So here’s the deal: As many of you know, my academic career kind of stalled out right around the time I had my first kid. I was one of those silly, silly people who went straight through from my BA program (in MN) to my MA program (in OH) to my PhD program (in CA) with nary a pause for rest or reflection. I’ve always known what I wanted to do (theatre), and I’ve always been good at school (nerd), so it seemed like … uh … the thing to do, you know?
And don’t get me wrong – I loved my grad programs. Loved the people, loved the classes, loved the late-night last-minute research-paper cramming sessions, loved living in new places, loved learning new things, LOVED. IT.
But it’s funny how when you’re in your early twenties and not super self-aware (I know; redundant) you can convince yourself that doing a dissertation is totes no big deal, and you can fer sher take that full-time teaching job in another state while completing your thesis, and, heck, you don’t even really need a lot of contact with your committee! You are a self-motivated power-house of academic fortitude! Sure, you suffer from medicate-able levels of anxiety and depression and wrote 90% of your term papers the night before they were due and possibly your chosen topic is a little broad but WHAT POSSIBLE EFFECT COULD THAT HAVE? No, YOU shut up.
Man, my twenty-something self was dumb.
So, for reasons that are mostly too boring to go into, my dissertation stalled out. And I got married, and had kids, and kept teaching and directing and acting, ‘cos that’s who I am, but professionally I was … floundering.
Anyone who’s been a stay-at-home parent can tell you about how it fucks with your sense of identity. For me, my failure to complete my PhD coupled with the usual mid-life crisis shit, layered on top of being a full-time stay-at-home mama to my lovely, exasperating children, totally threw me for a loop. Are you familiar with the Fraud Police (aka Imposter Syndrome)? You know, those inner voices that tell you everyone can see through your feeble attempts at competence? That you’re not fooling anyone and they’re all laughing at you behind your back? I have, like, my own personal squadron of those fuckers and for the past few years they’ve been working overtime.
“You can’t be a theatre professor anymore,” they’d say. “You fucked it up. That option is gone.”
But also, “You’re kind of a shit mom, frankly. And you’re not bringing in any cash. You’d better figure something out pretty soon or <insert terrible thing here> is going to happen.”
And, “Too bad none of the things you’re good at pay a reasonable salary. Maybe you can get a corporate job and do theatre as a hobby.”
Man, my Fraud Police are assholes.
Fortunately, I am surrounded by lots of real-life people who are not assholes, including my husband, and my friends, and my family, all of whom have held my hand and listened to my endless bitching about WHO AM I and WHAT AM I GONNA DO, and reassured me that everything was going to be okay and somehow it would all work out. And with the help of some therapy and some nice seratonin-reuptake-inhibiting drugs and even more handholding, eventually I believed my smart friends and family.
So I told the Fraud Police to fuck off.
And I applied to the PhD program in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Georgia, which is located in Athens, GA, which is where I was born and raised for the first 10 years of my life.
And they accepted me, for the Fall Semester of 2016.
The adventure is about to begin, y’all.