Thursday, May 6, 2010

Life Envy

So I realize that I am a pretty lucky girl.  As my official PhD graduation date approaches, I've had lots of opportunity (read: free time not taken up by fretting about the dissertation) to reflect on how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head, newly-installed hardwood floors under my feet, an upcoming summer vacation to Korea, a bottle of chardonnay chilled in the fridge, a garden that is producing lettuce faster than we can eat it, two obnoxious but endearing dogs, hilarious and delightful family and friends, a kind and charming husband, and a nice, long summer reading list of recently published fiction.  We all should be so lucky.

And yet.

Every once in a while, you know, I just get a hankering for a life that isn't my own.  Maybe it's that friend-of-a-friend who got a job in corporate law and married an investment banker and has Facebook albums full of designer wedding gowns and receptions with real stemware and a honeymoon in Italy.  Maybe it's that friend from high school who joined the Peace Corps and is actively working to make the world a better place.  Maybe it's that guy who dropped out of grad school to backpack through Europe.  No matter how happy and content I am, I sometimes wonder what if I'd taken a different path?

I know a girl who is graduating from college this year.  She is going to get a master's degree in Fashion History from the Parsons School of Design in New York (home to Project Runway, dontchaknow).  She and her boyfriend are moving in to a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and he's looking for jobs.  She's going to commute to Manhattan on the subway everyday, investing in a Kindle so that she has reading material.

To me, that sounds so exciting!  Nevermind that I have visited New York City enough to know I would never want to live there.  Nevermind that I already did the grad school thing and should by all rights be completly sick of being a student.  Nevermind that one-bedroom apartments in Brooklyn are woefully small and any apartment in New York gets automatically associated (however unfairly) in my mind with the infestation of cockroaches, rodents, and bed bugs. 

It just seems right to be graduating and moving on to something new, different, and glamorous.

I am graduating and...  I'll go back to doing the exact same thing I was doing before.  Except I won't be freaking out about that dissertation thing.  I'll still be getting up to let the dogs out everytime I sit down at the computer.  I'll still be teaching the same old courses at the same old universities (although now I'll be insisting my students call me "Dr.").  I'll still be coming home to the same old house, same old husband, same old story.

And I really love all of those same old things.  But still!  Isn't graduation the time for new beginnings?  New starts?  New lives?  New risks?

Nevermind that change of any sort completely stresses me out and graduating from anything makes me all weepy and nostalgic and suddenly even the things I hated the most suddenly become my most favorite things ever.  (For example, I sobbed as though my heart was thoroughly and utterly broken for the first thirty minutes of my drive when I graduated and left college.  David was driving and I remember him saying, "Hon, you can still go back to Columbia and you can still see all your friends," and I stared at him and wailed, "But it will n-n-never be the s-s-saaaaaaame!")

It does seem that my life needs something post-graduation.  Some kind of radical demarcation from the pre-doctorate and the post-doctorate.  Something thrilling and exciting and, yes, glamorous.

So, in light of this longing for new beginnings, I asked David if he wanted to move to a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.  He said that he would consider it, but told me to think about what a pain in the ass it would be to let the dogs out.  Especially in winter.

After further consideration, I think we're going to being sticking around here after all.  It may not be the most glamorous lifestyle, but it seems to suit me pretty well.

Having students call me "Dr."?  That's the kind of change I can get excited about.

Need a little glamor in my life?  I just saw a pair of sandals that will satisfy that craving.

I think I will always experience a little bit of life envy every once in a while.  But maybe I'm already living happily ever after, after all.

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