It occurs to me that I never really write much about graduate school. It somehow seems fitting to write about it now, all these years later, though still, I don't find it possible to say much about the experience in detail. It wasn't a good time in my life.
Like other dark times in my life, I find myself occasionally looking back on the chapters and thinking it quite something that I made it out of there in nearly one piece. But not entirely in tact. That would be giving myself too much credit. I've realized now that I have a very specific reaction to this kind of unhappiness- it's evolved in some ways, but in other ways it hasn't evolved at all.
The weird pattern I've noticed recently is that every time I fall into one of these downward spirals, some poor soul emerges as collateral damage. And every time, in some ways, it has gotten worse. In high school, it did not matter, everything was a jumble, who knew what motivated us back then, and we were too young to take anything very seriously. In college, it was easy to think of it as a shared blunder, but there remain pangs of guilt that come over me when I think of two people who put up with a whole lot of me being morose and glum in the hopes that it was the start of something much more meaningful than it was ever intended it to be.
In grad school, it felt indisputable. There were rationalizations that could be made in college- it wasn't entirely my fault, I could tell myself without feeling like I was fooling myself. I was out of excuses in grad school. I was just in a horrible place in my life, and as a result, I sought after anything that made me feel less miserable. A part of me knew I was giving the wrong impression, knew I did not reciprocate, and yet, I went along with it all because I was so numb. That's what happens when you feel that awful, I suppose- you cease to care about inflicting that sort of misery on anyone else.
But it's short-lived, and there's a reason that I don't write anything much about grad school. I'm not impressed with myself, I'm quite the opposite. No one, no one at all, not even those who were there at the time, knows just how unimpressive my behavior was, and maybe no one ever will.
This is an interesting test, the business of the present tense. I'm not nearly as low as I was in graduate school, not even close. But I'm raw and unsteady the way that I was back then. And a victim has emerged to offer himself up. I've been trying my best to avoid the temptation, because I know where this is leading, I know what this is all based upon, and it's not real, not to me. I'm older now, I understand more. I'm less interested in the idea of a temporary fix, because I know about the decades of regret that follow. It's not like they're persistent, not constant. But every once in a while, I'll be reminded, and I'll be sorry all over again. I can do without adding another something to wash up among those waves.