If It Weren’t For The Juno Soundtrack On My Walk To School, I Might Have Turned Around And Gone Home


Pee Stick

Friday I had to go to school for a pizza lunch with my dissertation advisor and all of his other advisees at noon. Friends of mine, mostly. Or somely. Around 10:30 I started getting irrationally nervous. Like, butterflies in the stomach nervous, not sweaty palms or nauseated nervous. Ever since Evan was born I feel like this big outsider whenever I go to school; it’s like I carry a secret that no one knows, a book written in an unreadable language. There, the world is a giant pregnancy test and I am two lines while everyone else is just one. I feel a strong desire to show up looking and acting exactly like my old self, but with an extra bit of sparkle. Look, I want to say, I haven’t changed a bit. Look how normal I am still.

It’s telling that the night before the lunch, I had this dream:

I am at some sort of recruiting event for the department of English. We’re courting this big, fancy scholar who has lots of big, dusty books published. I’ve met her before, at a conference a few years ago, and so I go up to her and sort of re-introduce myself. We talk, briefly, and then she asks about my work. I tell her what I tell everyone: that I’m working on my dissertation, only slower now.

“I had a baby about eight months ago,” I tell her.

“Oh, no,” she says back, like I’ve just told her I’ve got terminal cancer. She gives me this horrible piteous look and walks away.

Later in the dream I hear her telling my dirty baby secret to a small circle of other people. The assumption is that this was a mistake. I have to tell everyone, “No. We did this on purpose.” She actually gasps, just a small airsuck.

It’s also telling that on Thursday, in preparation for seeing several people I hadn’t seen since I was boat-sized, I went through my recent pictures of Evan and printed some of my favorites. Since I’m usually with Evan, I don’t carry pictures around, but I knew people would ask and I wanted to be prepared.

Do I even need to say that no one asked?

Yeah, it’s weird. I want to appear the same but I feel so different. I want people to ignore it but I also want them to ask me about it. It’s only like this at school.

The lunch went fine, by the way. It turned out to be less social (not social at all!) and more business (two hours of nine people explaining their current projects and research questions!). I spent the first hour feeling like a lawyer at a medical conference — everyone was talking so fast and even though I knew it was English, I felt I didn’t understand 40% of what was being said. Ph.D. students have a way of dropping names and terms like everybody ought to know them. I don’t know if it’s hubris or ignorance, but yesterday I really found it distracting. What if I blogged simply by dropping names intended to stand in for ideas:

I had a really Jameson moment the other day as I was using my Winehouse. I had this feeling that if I looked over my shoulder, I might Randon. I’m still using Winehouse as grist for the mill, but I’m not sure she’s going to get me any further than Stephens.

Throw in some more poorly-constructed and elaborate metaphors and a few Greek and Latin terms and you’ve got my meeting. At least that’s how it felt at first. By the end, maybe I changed or maybe everyone else did, but things felt at least a little bit more my speed. I was last and by the time we got there, everything was fine. I talked about my Dreaded Dissertation and answered questions. I realized how much more I’ve accomplished in the last month than I thought, even if I don’t have the pages to show for it.

I couldn’t wait to pick up Evan from daycare, though. You can hide the mommy on campus but you can’t leave her behind entirely.


5 Responses to “If It Weren’t For The Juno Soundtrack On My Walk To School, I Might Have Turned Around And Gone Home”

  1. A lot of my friends finished up their degrees after having kids, so it might not be as lonely an experience as it might be feeling right now.
    (The Boy had his face painted like Spiderman at a carnival – that’s why it was all red. Your guy is still little and so you are still innocent to the ways of the face painting, obviously.)

  2. Oh gosh, I know these feelings all too well. For me, there’s also a feeling of not quite fitting in with the other mommies. I mean, I’m sure there are other mommies (like you) out there who are interested in their children, but also in using their brains for things apart from child-rearing. But most of my non-cyberspace “brain-friends” tend to be single and childless, and the mom friends seem to be only interested in mommying. Ah well.

  3. Is it telling that the only Winehouse I can think of in your name drop is Amy Winehouse?

    I’m certain I wouldn’t fit in with a group of Ph.D. students. But I would swap baby stories with you.

  4. I used to have a grad student brain, but then I had kids. Now I can still follow along with my former classmates, but the language barrier is a little greater at this point. I feel like I gained an entirely new aspect of myself when I became a mom, and that extra part of me doesn’t fit in as well in an academic setting anymore. Even in nursing school – most of the students are childless, or have older children and don’t need to be as involved in their lives as much anymore.

    (And I so understand bringing pictures to show everyone and having no one ask to see them. That has happened to me more than once.)

  5. McSwain, you’ve explained it perfectly. Now can you fix it? : )

    As for the names I drop, I made them up. Or rather, I just plunked any old names in. Winehouse actually is a reference to the singer, even though I actually find her so freaking annoying. : )

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