I still love grad school. I do. I have absolutely no complaints about my program in the slightest. Well, maybe some itty-bitty ones, but far fewer than I have ever had about any job. Teaching is terrific. Studying is terrific. Fellowship applications are even not so bad. It all feels worthwhile, which helps a lot with the heavy workload and the occasional sense of crushing inadequacy ("There's so much stuff! How will I ever learn all this stuff??"). Basically, it's all good.
Except. Except except except for being separated from everyone you love. That, I have to say, sucks rocks. Big huge honking pointy sharp rocks that some evil person is shoving down your throat, screaming "Suck 'em, you stupid shithead! Suck! Suck! Suck!" And of course you know damn well that there is no evil person, that the evil person is you, that you voluntarily signed up for this damned five year stint of having rocks shoved down your throat.
All right -- I know I sound ridiculous. But Saturday night, I was so tired of being in Utah, so damn lonely, that I was ready to break something. This type of frustration does not rise in me so often. Usually it takes my parents to make me this crazy. And this was just that there was no one I loved there; no one who loved me. The telephone was suddenly not good enough.
So I am saying this to Tim, and to anyone else contemplating being apart from the people you love for the sake of work, of a career -- think hard about it. Do not flit away without a care in your head, assuming 'oh, I'll miss her a little, but I'll be fine'. Because while you will probably survive, and while it may even be very much the right thing for you to do (for you, for her, for him, for the relationship, even) -- it is still a loss. You will be giving up something that matters, hopefully for something else that matters. The time you spend together helps build something of value (for the sake of honesty, even though it interferes with my sweeping point, I will note that sometimes time apart helps build relationships too, giving you space to grow and think and change). The time you have is tremendously precious, and you should spend it on the things you love. And even if you love your work, even if your work is the most important thing in your life (as, I suspect, it may be for me) -- other people are pretty damn important too.
I sometimes mention, with horror, the two years I spent with Kevin in Philadelphia. Horror because of the television -- because Star Trek was on at 6:00 and 10:00 and why not just sit in front of tv for the hours in between. I talk about five hours a day, twenty-five hours a week, lost to tv that I don't remember. But I do remember the way it felt to sit for hours with his arm around me, leaning against his shoulder, feeling his heartbeat, listening to him laugh. There are times when I desperately miss watching tv with him. And so I work extra hard at my graduate work, because it has to give back a hell of a lot, to justify what I've given up for it.