Life as an Extreme Sport


* calling your father in tears basically insures three things: 1) your mother will contact you later at night 2) said conversation will include some encouraging story about how someone had to apply to same insane number of schools, but then got in and is now incredibly successful, and 3) your parents will insist you look for masters programs still open for applications, so that they can pay your fees and give you the best possible chance to go somewhere

* I’ve picked up Dorothea Brande’s book on writing. While she’s talking about fiction, it’s applicable to research papers because she’s talking about the psychological things that stop us from writing and how to get around those, not telling you how to structure papers. It’s from the 1930s, and utterly charming in its tone – she’s sarcastic and sharp, and not at all dated. It’s something that makes me smile, and I’m taking any of that I can get right now.

* President Jimmy Carter is an amazing speaker, and his talk about William Foege was so inspirational. Foege has done so many awesome things – came up with the strategy for eradicating smallpox, ran the CDC, has led committees on the next disease(s) to eradicate (Guinea worm and polio), has reduced newborn fatalities across the 3rd world… he is an awesome man, and has been dedicated to the social aspect of medicine long before it was even thought to be something needed teaching in hospitals. Carter continually referred to him as a medical missionary, a wonderful term.

How amazing it must be to have your life work celebrated by your friends, your school. I admit, I felt envy… but the good kind. The inspirational kind. The sort that makes me wonder if I should delay graduation and chase that public health/epidemiology bachelors, or maybe look into a medical anthropology degree, so I can play a bit more in medicine. I guess it’s the sort that gives me a bit of hope – I mean, if one person can achieve so much, so many incredible things, surely I can achieve even a fraction of that and still be content?

* Following parental advice, I spent a little time this evening looking into other masters programs…and discovered that Jon Moreno, one of the sweetest, funniest and sharpest men in bioethics, has an MA program in bioethics at the University of Virginia…and their deadline is May 1st. This has cheered me up immensely. It’s sort of silly, because who’s to say I won’t get equally passed over for MA programs, but… I met Jon last year. I really enjoyed my time with him; in fact, we got into a very fun debate over how often the Hippocratic Oath is taught, even read, to students. He is utterly charming, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I learned more from him in 50 minutes than I have from many people over the course of an entire quarter.

* I’m nervous about my impending surgery on Tuesday. Large needles and necks – squicks me out. I think when that bit of dread is gone, and hopefully the pain with it, I’ll feel better about life. Thursday night should be fun, though – sounds like people are going to come out. I hope so; as silly and superstitious as it is, I like to see my friends before I go in for risky procedures. So we’re going out Thursday night, and some people are going to join me to watch The Breakfast Club at the Friday Midnight Movie.

* People keep bringing up current/topical issues in ethics, and the back of my mind keeps thinking about how many of the problems arise (again) from our grand focus on autonomy as a whole. And I keep thinking, “I could fix this, if people would just give me the chance…”

Maybe I’m slowly crawling to a better state of mind.

Pervasive Gloom

I am basically overcome and overwhelmed by a pervading depression. No one wants me. No one likes me. I’m basically a huge fucking failure. Sure, the retort is that I just applied to the wrong schools or that the schools are idiots, but if I applied to the wrong places, then the failure is still with me. It’s still my fault.

I can’t even succeed at anything – at the moment, not even finishing my degree. Who the hell cares about finishing a thesis that maybe three people will read? It’s just going to sit on a shelf getting dusty. Might as well just do a performance piece – “Goth Moping” – and get it done. At least more people would probably see it.

I made the mistake at looking at job listings last night, and have realized that I really can’t do a damn thing with my degree. I’d be lucky to even get an administrative position somewhere, barely making enough to cover rent. I can’t live on my parents pursestrings forever – what the hell am I going to do?

This blackness has sapped me of all energy, strength, or interest. I have a final tomorrow, in a class with a professor who sat on the committee that most recently turned me down. Do I really care about doing well on the final? No, not really – what does it matter? She obviously didn’t think well enough of me to fight for me, and she even told me as much yesterday, that I am a good student, but that my application will not beat someone who’s spent the last few years of their life studying, exclusively, philosophy.

Anyhow. I have to go listen to Jimmy Carter talk. I’ll write more later.


So what I alluded to in this post is very simple: when I checked email Monday upon waking up (I can’t really say Monday morning, because it was more like Monday early afternoon), I had a letter marked “urgent” from the graduate school coordinator at the University of Texas Medical Branch. It seems that the director wanted to have a phone interview with me the following day (Tuesday, for those keeping track at home)…!

So my Monday afternoon was spent talking with my adviser about what to expect, and trying to stay excited and not slip into nervous. Tuesday afternoon, I called UTMB and spoke with the director…and found out that several professors also wanted to talk with me…!

On the whole, it was a very positive experience. I got a sense for the program and professors, enjoyed speaking with them, and felt comfortable in conversation. They largely wanted to know simple things, like what I did between high school and now, my background in medicine (biology, chemistry, hospitals), what I thought the medical humanities was and how I thought I had experience in it (I will admit to answering this question a bit roughly by the third time I was asked, as I tried to not repeat myself too badly/robotically), and so on. I felt like I really hit it off with the theology professor I spoke to, and we had a really great conversation that careened all over the place. He paid me several nice compliments, telling me that I had a very elegant way with words and that I was a quick pick-up on conversations. I think what I liked most was that he backed down and admitted he was wrong over something – he brought up my writing sample and one of the assertions I made in it, and began talking about how I was basically wrong. I was scrambling on that, and explained I had went with what the text read said, and that although I was familiar with the author’s work, I felt as though the professor had a lot more experience and was much more familiar. He denied this, saying it had been a while since he’d read the author, but that he tended to teach a class on death and dying and used the author in that class…and then basically went “oh, yeah, I guess that does mean I’m more familiar with it than you” and apologized for ambushing me on something that I had no time to prepare for, and on a subject where he did have a lot more immediate experience. I thought that was pretty cool.

The downsides? They prefer to accept undergraduates to their MA program, not directly into the PhD program. They do this because they feel the typical undergraduate doesn’t know what they’re getting into for PhD work, especially since they haven’t really lived life, and the chances of a 22 year old knowing what they really want to do is difficult to believe. This tends to be a going trend, and it irritates me – I’m not 22, I have lived life, and I know what I want to do. They acknowledged this, asked if I’d be willing to consider the MA program, and said they would try to arrange the PhD anyhow. (Oh yes, they emphasized several times wanting me as a student.) The other downside is equally pausing – there’s almost no funding. There will be a stipend available next year, but several of us would have to fight over it.

So that’s where things stand. They were going to try to get back to me ASAP with an answer, which I appreciate, although I won’t be making any decisions until I hear from other schools. So far, I’ve received two rejections (Duke and Columbia), an interested from UTMB, and silence from seven other schools. I should be collecting more rejections any day now…

At Least I Amuse

The GRE’s spanked me. I’ll retake ’em in a month… [edit: I’ve been told by several people now that I’m actually at 93% for verbal, and not to bother retaking, the math bit won’t matter… I’m going to see what the official score is, not rough, and make my decision then….]

…but, I am amused, for my writing options? Something I don’t remember, and then a statement saying that “History is pointless to learn from, and we make none of our important decisions today based on it.”

I was born (well, okay, at least have been trained for the last two years) to write that essay! What do you mean I only have 45 minutes? I can’t regurgitate CHID 390 in 45 minutes! Shit! Okay, I can tag Darnton, White and Foucault, that ought to be good enough….and oh! Kanye West and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake! Okay, okay, GO!

Walking the Talk

For all my talk of the ease of cold-writing professors (and academics in general) after doing so a few times, it really never does get any easier, in those few seconds before hitting send. But, I cold wrote one professor (at Notre Dame) to ask about some things in his book, and see if he had any general recommendations for places to look at humanistic studies of social network theory. I also wrote a professor I’d been talking to back in May, and then lost contact with because I suck, and dropped off the face of the planet in end-of-quarter panic. Perhaps not the best thing in the world, given that I’d like to study with him in graduate school. Oh well – at least with him I was able to keep a casual, conversation tone, based on our prior mails (which largely focused on who we thought was going to win American Idol).

It’s 3:15am. It’s not Los Angeles. I’m not tired. Except that I am.

Sleep is an elusive beast.