On Saturday I was informed that I had been graduated. Why phrase it thus? Due to the legal complications that ensued from my advisor not approving my thesis, I was talking to the assistant director of my Centre to find out if there were a way to legally return to the USA to re-write my thesis and have a source of income, since my fellowship ran out once I finished taking class. Apparently the ensuing chaos was so great that the director took over the advisorship and, demanding that I write him an email requesting him to be my advisor, proceeded to summarily approve my thesis. So yes, the saga of the New York life is over.
Initially, when I thought I was done for good in December, my heart was breaking, I would dream of my life there and wake up with a smile, which would change to tears when I realised it was a dream. I would read emails from my friends and cry, because I had finally found a city I loved, a life I loved and friends who loved me. I would fidget because I've gotten used to living in my own place and I didn't think I would feel that happy again. Before I left I cried an entire day because I was leaving my beautiful beautiful apartment to my flatmate, who is not... er... housetrained.
I was India for a very stressful month, my sister got married and we were all running around like headless chickens. My advisor had rejected my thesis and I suddenly had to deal with this HUGE tangle of USAmerican red tape, while figuring out how to redress his issues and put job talks on hold without blowing my shot at them entirely. But in the back of my head I was suddenly happy because I could go back. I had to answer the following questions about seven hundred times, without losing my cool or getting sarcastic. "So when are YOU getting married eh? *nudge nudge wink wink* Seeing someone?" "What are your plans in life?"
Today I find myself delighted with this news about my degree. The past six months have shown me that I am virtually unemployable in the USA, because, I assume, my qualifications are all so much icing but not a lot of cake, and even the icing isn't worth it when it comes with visa complications. And of course there's "the recession". I am highly employable in India, because lets face it there are not THAT many fluent speakers of Spanish floating about. I've spent the past two weeks lounging about the house, running errands, freaking my mum out by rearranging things and throwing things out so much that she's a bit lost as to where anything is anymore. I've barely finished one book. I've watched 4 episodes of General Hospital. I've been out with ghosts from my past, and I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I even think that they could be *gasp* friends of my very own someday, not just appendages that come out with Oldest Friend and corner me for hours badgering me to jump him. I find myself at peace.
It's very disconcerting, because suddenly I find myself defiantly asserting my current state of non-gloominess when friends commiserate with me about leaving NY. The last time I felt this same peace was when I was in Spain this summer, when everything made sense, it was all orderly and I knew where I was going and what I was going to be doing and this imbued me with a sense of extreme joy - I was literally overflowing with tranquil excitement [oxymorons are the best kinds of morons!], because I knew I had ALL these possibilities ahead of me in NY. There were friends and favourite hangouts, there were daily phone calls from the Sister and general family bonding on a scale unseen before, there was a thesis subject that interested me greatly, there was a whole year of milongas and salsa clubs and people who "got" me - ergo all the more likely a boy would turn up. And then it all came crashing down with the discovery, in August, that I would not be permitted to take a whole extra semester to do my thesis, because of visa rules [information that was, eventually, wrong]. So began my semester of frantic jobhunting, thesis buliding, advisor finding and heaven knows what else, leaving me with no time to even enjoy my last semester. Juxtapose this with my emotional state in December and I cannot understand WHERE all this peace is coming from!
It's not the same kind of peace. Sometimes I think its fear, I'm clinging to my mommy and all she stands for - security, haven, conversation, familiarity - that cache of backups I've been squirrelling away for years. I know the city, I love my house, I have OF - twenty years is a lot of buffer between me and reality. A recent blog fad is the write a letter to Me-of-2007, and I was thinking, what do I tell her?
You will finish your degree, because it's very painful for the department to keep you on. You will find incredible new friendships, and seriously consolidate old ones. You will grow up and lose a LOT of your baggage. Your life will be the richer for it. You will not travel to Latin America, and pretty much give up on the idea for now. You will learn Portuguese and the Bachata, and get MUCH better at both the Tango and the Salsa. You will find a lot of confidence. You will discover you flirt MUCH better in Spanish than English.
You will buy a suit in anticipation of all the corporate interviews you will have. You will wear it to a meeting with an Indian in Edison and FREEZE, because you don't want to have never worn it. You will not find a job in New York. Or Latin America. Or anywhere in the USA. You will not become sylph-like and suddenly attractive to the Indian male. You will not meet a boy who sees you as a potential relationship. You will not get a cat. You will reach a degree of tranquility that spills out so much that OF will tell you you have changed, you seem settled. And then you will lose it so fast you won't be able to catch your breath till next year.
You will survive all of this. And I will take over and wish I could receive a letter from Me-of-2009.
I am a bit of an anachronism. While all around me 25-year-old Indian women are fighting tooth-and-nail against social/familial pressure to get married, and clinging desperately to any job they can get, I'm gloomily surveying my life and thinking, time is running out. I don't really want a job. It's taken me YEARS to not feel guilty for saying that. I'm happy to work, but the only career I want is a husband, five kids and cat [or twelve]. I don't care that I would be a great lawyer/manager/CEO whatever, it's not the way I want to spend my life. I don't care that people get married later and later, I want to SHARE my youth, all of it, all the things I want to do. I don't care that plenty of people have kids at 35 now, I don't want to be three generations removed from my children.
But I also want it all. I'll be friends with anyone but I will only entertain serious relationship thoughts about people who conform to VERY STRICT standards. And I will NOT compromise. No, I'm not talking about tall, dark and handsome. I'm not event talking about reading. I will not accept someone who is not curious about things beyond his ken and I will not accept someone who is not tolerant of Others, whatever they might be about. Funnily, it seems impossible to find these two things in a male. Especially an Indian one. I've only ever met one, and he's Cuban-American.
In the end I don't know what this post is about or what I'm trying to articulate here. I feel as if there is some deeply buried scream that needs to be acknowledged and I'm trying to dig it out. And that is all. Even the littlest plan I made for 2007 - get a cat - I didn't achieve. But I achieved so much I didn't plan for. Luck of the draw. As monsoonbread is so fond of saying, just keep swimming.