Friday, May 13, 2005

Meaningless titles

I finally broke last night.

Actually, I started breaking in the elevator as I went to meet with a professor yesterday afternoon. Nauseous and exhausted and nearly twenty minutes late, it’s like it finally hit me: I can’t handle school. Even just a little bit of it. Just my piss ass 5 credit hours. And if I can’t handle it, I’m going to have to drop out again. And if I drop out this time, I don’t see how I’m going to go back anytime soon. Not only is a Ph.D. apparently out of my grasp, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that so is an M.A.

I HATE this fucking illness.

I HATE how much it’s taken from me.

I HATE how much it just keeps taking.

In my moment of profound self-pity last night I exclaimed to my walls lined with books that it’s not right. I’m too smart not to have a PhD. Didn’t my advisor say when I was an undergrad and rattling off all sorts of unique research ideas that I was going to create my own new field and be publishing like crazy? I’m too smart not to have an M.A. I mean, I’ve even published a little. Not even a damn Master’s degree from my piss ass state university?

Of course, there are plenty of people who are at least as smart as I am who don’t have Masters or doctoral degrees. I’ll survive without them as well.

They are just silly, meaningless titles in the long term scheme of things.

But they’ve been important to me.

Important if I ever want to teach.

And I so miss teaching.

Hell, at this point I even miss grading those pathetic undergrad papers where they don’t even understand the difference between a run-on and a fragment, not to mention a clearly articulated thesis.

Well, okay. Maybe not quite that much.

Not that I’ll be able to manage teaching in a classroom anytime soon. I can’t even make it to class as a student regularly enough as it is.

And Monday I have a social worker coming to assess my situation for assistance with housekeeping and grocery shopping.

I can’t even take care of myself by myself.

I remember two years ago when I had my Social Security hearing in front of an administrative law judge regarding my claim that had been denied. The judge asked the vocational expert if, based on my past education and symptom history, there was any type of work I could do. The vocational expert said that because of my poor health there was no job for me in the national economy. My Legal Aid lawyer was ecstatic. I’d won my case. When the ruling came a month later fully in my favor, it was bittersweet. On the one hand I was so relieved that after two years I was finally going to have an income. But I was approved because I was essentially useless.

I know at this point it’s time to let go of those last remnants of my old life. Of that energetic student who could study three languages and pull off “A” research papers at the rate of a page an hour. I know God is leading me elsewhere and that where ever that is, it’s not a bad thing. Indeed, it’s probably quite wonderful in its own way.

But this week it’s been hard to let it go. I miss it.


In time the fork my life took
as illness changed its course
will wander to the main stream
and there below the long waterfalls
and cataracts I will begin to rush
to the place I was going from the start.
I imagine looking back to see
the silted mass where a huge bend
holds sunlight in a net of evergreen
and the sky unable to bear its own
violet brilliance a moment longer.
Out of shadows where the channel
crumbles comes the raucous sound
a great blue heron makes when startled.
Scent of peppermint rides breezes
from the valley and I catch hints
of a current beneath the surface
just as darkness unfurls.
There I imagine what was lost
coming together with what was gained
to pour itself at last into the sea.

By Floyd Skloot (a fellow CFIDS victim) from his book The Evening Light. (He's got some great poems, so do buy it if you can, or any of his other books.)