Category: grad school

What was missing…

Someone recently asked me what I didn’t like about grad school. I talked for several minutes about my experiences there, and still didn’t feel like I quite captured my misery in it all. Later, I realized the very simplest way to put it: there was no *heart* in my academic life, only *head*. I need a life led by my heart, followed by my head.

And here I am, a mother!


pervasive indoctrination

From an article about the Yearning for Zion child abuse case:
“An expert in children in cults testified Friday that while the teen girls believed they were marrying out of free choice, it’s a choice based on lessons they’ve had from birth.”

Of course, ALL of us who believe we have free choice are also operating based on assumptions/lessons we’ve learned since birth… how is this different?

Some lessons learned in the “cult” of America:
– a nuclear family comprised of a monogamous couple is right and moral

– independence = success: trusting other people is foolish, and asking for help is a sign of weakness

– food comes from the grocery store, and medicine comes from the doctor

I don’t mean to pose this question as a way of justifying whatever has been happening in that community of people (which currently seems unknown and unable to be judged until more information comes out) – I’m just using it to highlight our own indoctrination, which often goes unacknowledged (this is the sociology geek in me, still alive despite my choice to leave grad school).

Life update…

Thanks to Howard for the nudge of encouragement to write again! Here’s the latest update:

My “by the calendar” due date is April 29th, and my belly is growing bigger each day. Rounder and rounder… though my belly button has yet to pop out. I’ve been feeling sad about loosing my beloved innie, but I just realized a few days ago that I’m going to get to see a part of my body that I’ve NEVER seen before — the inside of my navel! What a treat!

Early in my pregnancy I bought a ring from an antique store (the same place Free and I found our wedding rings). I couldn’t choose between two rings: one had a vine with leaves on it, and I thought about it as a celebration of life and growth. The other one had a black onyx sphere in the center, round, like I knew my belly would become! I ended up buying both of them, thinking that maybe Free would wear one and I’d wear the other. I ended up choosing to wear the black onyx, because it was the one that I felt some resistance to, some fear. I wore it everyday, not really knowing the significance, but trusting it was there. One day (a few months ago) I asked myself about it while writing in my journal. “What’s the significance of the ring?” The answer came flowing through me clearly: it’s about embracing the unknown, the Great Mystery, limitless possibility. The stark blackness can be scary, and it can also be rich and alive. I still wear it everyday — my plan is to wear it until the baby comes, and then ??? Eventually I’ll give it to the child, as part of a rite of passage. Maybe I’ll wear it all through its childhood? I don’t really know. I still have the other ring sitting on my altar, waiting for its purpose.

I don’t have much of a specific sense of the baby… whenever I direct my focus to the being inside me, I just get a sense of its total wisdom, its connection to ultimate Oneness, and an energy of a trickster hiding from me, only showing a Cheshire cat smile in the darkness of the unknown.

In another (related) area of my life, I recently decided not to complete my Master’s Degree. I journaled about this for several days before letting myself admit that I really don’t WANT a Master’s Degree. I don’t want that mark of “superior knowledge” or “being worth more” to an employer. I don’t want to receive recognition from a system I don’t believe in. And beyond the degree itself, I don’t care about the research and writing papers that no one will ever read but one professor, and then perhaps a few more academics if I actually get published. I want to do meaningful, tangible work. I want to teach, but in innovative, experiential ways — not in a college classroom. The choice not to continue is freeing, a burden lifted. But I still haven’t told my parents…

So now I’m teaching part time at the alternative high school in town, Math and World History (Revolutions around the world!). This week is the last week I’ll be there until next fall. I’m also working diligently in our garden, planting seeds that will help feed the family this summer, and hopefully — with abundance of harvest and energy for canning — into the fall and winter. THIS is the work I want to be doing, pursuing alternatives to participating in the capitalist market, working hard to live in a way that makes sense. I still deeply believe it’s not sustainable unless done collectively — so we’re seeking community, both informal local networks and a more long-term group to share land and labor with.

That’s the news on the homefront! So much more, as well, perhaps for other posts…

Welcome, Sociology 252 students!  I haven’t written in my blog for several months, and not much at all since I left the community in January of 2006.  Most of my writing about Twin Oaks comes before then, so go to the archives and take a look there (this will save you from my complaints about grad school, which has been the bulk of my writing since then).

I felt a little under the weather last night, so I went to bed before coming up with my lesson plan for teaching today.  When I woke up, I felt better and quickly came up with an activity that meant that I wouldn’t have to talk very much, leaving more up to my students to assimilate ideas and explain them to their peers.  After leading 2 of my 4 classes so far, I remember that this is really the way I want to teach!  I want to facilitate their own thought process instead of telling them mine — they learn more when they’re the ones thinking, instead of just writing down the brilliant things I say.  Any good leader or teacher is really just a facilitator, providing a context in which people can explore their own experience and ideas, be challenged to go deeper, and listen to the ideas and reflections of others.

Why has it taken me so long to remember this?  (I now live in a culture that promotes and rewards individualism, rather than collaboration… mainstream culture has been brainwashing me since I left the commune almost 2 years ago!)  It’s no surprise to me that I came up with this activity after spending the weekend at Twin Oaks…


This weekend I ran into a friend who I haven’t seen in a while, and she mentioned that she had stumbled across my blog and was surprised at how miserable I seemed.  I realized it might be time for an update…

Great summer, lots of traveling.  Got married, exhausting and amazing.  Maybe I’ll write reflections on the day (and married life) later on.  My perspective on life certainly changed once I wasn’t in school anymore.  I liked my life more.

And now I’m back in school, and finding myself struggling with the same questions of identity, passion, and compromise.  I don’t feel like I’m learning much of substance, and then it seems like I’m just in it to get the degree, the title of “Master” that may or may not be helpful to me in getting some kind of employment in a field that I may or may not be passionate about.  When that becomes my goal, I feel despondent, like I’ve sold out to believing that I have to “make it” in the capitalist mainstream economy.  I feel like I’ve given up on my faith that another world is possible.

Just this morning, writing in my journal, I remembered that my faith in our ability to create a healthier, more creative culture STEMMED from sociology, and that my original intention in going to school was to open students to believing in it, too!  I’m here to teach; my classes are secondary.  I realized that though teaching sociology is not my life path, I’m doing it right now in the discussion sections I lead as a TA, as a way of “giving back” in thanks for the gift I received as an undergrad.  The details of the class I teach aren’t as important as offering a perspective of possibility.  That had gotten lost for me along the way… and now that I remember, I feel more at peace with being here for now.  I’m here in service, not to serve myself.

This is my last semester of classes.  I’ll start my Master’s Thesis this semester, and then work on it for awhile next semester without being officially registered as a student… because I’ll be focused on other things towards the spring.  My body will be changing, growing, as new life grows inside me.  Around the end of April, I’ll be having a new baby in my world… I’ll be a mama.

How’s that for big news?

I gave a lecture about Twin Oaks today in my Sociology of the Family class, and I suggested they check out this blog for more stories about my experience there.  Afterwards, I realized that some of my students might find it weird to be reading such personal information about their TA…

So, this is your warning, SOC 252 students at UVA!  I’ve written about lots of different parts of my life here, and it might just be more than you want to know about me…  Read on at your own risk!

(I left in Jan 06, so most of the Twin Oaks stories are from posts previous to that)

It’s been a long while since I’ve written here, and this isn’t going to be a long post.  I’m working on wedding invitations instead of studying for this afternoon’s statistics exam, both of which I’ve been procrastinating on.
I’m just waiting for a phone call back from the stationery store to see if they’ve got the color of envelopes we want.  I didn’t think I’d be this kind of bride…

This can’t really be an “update of all the things that have happened since I wrote last” kind of post, because so much has happened and, at the same time, so little.  I have less than a month left in the semester, and I’m so looking forward to the end that I’m not working on the papers I need to be writing now.  I’m OVER grad school. The allure and mystique have evaporated and I’m realizing that it’s really only going to be what I want to make of it, and I don’t want to make much of it.  And yet, I’m still coming back for one more year.  Only two classes left, and writing my thesis, and I’ve got my Master’s Degree, I’ve finished what I’ve started, even if it isn’t what I wanted it to be.  I’ll take one class next semester, TA for one class, and teach part-time in a local alternative high school.  And be an apprentice to a friend who is a massage therapist… trying to find a way to support my life in a way that makes sense to me (it ISN’T academia, I now realize).

The stationery store called — they have what I want.  Off I go, the not-so-merry consumer.  More later…

I wrote a post almost a month ago about how things have been going better for me, how I got a massage table for Solstice and how much I enjoyed playing “Santa” on Solstice Eve after the kids had gone to bed.  It was a long, happy, hopeful post… and somehow it didn’t ever make it onto the blog.  I think I hit “preview” and never hit “post”… alas.

So today, we’re back to the doldrums.  I’m stuck deep down in my  muck. I wrote an email to a group of friends this morning, and I figured I’d post it here, too, since I have friends who check here periodically.  I wish I could write a more thoughtful or insightful post after being gone for so long… but this is all I can offer right now:

Hi there, lovelies…
I’m struggling pretty deeply these days, and this morning I had the brilliant idea to (gasp) ask for support.

Here’s my story: I’m in grad school, and at best I mildly enjoy it.  At worst, I’m miserable and see no purpose in my life.  There are many days I want to quit… and I don’t, because a)I’m worried that I’m just looking for immediate gratification and I’m impatient and if I quit now I’ll have wasted this year and if I stick it out for one more year I’ll have my Master’s Degree… and b)I don’t know what else I’d do.  This was my “plan”.  Other things I might want to do feel inaccessible because I’m partnered with an amazing man, and he has 3 kids and is tied to Central Virginia for at least 10 more years (becuase the mothers of his kids live here).

I’m feeling limited and scared and stuck in fear.  I’m not looking for possibilities or asking for what I want and I miss the me that I know who knows how to do that.  I miss myself.  I’m not passionate, and I’m not smiling.  I’m crying a lot, and I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

I have lots of self judgement about being such a mess about all this.  There are so many people struggling with so many other things (poverty, cancer, oppression)… I feel petty.  And, it’s what’s true for me right now.  I feel stuck and I feel hopeless about getting unstuck.  I’m scared of being in this stuck place for a long time.

I’m suprised about how difficult it is to ask for support.  All that self-judgement makes me worry about judgement from other people.  I don’t want other people to think I’m petty or weak… and of course, I know that those are stories.  Who cares if other people think I’m petty or weak? And in this dark place, that fear holds so much power.

I also think one of the traps of monogamy for me is getting focused on my one partner for all emotional support.  I’ve been doing that, and it’s stressing both of us and the relationship pretty significantly.  And then I remembered, I have other friends and lovers and people who want to support me!  And this group is full of them!

Asking for what I want:
Please write to me.
Questions help me a lot.  Questions help me acknowledge what’s really true for me.
I also welcome your perspective, reflecting what you see in me and hear from me.

whew.  I feel a raw and vulnerable, and I’m scared to press the “send” button.  I want to present a more powerful and wise self to you all… but I also want to present an authentic self, so this is what you get.



A disturbing trend: I’ve been getting alot of comments recently about how “good” I look.  “Wow, have you lost a little weight?  You look great!”
I’ve lost weight because I’m not eating heathly and I’m miserable.  I feel worse than I have since the teenage angst of high school.  And yet, because I’ve lost weight, I look “good.”  I don’t know how to respond to people when they tell me that.  I don’t want to reinforce that message to myself, or to them.  I don’t want to take on the belief that skinny is good, despite the context.  I loved my body at Twin Oaks, surrounded by appreciation for the human body in all its forms.  I loved my curves and my strong arms and my hands rough from working in the garden.  Now my skin is smooth and my belly is flat, and I feel weak and lifeless.  THIS is what I’m getting appreciated for?