Wednesday, November 4, 2009

quarter-life crisis

So I'm feeling kind of down today (and a little sick, too, which doesn't help). If you don't want to read a complaining post I advise you to either scroll (waay) down and read about zombies or wait a few days, because I have a weekend excursion coming up that will hopefully yield some fruitful happy bloggage.

You've been warned. Things are about to get Debbie Downer in here (*womp womp WOMP*).

I've been trying to be positive so far, but to be perfectly honest at this point grad school is a little disappointing. I'm starting to get this nagging feeling that the NYU-in-Paris program isn't taken that seriously by NYU, and that all of us grad students are an afterthought in comparison to the 190 paying undergrads. There's no automatic "in" for me to get into the PhD program next year, which means I would have to be reapplying right now, and my heart just isn't in it. I keep telling myself to see this as a blessing (all of this is free after all, and seeing as how I'm not sure I have the stamina right now to jump right into the PhD, maybe it's a good thing to not be locked in) but really I'm just baffled--if NYU isn't trying to encourage me to stay with them, and if they're definitely not giving me opportunities to publish/go to conferences, what exactly are they getting out of me here that merits giving me this fellowship?

Grad school is also a lot "easier" than I imagined. I put that in quotations because it's not easy, per se. The bulk of my reading is intense, and I have to retake my textual analysis midterm due to grammar mistakes and "clumsy wording," so I know what I have to work on. But after working my butt off on my senior thesis last year, I can't help but wish the depth of our analysis was more developed, or that I was being forced to write more independent papers, do more research, incorporate theory...etc. I've been hearing similar feedback from other SMCM alum, though, so maybe I should see this as a testament to my undergrad education rather than a detriment to the NYU way of things.

More than minor frustration with the academic side, I feel like I've been floundering a little in my morale. As always I turned to Wikipedia for answers, and the page on quarter-life crisis seems to describe me perfectly right now. I feel like this should be passed out at graduation with diplomas, just to warn students of what is to come. Here are some of the particularly relevant symptoms it lists, with my commentary in parentheses:
  • realizing the pursuits of ones peers are useless. (No offense to my incredibly smart friends. It's just been kind of painful vicariously to watch them struggle in the recession job market, then settle for jobs that are great, I suppose, but so much less grand than we all imagined they would be.)
  • insecurity regarding the fact that their actions are meaningless (I started to go through this this summer, when I was surrounded by more motivated Arabic students with more career-oriented, practical skills/goals. Afterward I briefly entertained the idea of moving into nonprofit or government jobs, but then I had an Office Space-esque epiphany and realized that I am too lazy and self-centered to do the sort of desk jobs I'd have to work my way up from. Result: I feel more sure about academia, but now on top of "useless academic" guilt I have a healthy dose of self-loathing. Great.)
  • insecurity concerning ability to love themselves, let alone another person (This is really first on the list for me right now. 'Nuff said.)
  • insecurity regarding present accomplishments (how the hell did I get into grad school? Do I deserve to be here? Do my current teachers wonder the same things? Am I good enough to get a PhD? Do I even want to? Is there anything ELSE I'm even capable of doing?)
  • re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships (Ok, so this is the one thing on the list I actually feel good about. I'm a big believer in the power of human relationships. I've always been pretty selective with my friends, and even though I'm talking to them pretty infrequently these days I feel a deep sense of love for them and confidence that we're going to stay in touch for a long while yet, and that my life is the better for knowing them. Thanks guys.)
  • financially-rooted stress: overwhelming loans, unanticipatedly high cost of living, etc. (I remember at the beginning of college I had an epiphany along the lines of "wow! I don't need material possessions! I can live in minimal comfort forever as long as I'm happy!" Suffice to say that the honeymoon phase of independence has worn off. This whole dorm living, eating on a budget thing is getting old, and even if I don't envy my working friend's schedules, I do envy their financial stability, etc., and the thought of being a poor student for years to come is a little chilling).
My ray of sunshine for the day: NYU booked out the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower for us to have a Thanksgiving feast. Epic. At least those 190 trust fund undergrads are good for something...


  1. just clicked on the quarter life crisis- I wish it wasn't my life right now, but it totally is. SIGH.

    but hey, I would go to Paris for free even if I did feel useless while over there. live it up!

  2. Fits me too. I think it gets better. Atleast, mum and dad seem to have got through it, Their doing their three quarter life crisis now- it seems to consist of traveling the world and... more study... lol, but atleast they know what they want now. I think thats the hardest, to have so many things you can/might/would like to experience and having to choose. Every time I think I know what I really want to do with myself I have to turn down dozens of things I've considered and would enjoy, even just for a little while. For now, I'm trying one with the mind set that if I do it, and it doesn't work out, I'll still have time to do the rest.
    I still feel like I'm missing out on everything else, and every week there's more things I want to try...
    I wish you luck with it.