My Intellectual Journey, Part VI

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.

12 thoughts on “My Intellectual Journey, Part VI”

  1. I enjoyed those posts very much. Hope you’ll after a while write about how you found feminism and developed your views on it too.

    And, of course, if you have more to say about Israel, Palestine and/or US politics, it’ll be great too.

    Like

    1. Thank you, el! It’s a great idea that I should write about my feminist journey. I think I’ll do it. I’m so exhausted right now that I can’t produce anything smart but reminiscing is always easy. 🙂

      Like

  2. —and didn’t feel that it made much sense to have traveled across the world to encounter yet another one.

    This was our feeling with respect to Quebec, but for different reasons, of course. Although we left Estonia not because we were discriminated in any way, the irony did not escape us: it did not make much sense to travel around the world to find ourselves in a place where the (national) majority feels so threatened that they have this overwhelming need to build their national state out of a de facto multicultural country.

    Like

    1. Ah! This is fascinating. It must have, indeed, been a huge letdown for you.

      I just heard a story of a woman who brought her kid over to Quebec, the kid was put into a French-speaking school, which the mother initially welcomed. And then, the kid was given a Frenchified version of her name by the teachers and forced to use it instead of her own name. How horrible is that? You don’t rob a kid of her identity in this way.

      Like

  3. Was there a reason you did not finish your PhD in Canada? Did you apply to many places and then selected the one you ended up in? I’m curious, because I was completely ignorant of how grad studies work in the US. I applied to 7 programs, and was admitted to 6. I ended up where I did for two reasons: weather and because one professor in particular called me once a week for a month to convince me to go there until I accepted.

    Like

    1. If I got all 3 degrees in one place, I’d never have gotten a job anywhere after that. Nobody wants to hire such people.
      I was very unfamiliar with the US system of higher ed, so my thesis adviser told me, “This is where you should do your PhD.” So I did. 🙂

      Like

        1. You need to be exposed to different schools of thought, different intellectual environments, and a much wider variety of courses that any single department can offer. Especially since in my discipline departments are usually quite small.

          Like

  4. “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.

    My friend who spent her teens as a prostitute always wondered at the the scorn she was treated with and the respect given to “wives” who married money and “didn’t have to work”. As far as she was concerned, both were “flatbacking” for a living.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Clarissa Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.