I'll Fly Away
I just bought a plane ticket.
I leave that line all up there by itself because it seems unbelievably significant. It's not that I don't travel. Actually, I travel a fair bit, and I consider it one of the unanticipated benefits of an academic career. But this is different. It's a plane ticket to an overseas location that holds not one archival document necessary for my dissertation. (Though I bet if I went looking, I could find a document or two that would be useful. But I'm not looking.) It's a plane ticket to the doorstep of one of the most extraordinary people, someone I often wish I was sitting near while I work but cannot meet me for coffee because the ocean is vast and air travel for a coffee date impractical. This is a plane ticket to a place that I'm quite certain I'd love if I only spent enough time there. In short, I'm going on vacation.
The whole being a poor grad student thing means that I have not one bit of business buying a plane ticket. And oh, god, I just don't care. The whole worrying about financials at the expense of all else is exhausting and the worrying about spending every waking minute on your dissertation until the dissertation is done is exhausting and I'm just not able to do it all of the time. (Particularly given that worrying about working and working are very, very different things.) I'm 32 years old. I'm an adult and I get to live a whole great big life. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the Life Begins At Graduation approach, but it's so easy to believe that the PhD comes before everything else.
It doesn't. It really doesn't. The PhD is one thing in my life, perhaps even The One Thing, that makes it possible to feel fufilled and challenged and happy. But it's still only one thing. Being fulfilled and challenged and happy requires that, once in a while, you do something ill-advised and life-affirming. Not because you deserve it or you have thought out all of the logistics, but because it seems like there's a whole world waiting for you and it's going to get away if you don't just leap into it. Or get on a plane. Sometimes, the world is waiting for you to get on a plane.
Photo by Phillippe Noret