Some news about the future

Last night I woke up at 4am and stood at the window in the kitchen for a while. I did not know that birds sang that early. It felt strange to hear them make such joyful noises in the twilight darkness that is Toronto at night. The squirrels had not yet woken, and the raccoons did not appear to be active any more; the neighbourhood belonged solely to the birds. I may hear them all the more often, as the heat is keeping my sleep restless, and there is a lot on my mind.

I have news: I am moving to England. I am going to go do my PhD there. Bells and whistles say most people! Yes, but I hope I will find some sympathy in those who know anxiety like a twin shadow. I will soon experience what so many of my friends have lived and breathed, to move to another country where they know no one.

For the first couple of months that this was my new reality, friends and relations, and especially acquaintances, have all said, “You must be so excited!” and “That is so exciting!” and “How exciting for you!” so often that I’ve started saying, “I’m very excited!” due to peer pressure. The truth that never seems to find a willing ear is that I haven’t any idea what this will entail. I don’t know what I will be doing, how I will get there, when, with whom, where I will live, how I will pay for any of it, and whether I’ll just end up backing out come September anyway. I have half-answer vagaries, like ‘by plane and a shuttle from Heathrow’, ‘with your 2.5 years worth of savings and a loan’, etc.

I’m not even certain that I want to do this! I know that what really matters is that as of this year I decided I definitely wanted to do a PhD now, and I should focus on how it only matters what I want to do now, I can change things later, it’s my life, and I don’t have to be bound to this no matter how much of my savings I spend on it. But it’s next to impossible to focus on ‘now’ when the real Now is actually writing my master’s thesis, which leaves me no mental capacity to deal with realities like a student visa, apartment hunting, and setting up a bank account. If you want me to focus on now then I only have so much space, world!

I keep coming back to the practicalities, as if trying to convince myself out of this: PhDs are hard, my MA is hard enough as it is; I don’t appear to have the discipline to keep myself working steadily on research, instead of in fits and starts; there are much better things to do with my savings; I’m uprooting myself and Patrick, leaving our friends, family, and quite decent jobs; I don’t even have enough savings to finish the program, let alone pay for food; and the job market for PhDs is truly atrocious, so this life of jumping around the world trying to put two pennies and a career together will only get worse.

But practicalities got me into this mess. I made the practical choice. I didn’t follow my dream. I’m going to a place that makes sense, because it’s less expensive both in tuition and living costs, and there are more people to work with in my field. Now I’m going to have to live through 3 or 4 years of this as punishment for not doing what I actually wanted to do: go to Oxford. I got into Oxford. I did, seriously. Now I’m going to spend the next 4 years kicking myself because I chose this over Oxford. I’m not sure that my love of my field of research can overcome that.

I was going to write out plans for dealing with the emotional distress of moving and leaving, strategies to put into place to help myself cope and stay healthy, what to do when I simply can’t be healthy, and so on, but, um, I think I’ve had enough for today. I’m still not sure I haven’t made a terrible mistake, nor am I sure I can keep from crying about it.

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