The Body Electric (thebodyelectric) wrote,
The Body Electric

Unabashed: the grad school hawk


A while ago, in this class, I said that grad school interrupted my thoughts like a swooping hawk. I feel the need to elaborate. I'm the mouse running through the open field, guessing at hiding places, when the shadow crosses over me. It's a hunting, swooping hawk.

Sometimes I'm not the mouse, but mostly when someone else is. The hawk, though, is constantly hungry.

I read cynical articles about grad school and academia. Really, it's not that what goes on here is special or different from other jobs. It's just that some of us expect it to be. Better. Scientific. Somehow, we think it should leave us with good, sturdy answers to interesting questions. But the questions become repetitive, like hamsters in wheels. The illusion of running through an endless field with all the water and food you'd ever want, but in reality staying in the same space, the same cage, owned by the same 12-year-olds who aren't quite sure how they should feel about you.

Still, the hawk is a threat. On the good days, I pretend I am an expert, just to move things along. The next day, I'm looking through the same glass walls of the cage.

What is the hawk, really? It's been many different things. That's part of the fear. You never know what is going to swoop in and grab you in its claws. It really could be the family cat, but when something is big and wants to digest you, does its name matter? There are still claws and teeth and beaks and digestive juices. Waiting. For you! Because you're so smart and special and yummy!

So I run through the field, unsure of whether I should be running. Or in the field at all. Where should I look? To the sky to predict predators? To the ground to reward myself with the feeling of progress? To possible hiding places?

The worst think about these metaphors is that once you've learned how to be, here, it's terrifically difficult to get out or see through it. The hawk has not eaten me yet. Occasionally, I think I've lost an arm, and ear, or a heart to its claws. Afterwards, I can't tell if its grown back, or if the loss was an illusion.

what makes it worse is that I haven't seen a carnivore in a while. Are they gone? Are they finally sated? What is that shadow over there anyway? This year, eve, reality has seemed more reliable. Gentle. Supportive.

Are they also mice, these new people I work with? They may be. I admit there's a part of me that waits for them to take off their mouse costumes and unleash their horrible, sharp selves onto the world. I try not to humor that side. I am practicing accepting gifts at face value. I am also practicing vision, but I'm not sure that is something that can be practiced. But if it can be, and I practice enough, maybe I will see through the terrifyingly open spaces and all of their monsters.
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