Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Failure and insomnia

"When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep... and you're never really awake."
--Edward Norton, Fight Club

Sleep eludes me.

It's partly due to just one of the demoralizing...no, soul-crushing...bits of news I received over the past month.
I was rejected from yet another PhD program.   I won't say what university it was other than it was one in the Midwest that is mainly known for its engineering and agricultural programs.  I was of course attempting to enter its English department.  But I was turned down.  Not for any reason related to funding and not because of my academic record or so I was assured by The Powers That Be.  No, it was because my "research interests don't match theirs."


This has really made me rethink furthering a career in academics.  Just try another school, you say?  It's not that easy.  Especially at my age.  An applicant needs to gather together a serious and impressive portfolio of work and write a statement geared exclusively to the university.  You also need good GRE scores (which I think I have as I scored in the 95% of the fucking nation) and hope that you can get into a place before the scores expire (I have one year left.)  Additionally, one must pony up the nearly $100 application fee.  So it's not just time consuming, it's expensive.

Yet there is no way for me to move forward in academics without a PhD.  I like teaching and I like being around smart people, but I have begun to experience the fact that advanced degrees are no indication of one's intelligence.  In fact, a few of the dumbest people I have ever met have the letters "PhD" following their names.  Add in the fact that I write science fiction, the academic equivalent of garlic and a crucifix to English department vampires, and I really must question if I have indeed chosen the correct path.

So I've been losing sleep over it.  I sit awake at night in an otherwise dark room lit only by the glow of my iPhone.  My thoughts consume me, ranging from the crucial to the inane to the utterly tangential.  Here's a soupcon culled from the past week's sleepless musings:

-How, if at all, can I move on without a PhD?

-How will I pay the bills?

-The phrase "all you need is now" seems woefully simplistic to me at this time.

-I need to get chummy with Trent.

-I want my next book to be centered around a robot.  I wonder if I could get Bernard to sketch or paint a mock up of it for me?  Any attempt I would make would surely look hideous.

-Will I ever stop hating myself?  Probably not.

-Speaking of Bernard, I'm determined to get our podcast show off the ground and onto iTunes.

-As the ice caps melt, bromine is released into the atmosphere.  This depletes the ozone layer.  Yay human race.

-The baby seal hunt is going on right now in Canada.  I loathe the human race.

-Could Matter-Eater Lad from The Legion of Super-Heroes eat Captain America's indestructible shield?

The world begins to look strange without sleep.  Glad-handing smiles on people seem more of an artifice than usual.  Reality truly begins to seem subjective, that in truth it is really that "consensual illusion" that the famous quote speaks of.  I begin to wonder about consciousness.  Is it subject to space and time?  Is its definition unique to each one of us?  To our respective bodies of knowledge and perceptions?  Is there a universal consciousness?

So help me, I'm actually considering mediation once more.  In my heart of hearts, I want to believe that we are, in fact, consciousness itself and not the physical "stuff" that makes up our bodies.  Do we share consciousness?  I hope so.  For that may be our best bet to render our society at least a little less bloody.

For all of you having difficulty getting through the night, you have my sympathy.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets


  1. Personally, I don't think a career in academia is worth it. Since the economy's gone to shit, more people have been going back to school for PhDs, and the number of tenure track jobs is getting smaller and smaller every year. Ultimately, you've got to pursue what you think is going to make you happiest, though.

  2. I know what you mean. The issue is, however...if not academics, then what??
    It scares me, but I need to start being open to other things.