i made it.

the fall unfolded and i unravelled and i began to think i couldn’t do it. i started to fantasize a deus ex machina, some magical absolution which would excuse me from having to continue the round-the-clock, seven-days-weekly slog through assignments and research reports and statistics and paid work, all with deadlines squeezing into the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December. it was more than i thought i could finish, no matter how i ground my queer shoulder into the wheel.

but…with a bang and a thump and barely a whimper at the end, i seem to be here. all done, at least til January. and done with my required quantitative research class and the glories of chi-square testing and all those crazy math symbols that made me feel i’d slipped through the looking glass back into the bewildering hell of algebra. finito. sayonara. hallelujah.

i got an 89%, thank you very much. which, if i were crafty, i’d engrave on a fucking tiara and wear on my head.

cue exhale. i am done. feel free to keep buying me drinks until i believe it.

buy Dave a drink while you’re at it. he held us all mostly together at the seams.

i learned a lot this fall.

i learned a lot that wasn’t being taught, a lot that i found traumatic in the processing.

but i also learned some of the language of quantitative research, which came in handy this past week when i found myself at an Annual Scientific Meeting in our nation’s lovely capital, listening to climate change scientists and Inuit and (ahem) BP and Imperial Oil carry on a rather multi-faceted discussion of the future of Canada’s north. every time they said “standard deviation” i nodded very sagely.

i learned that 13 years working in universities still didn’t teach me much about academia. at the conference i talked with a few women my own age who hold post-doctorates at different universities across the country. one of them said, “i feel punished for having had kids, like i have to work twice as hard to prove myself, be more available than everybody else.” and i pinched myself really hard but i still didn’t wake up. because this availability thing – while i did not feel pushed or punished in any specific relation to my maternal status – was the thing that ate me up more than anything this fall. the idea that the ravenous maw that made shameless, wholesale demands on my time and agency regarding time was the thing that i found hardest to swallow. i didn’t expect to work a mere 9-5, because i’ve lived online long enough that working and writing and connecting at night, most nights, is what i expect from my days…but i did, naively, expect that nobody any longer expected other people to act like superhumans. silly old me.

mostly i learned a great deal about how i cope with crushing pressure.

i don’t.

at least…my strategies lack finesse. or make a Dr. Phil episode sound like mental health.

Strategy #1: i prayed for the rapture. i didn’t particularly mind if Jesus left me behind, so long as the ensuing fire and brimstone distracted from my unfinished deadlines.

Strategy #2: i panicked. regularly. at least weekly, i had to talk myself down from chewing through my own leg to escape the trap i’d waltzed blindly into. if i were actually a wild animal, i’d have bled out months ago.

Strategy #3: i cried. copiously. sometimes IN class.

Strategy #4: i kept going on sheer blind hate alone.

hate sounds harsh. i don’t hate anyone i worked with, or for, or near. but only hate can describe that perverse fierce energy that kicks in only when your goal is reduced to a negative, to NOT failing.

it was hate that got me through, so perhaps, in the end, it isn’t such a bad coping strategy. but continuing because you’re too invested to walk away and you want to prove yourself against someone else’s measure? is not exactly an intrinsic values compass. and when i look at my life, i’m not sure what i have if i don’t have an intrinsic values compass.

so i hope this win was not a pyrrhic victory, one that heralds me slipping away into defending what i went into education to try to break down.

for tonight, it is enough that i am done.

because i have one fuckload of Christmas catching up on to do. pass the fruitcake.