Happy New Year 4

The first time that I thought I was done with school forever, I was looking for work as an academic librarian, and someone told me that all I needed was one job that wanted me. All I had to do was find that one job and – presto! – all would be fine. It turned out to be true. (Sort of. You know how these things go.) Now, exactly one week before classes begin for my fourth year as a doctoral student, I hope that the same is true for fellowships. I’ve just sent off a first draft of a major fellowship application to my advisor for feedback, and I hope that this is a “match made in heaven” because it is literally the only funding opportunity I have found that matches my research focus and demographic eligibility. Combing through over 2000 listings of grant and fellowship funds has showed me that although I am a woman and of Chinese ethnicity, I nonetheless do not study in a STEM field and am also not a U.S. citizen (I am a permanent resident), which means that finding my “one” is like sifting for a needle in a haystack. So this year, I am putting all my eggs in one basket. I am applying to only one thing. At least I can say that I did a thorough search. At least I can say that I’m practicing “less is more.” At least I can say that I am doing a project I feel committed to in spite of these challenges. So even though the funding pastures look greener on the other side, I feel like I am actually in the greener pasture. My kind of green anyway.

Isn’t it interesting how so many idioms about scarcity are agricultural?

Today also brings two nice things: UCSD fall quarter bus passes are finally available, and my favorite campus dining spot is open late for a back-to-school event. This means I get my independent mobility back (not knowing how to drive in Southern California is, well, problematic, and not having a bus pass on top of that makes everything truly insane) and I get to nurse a gigantic glass of pinot noir in a/c while writing this blog post. This is my treat to myself for finishing that fellowship application draft. (One must have treats.) The moody alt-rock on the stereo system is a plus – Radiohead, and then what sounded like recent Matchbox 20! Ah, to have been a teenager in the nineties. This is what nostalgia sounds like.

Sometimes being in a doctoral program feels like being in college again, except this time with more emotional and intellectual maturity. I cannot imagine I am alone in this feeling. For the more academically inclined among us, I imagine that pursuing a Ph.D. often seems like you get a second chance at a college education. As in, “hey, if I’d been less obsessed with finding myself, or if I’d flipped out less, or if I’d just been, I dunno, smarter, this is what I would have done with my time in college.” For someone who used to swear that I would never do a Ph.D., I guess you can call me a convert.

So cheers to the new year. I wonder what my new students will be like.