Dispatches from the Grad Apps Egress

Dear friends,

It’s nice to see you again. I’ve been lost in a fugue these past two months. My birthday came and went with hardly any fanfare, save for a quiet dinner and one fabulous ice cream cake. For weeks, I’d have a slice each night before checking my email for the thousandth time, despondently getting into bed and pulling the covers over my head. Only yesterday, I crawled out of that dark, dimly-lit metaphorical tunnel to stumble into the blinding light of day.

I did it. I officially accepted an offer from my top choice program. Come fall, I will formally begin my studies at William Marsh Rice University… and, one day, god willing, I’ll become Yours Julie, Ph.D. (at which point you will all be expected to refer to me as Dr. J).

😭

You (or rather, I) might be asking: what does this decision mean?

Past.

For one thing, it means I’ve concluded this half-year chapter of my life. I had figured applying to graduate school would be pretty easy: just a bunch of forms zipping off into the ether. I was very wrong. This process has involved intense, all-encompassing self-reflection and evaluation. I’ve had to ask myself very difficult questions, push myself to the point of exhaustion, and put everything on the line. As it turns out, this forced introspection has been invaluable to my modern-day mid-20’s experience. I’d never want to go through it again, though.

Present.

Up until the 15th (the universal deadline for graduate school acceptances), I hadn’t a clue what would become of me. I was literally waiting for a sign. On the big day, I woke up early, watched the sun rise, and wondered. Where would I go? I began receiving emails: some devastating, some confusing, all muddying the waters. My memories of that morning fade in and out, but I distinctly remember standing in the bathroom, glasses akew and hair disheveled, laugh-crying as Jay patted my back soothingly. Moments before an imminent meltdown — everything crystallized. The universe delivered.

In order to pick a school (my school!), I naturally had to decline others. With every call, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed getting to know each program and its people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel pain or doubt as I bid some farewells. It was time to grow up; I had to make tough choices and live with them. Soon enough, I was on the phone with my future advisor, very professionally notifying him of my decision while vigorously pumping the air with my fist.

Future.

Finally, this means that I am moving. I’ve lived in California my entire life, taking for granted the sunny suburbs of my youth and the cosmopolitan city of my (nascent) adulthood. I now must leave arguably the best 7×7-mile patch of land in the world and trade in the Bay Area for the Bayou City.

I’ve heard it’s a little different in Texas (possibly?), but I’m looking forward to the change of pace. I have the rest of my life to live in large, liberal, coastal cities. For now, I’m embarking upon this immersive, cultural adventure with an open mind. Houston, too, is not to be underestimated as an up-and-coming urban center. Never mind the unbearable tropical heat, the ugly urban sprawl, and the gnarly traffic. It’s been ranked one of the best cities in the country due to its rich resources: a thriving economy, top-notch space and medical centers, an incredible art scene, diverse communities, a low cost of living, and (fulfilling one of my graduate program rubric reqs) lots of excellent Vietnamese food. Also? Miss Beyonce Knowles is from Houston. No further questions.

More than anything else, though, I’m excited to be attending Rice. I’ve always wanted to be a private school girl. Now I get to learn, work, and teach at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation — and under the tutelage of a brilliant mind, at that. I fought tooth and nail for a spot in this laboratory (a story for another time) and genuinely believe that the hand of fate made room for me. It was meant to be. (You’ll have to excuse my basking in glory. Successes in higher education are few and far between, so I’ll take whatever reveling I can get.)

Until the day I step foot on campus, however, I’ll be fitting in as much quality time with loved ones as I can. I’ll be in San Francisco until the end of June, at which point I’ll be running off to Southeast Asia before moving to Houston. I solemnly swear to step up my blogging game in an effort to document my beautiful pre-graduate-school life.

… And so, this dramatic Dispatches from the Grad Abyss series concludes with a happy ending. I’d like to thank everyone in my life for bearing with me as I mucked my way through the deepest pits of despair. That so many people believed in me, supported me, cared for me — it lifted me up when nothing else could. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Jay for being the model partner, so full of patience and compassion (and non-judgment whenever I raided his snacks). The next chapters of my life, I’m sure, will be filled with just as much turmoil and stress-eating… but I’m glad to have y’all riding shotgun. I’ll see you around soon.

yours,
Julie

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