those things elsewhere. For now, even focusing on doing them here sounds more satisfying than seeing when I can squeeze my interests into a seminar paper every now and then.
I've had a few friends doubting whether they should express sympathy or congratulations for my rejections. I say go with congratulations. I'm really excited about this new chapter in my life, and none of my options have been closed. And I get to move from College Station back to Austin (only, for real this time), and totally reverse the title of this blog. :)