Last time I checked, there were exactly fifty days left for the semester to end. I feel neither exhilaration nor despair, neither relief nor anxiety. I have actually moved far beyond anxiety’s grasp, to a zen-like limbo that is not quite zen, but more like a state of disconnection where you no longer feel that what is happening in the rest of the world has anything to do with you. You float from one place to another, running around like the sky is going to fall over your head, always beginning, never really finishing.
My life as a graduate student began less than two years ago, and yet it is about to end. Here I am, more than eighteen months later, in one piece, ready to finish -and then begin.
“What does it feel like,” the newly arrived ask me, and “What are you going to do next?” These have become the inevitable questions that I stumble into every single day and for which I sometimes give a prefabricated answer that I enunciate mechanically. I detail my future plans to strangers like I am on some sort of political campaign, outlining my promises for the future. Suspension of disbelief ensues when I announce my plans to move to San Francisco and work as a freelancer. My interlocutors invariably stare at me with the admiration of the skeptical or the gullibility of the naïve.
Sometimes, in a more dejected mood, I tell people that I will finish grad school and then go fulfill my lifelong dream of working at some tiny, obscure café in some hidden corner of some big city, serving coffee part-time, going to shady bars at night, writing until dawn. People laugh, of course, sometimes nervously, thinking perhaps that I have either gone insane or they are missing something.
So I talk about this future, this abstraction that only exists in the imagination, this thing I have given up thinking about, after arriving at the conclusion that it is no use planning anything.
Next time somebody asks me what I am doing after graduation, I will only say: “Go out there and breathe the fresh air.”