Yet again, if you expected to hear that something truly tragic ended my happiness and stunted my intellectual growth, you were mistaken. The only thing that happened was that I got accepted into a very prestigious PhD program in the US.
I had very high hopes for my doctoral studies. I imagined more learning, intellectual debates with my fellow grad students, research, and all the wonderful things that make life worth living. But what I encountered was the exact opposite of my pretty dreams. There was materialism, endless talks about whose plasma screen TV is bigger, whose wedding planner is more efficient, who knows more important people, how to snag a rich spouse, and where to buy real estate with Daddy’s or hubby’s or wife’s money.
Somebody I cared deeply about (and who cared about me even more) severed our relationship because he “needed to make connections and meet the right people” and I was “not likely to be helpful in meeting anybody who mattered.” (He has no career whatsoever today as a result of this strategy, in case you are wondering.)
I’d be leaving the university library with a stack of books in May only to be spotted by other grad students who’d ask, “Why are you taking out all these books? The semester is over, you don’t need to read any more.” So I had to start sneaking around with my books.
To me, this was the Ukraine of the nineties all over again. I had transformed my life, left everything behind, become a completely different person, gone through all kinds of hardship only to end up in a place where – yet again! – money and material possessions were all that mattered and love of books and learning was despised.
I fell apart, people. The breaking point for me was when I was taken to the house of “a real success story”, a person who used to be “a lowly grad student, just like us” but who managed to marry “like a totally gross guy she hates who is 45 years older but also a Full Professor and is like totally loaded and now she lives in this beautiful house that we can all only dream about. And the best thing is she doesn’t have to work any more” When I came home after observing the life of the real success story, I spent forty minutes vomiting into the toilet. I’d seen plenty of “success stories” of this kind back in my own country and didn’t feel that it made much sense to have traveled across the world to encounter yet another one.
Of course, it was a huge personal failing of mine that I allowed this environment to destroy me in this way. I shouldn’t have cared so much, I should have been more resilient. I had to undertake a long journey out of this place of disillusionment but this journey was psychoanalytical rather than intellectual. Thus this series ends. 🙂
Thank you for reading.