Thursday, August 10, 2006

Endings. And beginnings.

Graduate school is not really supposed to be the time for making some of the best friends of your life. If anything, grad school is designed to alienate and exclude, pitting you against scores of other students--some whip-smart, some not so much but with hunger to make up for it. You rarely feel smart enough, let alone competent, and seminar rooms are regularly the scene of spectacles of public humiliation.

How blessed I have been, then, to meet and become friends with a brilliant, beautiful group of women who have kept me sane through five years of school. The greatest comfort I've found after days of bumbling through class or dealing with indifferent students is to vent to my friends and know that they understand, because they'd been there too. (Although retail therapy and Amy's ice cream always help.)

Once you've crossed this grad school Rubicon, your future is, in many ways, more uncertain than ever. Some people realize that books and poverty don't suit them, and return to their previous pursuits. Some linger long over their dissertations, settling into the velvet rut of professional studentdom. Jobs are never guaranteed, and are ridiculously hard to come by. If you think you'd like to be in (fill in your state of choice), it is pretty certain that the only job you're qualified for is in a state you don't even know how to locate on a map.

This is why it is amazing and wonderful that two of my dear friends have finished their Ph.D.s and landed plum jobs in the states of their choice, close to their families. Dr. Jennifer will be teaching at a major research university in California, and Dr. Laura can be found at a small, excellent liberal arts college in Colorado.

This is also why it is bittersweet that in order to move on with their professional lives, they have to leave ours. Over the past two weeks, I have been in the process of moving out of the apartment that Jennifer and I shared for two years, helping her ship her stuff to California, throwing my possessions into a new one-bedroom, hitting the road to help her drive across three states to her new home, and flying into Albuquerque for Lo's wedding to her Pete.

The wedding, by the way, was one of the best ever. I've thought that if our story were to be a novel, it would conclude at this celebration, a happy ending. Through all kinds of drama, from the mundane to the life-threatening, we'd come, safe and sound, to this lovely place in New Mexico. And all partnered in some way, whether with spouses or boyfriends, sparing ourselves the awkward position of being the odd Singleton at the table.

You know, though, that endings by their nature are not very happy. We tearfully said our goodbyes on Monday, headed for California, Colorado, and Texas. Toward our own respective futures. There are a handful of us still here in Austin, getting incrementally closer to our own Ph.D.s. We'll still go out, and do fun things, since it's impossible to do otherwise in Austin. But it won't be the same, and we'll feel their absence, and reminisce, and call them.

Jennifer and women are like sisters to me. I love you.


At 2:35 PM, Blogger Laura said...

What a beautiful post! It is sad, but happy too. Very best wishes to Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Laura!

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Karen said...

I'm all misty over here. What a beautiful tribute to two wonderful friends. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger jennifer said...

i could not have asked for a better roommate/confidante/dance partner/friend/sister.

i haven't come around to the happy end of this yet, but i know that i've been blessed.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Congratulations to your two friends. I know you will miss them, but hey, now you have excuses to visit them, eh?

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Amanda Cathleen said...

What a great tribute to your friends. Here's wish you all luck for what lies ahead : )

At 12:05 PM, Blogger The Purloined Letter said...

Congrats to your friends on finishing their PhDs! Such a major accomplishment. And good luck to you!

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Legalfrugalbabe said...

Aw, don't despair, Olga! Email and the telephone almost make me feel like my transatlantic parents are right next door, and when I see them, there's never much to catch up on. Of course it's nice to see them in person, but with all of that and the miracle of blogging and digital photography, you won't miss a beat! Hang in there.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Oh, true friendship is so powerful! Distance can't lessen that. Thank you for sharing your friends.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Kodachrome Knits said...

Like the above comments have already expressed, I too thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. As a Canadian girl finishing my dissertation this summer who had to move in the midst of it to Texas (!) in order to remain with my partner, I also had to say goodbye to my wonderful girlfriends from grad school. I miss them terribly and have yet to find such amazing, intelligent, supportive women. In the way that you love Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Laura, I shout out, "I love Dr. Melissa and Dr. Monica!"

I wish your friends, and you, the best.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Your post has made me all misty. I made some of my best friends in grad school, too, and miss them terribly, although we're in regular touch. Congratulations to Jennifer and Laura - wonderful that they got good jobs in such a tough market!

At 5:44 AM, Blogger knitannie said...

Beautiful story. That is exactly how I feel about my girlfriends, who I've known since high school.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger lo said...

Hi, Kitten!
Wow, what a beautiful post. I'm finally back on the computer after an incredibly busy two weeks. I'll email you the details, but leave it to say that the past month has been a monster.
I think that I'll soon be able to finally realize that I miss my friends.
Colorado Springs is weird.
I'll have pictures up soon.
Luv to you all,

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Freddy the Prayer Warrior said...

What a beautiful post. It reminded me of the beauty of broken rice, which of course, is the damaged kernels that are sorted out and often used as dog food, but also is a good rice to use with grilled pork chops. Some people like to cook it with chicken broth instead of water. Mm. Mm. Delicious.


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